HOUSTON – Driver’s licenses could be issued in Chickasaw County later this month if all goes according to plans made by state and local officials.
The Mississippi Highway Safety Patrol inspected several locations in Chickasaw County in June and has announced plans to set up a mobile office at the WIN Job Center in Houston on a monthly basis to handle licensing and testing needs in the community.
“I carried them around to several location that we could offer and they picked the WIN Job Center,” said Anderson McFarland, Chickasaw County District 1 Supervisor. “They had a number of requirements and I’m just glad we can get this office open in Chickasaw County.
The Mississippi Highway Safety Patrol closed their driver’s license office at the Houston Fire Station in the fall of 2012. That decision required 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 was made by the board of supervisors.
When DPS began dragging their feet to re-open a local office state officials threatened to not support funding needs of the Department.
Master Sergeant John Harris said there were other factors that slowed the move.
“Our facilities have to be ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant,” said Harris. “We also have technology requirements for our computers and equipment.”
Harris said troopers will bring a photo machine, computer and the forms and tests needed to obtain a driver’s license. He said the Houston office will conduct road tests.
“The only thing we will not do is commercial driver’s licensing,” said Harris. “They still have to go to Columbus for that.”
Harris said the office will be staffed with two to three people once a month. He said the exact date and times will be released as soon as possible.
Harris said a location in Okolona, the Houston Fire Department and the Civic Center at Joe Brigance Park were all considered as possible positions, but the WIN Center met all requirements.
“A lot of people have been working on this since they closed the office at the fire station,” said McFarland. “It was taking half a day to go and get a driver’s license and this will help everyone in Chickasaw County. State, local and city officials worked hard get this office reopened.”