Family court addition may drive DMV office to new site

Published Oct 24, 2014 at 4:00pm

The Department of Motor Vehicles office at 301 W. Dominick St. may or may not be moving next year.

That was a take away from County Clerk Sandra J. DePerno’s appearance before a legislative panel Wednesday to discuss her proposed 2015 budget. Some of the questions from members of the Ways & Means Committee for the clerk had more to do with the status of the Rome DMV location than with the spending plan. At issue is whether the addition of a family court judge in Rome means the relocation of the DMV operation.

Ways & Means is in the midst of its review of the $391.6 million budget proposed by County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr. It keeps the amount of money raised through property taxes the same as this year.

Family court and DMV are now on different floors in the same building, and the county executive’s goal is for the new judge to be located in this building. But it remains to be seen what other county offices, like DMV, in the building will have to be moved out to accommodate the expanded family court operation. There’s another nearby county office building, at 300 W. Dominick St., that houses mostly Department of Social Services functions.

“We don’t know where we are going,” said DePerno when the possible move of the Rome office came up.

Legislator Frank D.Tallarino, R-12, Rome, got the discussion rolling when he said any new site in the city needs to be selected with care to ensure that customer service and accessibility are not degraded. “Location is a a problem in the city of Rome,” he said.

​“I was told it was going to be the same or better, wherever we are,” commented DePerno.

Legislator Richard A. Flisnik, R-8, Marcy, said this would not be the first time a DMV office had moved and that people would adapt to a location change.

Picente joined the meeting after being alerted that there were concerns in the legislative chamber down the hall from his office about the Rome DMV.

“It’s not completely final at this point,” he said of the plan to make space for the county’s fourth family court judge. “I don’t know that Motor Vehicles will have to move.”

State legislation enacted this year created additional family court judgeships around the state. The one for Oneida County has been assigned to Rome. The judge will be picked in the Nov. 4 elections.

After noting there had been a walk-through of the facilities, Picente said some smaller offices now at 301 W. Dominick St. might be candidates for a shift across the street. In return, this freed up space might be enough to make adjustments for family court and still keep DMV where it is, he said.

Picente said he does not want to rent space for a Rome DMV presence.

“My preference is not to go out and lease space again,” he said. “We’ve been trying to avoid that.”

A focus of Picente since he became county executive in 2007 has been to place county offices in county-owned locations. The county bought the former Herb Philipson’s building at 300 W. Dominick in 2009 to centralize services offered at leased offices in the city.

After the county bought the 301 W. Dominick St. building in about 2000, the DMV office was moved there from a rented location.

There is no talk of closing the Rome DMV office — something Picente proposed to do in his initial 2012 budget to save money, but quickly abandoned because of opposition. There are two DMV offices, Rome and Utica.

However, Legislator Brian D. Miller, R-16, New Hartford, noted that over time there is going to be less need for DMV offices as more and more routine DMV transactions like registration renewal are done via a computer. He held up his cell phone and said he could probably use it for DMV business.

“It’s what we do now. Everything is online,” he said. Miller made his comments after DePerno said she’ll continue next year to advertise the availability of the offices. She said other county clerks were doing likewise. “We’re putting a Band-Aid on the problem,” Miller said.

Besides advertising to attract business, DePerno keeps the offices open late two nights a week to accommodate people on their way home from work.

County DMV offices keep 12.7 percent of fees charged for transaction fees when they are done in an office. In contrast, the state keeps all but 2.5 percent of fees for online transactions, she said.