OKOLONA – Aldermen would love to have a Mississippi driver’s license office at Rockwell Auditorium, but the demands of the Mississippi State Highway Patrol won’t make it easy.
The Okolona Board of Aldermen received a list of office requirements the state needs before it can establish a driver’s license testing location in town. The demands ranged from handicapped parking and internet access to a break room and private bathroom.
“We need to look at this,” said Ward 3 Alderman Eldridge Lowe. “That looks like an expensive laundry list to me.”
Ward 1 Alderman Kenneth McVay said the city could provide most of the Highway Patrol’s needs and the office would be a great service, not only to Okolona, but all of Chickasaw County and surrounding communities.
The Mississippi Highway Safety Patrol closed their driver’s license office at the Houston Fire Station in the fall of 2012. That decision requires residents seeking to make a change to their driver’s license or teenagers looking to get a driver’s license to travel to offices in Starkville, Tupelo or Columbus.
The Department of Public Safety (DPS) cited a lack of use, lack of funding and personnel constraints in making the decision to close the Houston office.
That move prompted Chickasaw County lawmakers to introduce legislation requiring DPS to set up satellite locations at county courthouses at least once a month. The legislation was sponsored by Sen. Russell Jolly (D-Houston) and Rep. Preston Sullivan (D-Okolona). The law was passed in the 2013 session and required DPS to have a part-time location in every county seat where a request is made by the board of supervisors.
“I think we need to contact our state lawmakers and see if they can help us with this,” said Okolona Mayor Louise Floyd-Cole. “This will be a great service to the community and will bring people to town to eat and shop.”
Cole said she would look at how expensive it might be to accommodate DPS and report back to the Board of Aldermen.
DPS said the closings were strictly for economic reasons and many of the department’s services can be done online.
Warren Strain, spokesman for the Mississippi Department of Public Safety said address changes and marriage status name changes are the main reason people have to visit a driver’s license office.
The Mississippi Department of Public Safety website can be accessed at www.dps.state.ms.us. Click on the “Driver’s License Help” box on the right side of the browser for details and directions.
The online process does require the user to have a credit card to pay for fees. The new system also eliminates standing in lines to complete a driver’s license transaction. The process of renewing a driver’s license online typically takes less than 10 minutes.