Cooper delays vote on DMV move

Many have opposed the planned relocation of the Department of Motor Vehicles’ headquarters from Raleigh to Rocky Mount

Eamon Queeney | The North State Journal
Lt. Gov. Dan Forest (Left) and Gov. Roy Cooper (Right) at an August 5, 2017 meeting of the N.C. Council of State

RALEIGH — The night before the monthly meeting of the North Carolina Council of State, Gov. Roy Cooper postponed a vote on the proposed move of the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) from Raleigh to Rocky Mount.

“The Governor’s Office has heard concerns from employees and requested the item be taken off the Council of State agenda to give more time to discuss its impact,” Cooper’s press secretary, Ford Porter, said in a statement Monday night.

The proposed move of the DMV from its Wake County location to Rocky Mount will impact around 600 workers.

According to bids received from eight entities by the state’s Department of Transportation, the Rocky Mount location is the cheapest. The average rent over a 15-year period would be of $2,053,635 per year for 139,181 square feet of office and warehouse space.

The DMV’s current location has had safety issues that go back as far as 2007. Some items were fixed over time and others were included in $625,000 worth of work done in 2011.

Employees of the DMV, as well as the State Employees Association of North Carolina, Wake County lawmakers and officials, are unhappy about the move.

Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane also opposes the move, citing the long commute for employees and potential job losses.

Sen. Dan Blue (D-Wake) tweeted out a link to a petition opposing the move. Other lawmakers sent a letter to the Council of State opposing the move.

House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Kings Mountain) expressed support last week for the move, saying the decision would share the benefits of state offices with rural areas.

While the DMV move was removed from the agenda, during the meeting Lt. Gov. Dan Forest noted the move was “starting to get political” and that the Council of State needed more information. Forest then asked Cooper for a brief update on the situation.

Cooper said that “time was not of the essence” with the DMV situation, and that the item would be voted on at the next Council of State meeting in March.

“Will this body have the base of knowledge needed to make that decision?” Forest asked Cooper.

“You need to reach out yourself and do some research,” Cooper responded to Forest. “I think that is what the assignment for this council will be.”

“The person I reached out to was not knowledgable,” said Secretary of State Beth Woods.

Cooper replied that he would have Transportation Secretary Jim Trogdon reach out to Woods and to the other members of the Council of State.

After the meeting concluded, North State Journal asked the Forest why the DMV vote was postponed.

“I think it was postponed probably for the same reasons it’s been postponed for the last three months,” “said Forest. “There’s just a lack of a decision.

“I think the problem is the process here or really maybe a lack of a process,” Forest continued. “So, it’s become a political football. The football gets even bigger the more you punt it down the field and don’t make a decision.”

Forest reiterated the need for more information from Cooper’s administration about the move in order for the council to move forward with a decision.

“I think it’s incumbent upon the governor and his team to put forth a very transparent process here, not just for the Council of State but for the people of North Carolina,” said Forest, “and for the employees of the DMV that are existing employees and for the people in Rocky Mount who are hopeful to get the facility in Rocky Mount.”

Forest said that what the Council of State wants is transparency.

“We want to look at all the facts because we realize we’re going to have to make a hard decision one way or the other,” said Forest. “It’s all about people. Are you impacting people here? Are you impacting people there? There’s going to be a tough decision made.

“You want to make that decision with the most facts in front of you and this is a difficult place to do it because the Council of State, generally, as I said earlier, votes are ‘thumbs up’ or ‘thumbs down’ without a whole lot of backup information. You have to trust staff. You have to trust the process,” Forest said.