State Lawmakers Scrutinize DMV Relocation Plan

Feb 12, 2019

Credit N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles / N.C. Department of Transportation

Some state lawmakers worry that a plan to move the Department of Motor Vehicles headquarters from Raleigh to Rocky Mount doesn't account for the cost to relocate workers or the impact of a longer commute.

About 400 DMV workers would be impacted by the move, with many facing an average commute time of about two hours round trip.

DMV employee Nicole Hunter told members of the State House Transportation Appropriations Committee on Tuesday the move will make it hard for her to care for her grandchild and aging family members in Raleigh.

“I wouldn't have that feasibility if I move all the way to Rocky Mount, and then you're going to make a person choose between family and work?” Hunter said. “That's not fair.”

The DMV location on New Bern Avenue in Raleigh is beyond repair and officials have a 2020 deadline to relocate. A site in Rocky Mount was identified as the cheapest of 12 options, costing $2.4 million annually for a  15 year lease, but administration officials say that only covers the cost to upgrade and lease the property.

Committee members raised questions about 2018 legislation that mandated the DMV lease its new location instead of building a new facility.

Co-Chair Rep. John Torbett said that decision was made because leasing appeared far cheaper than new construction, but he acknowledged those cost savings might not pay off in the long run.

“The law pretty much says lease, based on the number we initially saw about new construction,” said Torbett. “But if you run that lease term and the extension of one lease term up to 30 years, then you're in the same ball park as building a brand new building.”

He noted the General Assembly would need to pass clarifying legislation to allow the consideration of sites for purchase.

DMV Commissioner Torre Jessup told the committee his agency could potentially subsidize relocation expenses for some employees, or arrange alternative transportation options for those who don’t want to move, but he said it would be impossible to make those plans or calculate the full cost until a final site is identified.   

“We're making a cost-based decision without knowing exactly how much it's going to cost,” said Rep. Grier Martin. “I'm concerned that we may not be able to make an apples-to-apples location comparison for the taxpayers.”