Gov. Roy Cooper has asked the Council of State to put off a decision on moving the headquarters of the state Division of Motor Vehicles to Rocky Mount to give more time to address concerns of DMV employees and Wake County legislators.
The council, which consists of the governor and nine other statewide elected officials, was scheduled to vote on a proposed 15-year lease on the former Hardee’s headquarters on the north side of Rocky Mount. The lease would mean hundreds of DMV jobs would move from Raleigh an hour east starting in 2020.
“The Governor’s Office has heard concerns from employees and requested the item be taken off the Council of State agenda to give more time to discuss its impact,” Cooper’s spokesman, Ford Porter, said in a statement Monday night.
The State Employees Association of North Carolina and all 16 Wake County legislators were prepared to urge the council to oppose the lease on Tuesday. Now they will be given more time to make their case.
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Employees and Wake legislators say that the Rocky Mount site may be the DMV’s cheapest option in terms of rent, but that doesn’t factor in the other costs of moving workers out of the capital city. The added driving time will be a hardship for many employees, they say, and will cause many to simply leave their jobs rather than stay with DMV.
“The loss of experienced employees will result in greater disruption of service and citizen complaints and seriously undermine morale in this agency,” the legislators wrote in a letter to the council Monday.
The employees association held a forum Monday evening to hear from DMV workers. Many said the state wasn’t considering the impact on families, particularly those with children or elderly parents to care for.
Errico Moore of Raleigh, a staff development specialist with 15 years at DMV, said the move would put a burden on her and her co-workers.
“Are they going to work with the employees as far as drop-off times for schools, daycare and things like that?” asked Moore, who has a teenage daughter. “And once I get to work, if something happens and I have to leave, I’m an hour away from my child. I’m used to being at arm’s reach to my child.”
Nereida Gonzalez, who works in DMV’s quality assurance department, has a 26-year-old daughter with Down syndrome and autism who receives care each day while she goes to work in Raleigh. Because of limits on the hours that care is available, Gonzalez said, the longer commute to Rocky Mount will mean she’ll have to leave the agency.
“They’re going to lose most of their experienced workers,” she said in an interview before the forum. “When they took everything into consideration, the only thing they didn’t consider was the workers.”
The buildings at DMV’s current headquarters on New Bern Avenue have had asbestos and fire safety problems for years. Without money to permanently fix those problems, the agency made an agreement with the Department of Insurance and the Department of Administration to be out by November 2020.
The General Assembly pressed the issue last year, approving legislation that required DMV to seek leases for a new headquarters in “Wake County and surrounding counties.” The agency received a dozen proposals, at nine sites, all but one in Wake County or Research Triangle Park.
The DMV says it feels as if it has no choice but to pick Rocky Mount over the other options. The monthly rent for the Rocky Mount site was the lowest — in some cases nearly half as cheap as some of the Wake County proposals — and DMV says state law dictates that it go with the cheapest option that meets its needs.
But state Rep. Yvonne Holley, whose district includes the DMV complex in Raleigh, said the agency’s request for proposals did not include other costs to itself or its employees.
“Those things were not included in the bid, and they should have been,” Holley said before the forum Monday.
Holley and others also spoke about the benefits of DMV’s jobs and workers to Southeast Raleigh, one of the poorest parts of the city.