NORTH ADAMS - The city's Registry of Motor Vehicles is once again being targeted for closure by state officials.
A plan to modernize the state Registry of Motor Vehicles aging computer infrastructure and improve customer service, calls for the closure and consolidation of its 30 offices into 12 regional centers, with four exceptions: Greenfield, Nantucket, Martha's Vineyard and Boston. The plan also would use third party vendors and kiosk systems for some transactions.
According to MassDOT spokeswoman Sara Lavoie said the plan, which was presented to the state Department of Transportation's (MassDOT) board of directors last week, is still in the conceptual phase and will need further analysis as it moves forward.
"We are in the process of modernizing our main frame system -- in the next five years we'll be changing the technology we use to create and store our licensing data," she said Wednesday. "While we are in the process of making this change, we decided to look at other changes we can make. We took into consideration what the RMV for the next generation would look like."
Mayor Richard J. Alcombright doesn't see how another regionalized state office, located in Pittsfield,would benefit the residents of Northern Berkshire.
"I'm at a loss. I'm a fan of regionalization and consolidation, where it works. Clearly this doesn't make sense out here," he said. "There are several issues with this plan. We have a segment of our population that doesn't have Internet access; that doesn't have a debit or credit card; that doesn't have access to transportation."
There's also a factor of time involved, he said, to make a round-trip visit to Pittsfield, even before factoring in time spent at the RMV.
"We have to come up with a solution for North Adams," Alcombright said. "This is probably the third time in 10 years that our office has been targeted for closure. We've lost so much to regionalization in the last four years. We're not a subset of Boston or Lowell. We're North Adams. We're Northern Berkshire. We have a distinct set of needs and need for services in our city."
Lavoie said there is no timeline for implementation of the plan and that the initial report only considers the amount of customers a branch serves and the proximity of a regional center to residents.
"The regional centers were designed around the idea of bringing services closer to home," she said, pointing out the centers would be placed to serve the greatest number of people within a 15 to 20 mile radius. "For those further away, we would have a kiosk at a grocery store or we would have a AAA office that could take care of our transactions."
"We'll need to do further analysis as this moves forward," Lavoie said. "Time and distance are something we'll definitely have to look at. We have a Legislative briefing on Sept. 12, which will be our first formal chat with the Legislature. If people have concerns about the plan, we suggest they contact their state representatives prior to that meeting."
But Alcombright isn't waiting until the dust settles. On Monday, he fired off a letter to Gov. Deval Patick, Transportation Secretary Richard A. Davey and Registrar Rachel Kaprielian, as well as other local and state officials, about the need to put North Adams back on the list. He first learned about the potential closure on Friday.
"I went in to get a copy of my registration. When I was finished at the counter, I mentioned to the clerk how nice it was to see so many people using the office," he said. "I counted about 20 people. She mentioned that it might not be that way for much longer -- there was a possibility the office would be closed."
It was the first the mayor had heard of the plan -- another point of contention.
"I plan on calling Registrar Kaprielian directly [today] as well," Alcombright said. "It's frustrating. It's too much. Put that on top of what's happening with our Chapter 90 road funds, unrestricted state aid and the governor holding onto our MassWorks grant and it's enough."