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DPS: Driver license closings not immediate

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Hamilton listed for potential closure

Rumors abound last week in Hamilton that the local driver license office was closing, and while it still might happen, it will be up to the legislature in January.

Texas Department of Public Safety Friday issued a statement regarding driver license offices to clarify misconceptions reflected in several recent area news articles.

Basically, it said, DPS is not implementing a plan for mass closures of driver license offices across Texas.

As part of the Sunset review process of DPS, the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission staff report from April confirmed, “The department has not implemented plans to close or consolidate driver license offices with low demand.”

Regarding that specific finding, DPS developed a response that identified potential offices for closure and submitted it for consideration by the SAC. DPS will take no action on this significant staff recommendation without direction from sate leadership and the Legislature.

The Sunset Commission, which meets this week, will determine which recommendations are forwarded to the Legislature for their consideration in the upcoming session, which begins in January.

The demand for Texas driver license services continues to significantly increase as the state’s population continues to grow dramatically.

The department will continue working with the Legislature during the upcoming session to obtain the resources needed to meet the demand and continue to provide quality customer service.

Since its establishment in 1935, DPS’ responsibilities have expanded. Growing from the Texas Highway Patrol and Texas Rangers that first made up the department, DPS now handles modern law enforcement concerns such as human trafficking, transnational gangs and counterterrorism investigations as well as border security.

Over the years, the Legislature has also assigned non-law enforcement functions to DPS, such as emergency management and regulatory programs like vehicle inspection, private security and the license to carry a

“While DPS rightfully prioritizes its police work, it also must carefully administer its other important duties,” the report stated, recommending that driver license and motorcycle safety be transfered to Texas Department of Motor Vehicles and Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation.

Wait times at driver license offices and the call center have continued to increase, despite significant financial investments by the Legislature.

DPS spent more than $149 million on its driver license and identification services in fiscal year 2017 and allocated 2087 staff to the program. That same year, the department collected almost $405 million in driver license fees.

In FY 2017, DPS issued 3.5 million driver licenses and 603,000 IDs. The department’s call center receives about seven million phone calls annually. The department also operates 235 driver license offices across the state.

Nine of the offices are “megacenters” that employ at least 25 staff.

The Sunset committee will ask the legislature to require DPS to close inefficient driver license offices across the state.

In response to the report, DPS issued a list of small offices to be considered for closure or downsizing, and that list includes Hamilton, Comanche, Lampasas and Goldthwaite.