By Kristin Fox
The current Sylva License Plate Agency (LPA)/Tag Office, located at 454 East Main Street, will cease operations on December 15, 2023 with the retirement of Barry and Debra Woods who have operated the agency since 2021. In addition, the LPA will no longer be able to operate at the current location due to road expansion in that area of town.
At a recent meeting of the Jackson County Board of Commissioners, county officials voted unimously to move forward with applying to be the operator for the Sylva LPA. If the county receives approval from the state, the Sylva LPA/tag office will be relocated to the Skyland Service Center at 876 Skyland Drive, Sylva.
The proposed office is located in a county owned building. The current building occupants are North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) Driver’s License office, Jackson County Board of Elections and Public Works, the NC Cooperative Extension and Soil & Water Conservation.
DMV must review and approve the space. The building was originally constructed in 1999 and underwent a major renovation in 2017. The facility has 72 parking spaces, four of which are handicap.
The Skyland Service Center meets the NC DMV Requirements for a LPA such as convenient location, adequate parking and ADA compliance.
Locating to the Skyland Service Center will be a plus for Jackson County residents, as it will allow both DMV services to be located in the same location offering an one-stop shop for motor vehicle services.
The North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles advertised to the public to solicit applications for a new operator for the Sylva LPA on August 22, 2023. The NC DMV received and reviewed the applications they received; however, none of the applicants were selected during the vetting process. The contract was readvertised again on October 9, 2023 with an application deadline of November 10, 2023.
“At the end of the day, the citizens of Jackson County are going to want this service to be provided,” said County Manager Don Adams. “While we would have loved for the private market to have applied and operated the Sylva LPA, with the deadline reached, we need to start the process if the county wants to apply to run the LPA.”
“As a reminder to the public, Jackson County did not respond in the first months with the idea of trying to let the private market have the opportunity to run the LPA,” added Adams. “Although there were some interested applicants, they did not make the vetting process.”
The Sylva LPA/Tag Office plays a critical role in the community, offering a variety of motor vehicle registration and titling services, as well as vehicle license plate renewals, replacement tags and duplicate registrations.
There are currently 126 LPA’s in North Carolina. Since 1961, LPA’s have been operated by independent contractors, such as private businesses or local governments. The first local government operated LPA dates back to 1995. There are currently 23 local government operated LPA’s, 16 run by county governments and seven run by municipality governments. Swain and Transylvania Counties’ LPA offices are currently run by their local governments.
The Sylva LPA is considered a Tier II facility, with 67,000-69,000 transactions per year, with an average of275 transactions a day, 34 transactions an hour.
Tier II allows up to three personnel. If Jackson County receives approval, the county will request to add three new county positions, a manager and two clerks for the LPA office. The positions will operate under the Jackson County Tax Administration Department.
The Sylva LPA’s hours of operation will be 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Staff would fluctuate lunch hours to ensure operations are always open. The Sylva LPA office will observe all state and county holidays.
The anticipated upfront cost to county is $45,500. The breakdown of these anticipated costs is $17,000 for construction costs; $20,000 for furniture and equipment; $6,000 for travel for training; and $2,500 for office supplies.
The annual financial estimates for the Jackson County to operate the LPA would be revenues of $153,500 and expenses of $170,914 equating to a loss of $17,414. According to the county manager, it is common for county service organizations to not offset their expenses and is the cost of doing business to provide services for county residents.
Jackson County will know by early January or sooner, if they have been approved to operate the Sylva LPA. If approved the Jackson County will move forward with getting the LPA office ready to serve the public.
In late January, the county’s public works department will begin construction, and new positions will be advertised. Construction is expected to be completedby late February with new positions hired by early March. Following mandatory staff training and other preparations completed, the new facility will be ready to open to the public in late April.
Many vehicle services can be completed online, including property tax payments and registration renewals. To get started, visit MyNCDMV.gov