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County Considers End To Cooperstown DMV

By JIM KEVLIN • The Freeman’s Journal

Edition of Thursday, Nov. 13, 2014

It may not happen, but one option on the table right now as the Otsego County Board of Representatives completes its budget deliberations is closing the Department of Motor Vehicles’ Cooperstown office and consolidating DMV operations in Oneonta.

It’s one of a few unresolved issues – in addition to merging Oneonta’s two senior citizen sites into one, at Nader Towers, giving department heads raises, and eliminating six janitorial positions assigned to Otsego Manor.

The county board plans to meet at 9:15 a.m. Monday, Nov. 17, for a final budget review before the public hearing in early December.

County Rep. Don Lindberg, R-Worcester, who chairs the county board’s Budget Committee, is proposing saving $100,000 by reducing the DMV staff by two positions, from seven to five.

The committee’s idea is for the Oneonta DMV office to be open Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and the Cooperstown office to be open Tuesdays and Thursdays, he said.

However, the DMV is under the jurisdiction of County Clerk Kathy Sinnott-Gardner, who is independently elected countywide. The county board can cut her budget, but she decides how to spend the lesser amount.

If her budget is reduced by two staffers, Sinnott-Gardner said her choice would be to close the Cooperstown office and consolidate in Oneonta, but she objects to the budget cut, arguing that DMV revenues make the operation revenue neutral.

“You aren’t going to save any money,” the county clerk said in an interview. “You are going to lose revenue.” It’s not the layoffs, she continued, “it’s taking a service away from the community in this part of the county.”

Cutting the two positions won’t save $100,000; with lost revenues, that will be more like $25,000, she said.

In recent years, more drivers are renewing their licenses via the Internet, bypassing the county DMV and reducing its revenues. However, many are finding Albany’s bureaucracy responds slowly, she said. Locally, people can walk in and, a few minutes later, walk out with a license or registration.

That convenience is particularly important to auto dealers, Sinnott-Gardner said. On making her presentation to Lindberg’s budget committee, she presented letters from a half-dozen dealers objecting to the cuts.

Her offices also provide 24 free services – issuing duplicate licenses and changing addresses are two – and Albany isn’t offering to do those over the Internet, she said.

The committee’s idea is that people can drive to Oneonta, Sinnott-Gardner continued, but that’s increasingly inconvenient, with tourist traffic in the summer. Plus, residents of Richfield Springs and Cherry Valley will opt for offices in Herkimer and Montgomery counties, further sapping local DMV revenues.

County Treasurer Dan Crowell, the county board’s budget officer, said the DMV has been revenue neutral until now, but he anticipates it may run $20,000-40,000 in the red next year because of the Internet. He acknowledged, however, that by cutting the $100,000 in 2015, revenues will drop about $100,000.

Lindberg said the matter has yet to be finalized. “We” – the committee – “voted to close it. But we can change that at the next meeting.”

If Sinnott-Gardner were to close the Cooperstown office, which is to the left on entering the County Office Building, 197 Main St., Lindberg said he would support moving the District Attorney’s Office into that space, for security reasons and convenience.


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