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Davis to keep driver office

State will take over vehicle registrations

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FARMINGTON — Davis County residents will continue to have vehicle registration services through June 2003 and perhaps beyond now that the state has agreed to operate the service in the county.

The county decided in early January to end its collection of the fees and turn that responsibility over to the state, taking a chance the county would be left without a motor vehicle office.

At a County Commission meeting Tuesday, however, commissioners approved an agreement with the Utah State Tax Commission Motor Vehicle Division that the division will lease and operate the current facility in the Davis County Courthouse beginning in July, when the county stops providing the service.

"This is a win-win-win situation," county treasurer Mark Altom said at the meeting. "It's a good thing for Davis County to discontinue this."

Although the discontinuation of the service will save Davis County about $90,000 each year in subsidies, some, including Commissioner Carol Page, were worried about the effect the closure would have on county residents and motor vehicle employees if the state decided not to run an office in Farmington. Without an office in the county, residents would have to drive to Rose Park or Ogden to register their vehicles.

The county's decision to stop operating an office in Farmington also worried several of the county's 14 motor vehicle department employees, who feared they would lose their jobs. Under the new agreement with the State Tax Commission, however, up to 12 of those county employees will be hired by the state, and the county hopes to absorb remaining employees into other county positions, Altom said.

Though the state has signed only a one-year lease beginning in July, it requested the option to renew for another year. County officials are optimistic the state will continue to operate an office in Davis County after the lease is up.

Davis is the only county along the Wasatch Front that still collects motor vehicle fees, with Salt Lake, Utah and Weber opting to have the state collect such fees. Utah allows counties to choose whether to have fees collected by the county or by the Utah State Tax Commission.

Davis County has subsidized the program for several years to better serve taxpayers in the county, but now county leaders believe residents would be better served by saving taxpayer money and ensuring the county budget is balanced.

The agreement with the State Tax Commission also worked out the issue of how much notice is required for the county to stop its service. The county gave six months' notice in January, believing it only needed to give 90 days' notice, but the state said it would need 18 months' notice to start providing services. The agreement allows the county to back out of services in six months, with the rent for the motor vehicle office being $1 for the first year.

E-MAIL: ehayes@desnews.com