DMV office closing Feb. 28
Pallavi Agarwal | Highlands TodaySEBRING - After 26 years, Highlands County's state driver's license office will be closing for good at 5 p.m. Feb. 28, and the county tax collector's office will take over their full DMV duties the following Monday.
Published: January 31, 2013
Published: January 31, 2013
For Highlands County Tax Collector Eric Zwayer, who had planned for the transition this July until two to three days ago, that means quickly getting things in place.
The sudden change happened when the state told Zwayer that the Department of Motor Vehicle office, located on the frontage road next to Amscot in Sebring, was going to have a skeletal staff starting in March.
Some employees had requested use of their accumulated leave, Zwayer said. That would have left the Sebring DMV office with three employees, and they decided to suspend offering regular driver's license services from that time until the July closure.
Zwayer was afraid that if that were to happen, the tax collector's offices in Lake Placid and Avon Park, which now offer some of these driver's license services, would have been swamped.
He didn't think the two offices could have handled some of the extra workload and decided instead to just move up the full transition date from July to March.
"We are going to be up on March 4," he said. "We have great staff who have put in the effort."
The tax collector's satellite driver's license offices in Avon Park and Lake Placid will continue to offer the services they do, along with their traditional tax collector's duties.
The Sebring office, which will be at the tax collector's office in the Highlands County Government Center at 540 S. Commerce Ave., will offer the full range of DMV services, including helping customers with services the two branches can't, such as administering the driving test.
The state will help them set up a certified road course for those who need to appear for the driver's test, he said.
In exchange for moving up the date, the state has also agreed to pay for four months the salaries of the three DMV employees who will be helping the tax collector's office when their own office closes.
These employees will be on a four-month evaluation and will likely be absorbed by the tax collector's office if they meet "our expectations," Zwayer said. The state is also giving the tax collector the DMV office's equipment.
Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles spokeswoman Kirsten Olsen-Doolan said the Sebring DMV office currently employs five people.
"Members have had the opportunity to apply for other positions within the department or seek other employment," she wrote in an email. At this time no has "relocated within the department. We do have members with an abundance of annual leave that will be requesting use of a portion of their leave."
The state DMV office in Sebring opened in 1987, Olsen-Doolan said, and is located in a building owned by the state. No other plans have been announced for the use of the building, she added.
From July 1, 2005, until Dec. 31, 2012, the office has helped approximately 124,595 customers.
Its closure has been prompted by the Florida Legislature, which has given all county tax collectors until July 2015 to start issuing driver's licenses.
In Highlands County that was phased in slowly, starting with Lake Placid and ending with the Sebring office.
While the state has mandated the change, it has not provided the full funding to make that happen, in what Zwayer described as an "underfunded mandate."
"Our business model is fee-based," he said. "We are able to operate based on the fees we collect."
Right now, the driver's license operation his office is doing is not breaking even, Zwayer said, which he hopes will happen through use of technology and through "efficiencies" put in place.
Meanwhile, some residents who responded on Highlands Today's Facebook page were waiting for the transition.
Jeanne Simpson said the Lake Placid tax collector's office was fast, friendly, courteous and helpful, while Jeremy Freeze said the customer service at the tax collector's office is better then the DMV.
Dawn Dell, on the other hand, hopes the tax collector's office prepares for more customers downtown and looks into expanding its parking area.
email@example.com (863) 386-5831