DMV workers say move to Rocky Mount would create hard choices

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Concerns about potential DMV move.

Questions about the effect of moving the N.C. Department of Motor Vehicles from its headquarters on New Bern Avenue in Raleigh to Rocky Mount came up Tuesday during a morning meeting of lawmakers on the House Appropriations Transportation committee.

Rep. Greer Martin's 34th NC House District includes Raleigh, and he's concerned about the 400 workers who'll have their daily routines disrupted.

"We still don't have figures on how much of a difference that would make between their current commute and the commute to Rocky Mount," Martin said. "We have no idea how many trained, experienced DMV employees would choose not to disrupt their lives and go to Rocky Mount, and we don't yet know what the costs will be to train replacement employees."

Nicole Hunter has worked 19 years for the state, and she doesn't want to move or take on a one-hour drive from her Raleigh home to Rocky Mount.

"You're gonna make a person choose between family and work," she told lawmakers during time allotted for public comment on the relocation. "That's not a fair call."

Hunter said she's not the only one at the DMV who feels that way.

"My coworkers have the same thing," Hunter said. "When you're talking about dealing with children, daycare, other things that you want to do and want to participate in. And I just want them to take into account that gas prices alone can make a big impact on your monthly income. Wear and tear on your car, and just the ability to work overtime. We already work Monday through Saturday."

She said she loves her job and appreciates the location that allows her to keep up with ailing relatives, such as her father.

"I put him in a facility between the DMV and my house so I could check on him in the morning, check on him at lunch and check on him when I got off work. I wouldn't have the feasibility if I move all the way to Rocky Mount," she said.

But the current DMV headquarters, deemed unsafe by the state, must be vacated by 2020 and the Rocky Mount building emerged as the most cost-effective location for the department after a review of request for proposals from potential sites.

"That's the hard part. I don't want to think about it. I don't want to think about what I'll have to do to take care of my parents," Hunter said. "My sister's getting ready to have emergency surgery soon, and that's me on call. And my boss will be nice enough to let me go if I have to go but I'll be at work until they call me."

Rep. Shelly Willingham's 23rd NC House District includes Rocky Mount. He listened to Hunter tell lawmakers about her dilemma.

"And I think that's unfortunate. But I think you can't make a decision based on one employee, or two employees," Willingham said. "I sympathize with that employee but at the same time, I think we have to do what's best for the whole. And I think it's best right now, in this instance, to move to Rocky Mount. "

Martin said that before any moves are made, "We need to hear more from her and from her colleagues. If she's got 19 years of experience in state government that tells me that she knows how state government works. She's got a lot of experience in how to best serve the people of North Carolina. And get a better handle on the full cost of any proposed move. And I hope that no final decision on any move will be made until we really understand what those costs are."
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