DMV will open service center in West Haven

Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles Commissioner Michael Bzdyra speaks at a press conference announcing that DMV services will be offered at City Hall in West Haven.

Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles Commissioner Michael Bzdyra speaks at a press conference announcing that DMV services will be offered at City Hall in West Haven.

After the closing of eight AAA offices, the Department of Motor Vehicles is creating a municipal operation to fill a void in lost services for New Haven County.

The city has signed an agreement with the DMV to open a Customer Service Center for license renewal and ID renewals in the basement of City Hall, state Rep. Dorinda Borer, D-West Haven, said Tuesday.

“We think this is a really great model and hope other cities mirror this model in the future,” she said. It will be the first office fully managed under municipal direction; in the past, DMV would staff offices in municipal buildings.

The center will be managed by the Chamber of Commerce, which will do the hiring for the new employees to operate the center. The chamber will act similarly to AAA by processing renewals and charging a $5 convenience fee, which will pay for the operation. As a result, no city or state resources will be used to operate the center, Borer said.

“It’s not only a great opportunity for West Haven but critical for our surrounding community,” she said.

With the operation in the basement of City Hall, it’s positioned close to other city services, so if there’s an issue during a renewal, someone can go directly to the appropriate office and resolve it so there is not as much back and forth between the DMV and city services, Borer said.

The center is expected to open in late February and operate two days a week with more days to possibly be added, said Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Alan Olenick . He added they want to ensure the office is open late enough for when people get off work, but the operating hours will depend on the volume the office can handle.

“It will be a welcome addition to the services in the city of West Haven,” Mayor Ed O’Brien said. “It’s well needed and we’re looking forward to the change it will bring to our town.”

The announcement reflects an effort to replace eight AAA offices in New Haven and Fairfield Counties that closed recently since AAA Northeast didn’t renew an agreement it had with the DMV to offer license renewals to members and non-members in those counties. The DMV had been negotiating at the end of last year and Commissioner Michael Bzdyra said in a statement at the time, the DMV could not agree to AAA’s terms of excluding non-members from DMV services.

With the loss of AAA Northeast, Bzdyra said it’s been incumbent on the DMV to find other locations to provide the license and ID card renewal services. The agency isn’t able to provide more DMV staff to their offices, he said, so having municipal workers creates a solution.

DMV services are still available at eight AAA offices in other parts of the state for both AAA members and non-members. Those offices are located in Avon, Cromwell, Enfield, Manchester, Old Saybrook, Plainville, Waterford and West Hartford.

“We’re trying to improve customer service throughout and this is one more effort to shorten wait times for our customers and provide other convenient locations,” he said. Bzdyra said they are still soliciting vender proposals similar to the AAA model to replace AAA Northeast in Fairfield and New Haven Counties. They will be reviewing the proposals over the next couple of weeks.

Additionally, the opening of the service center in West Haven comes after the DMV closed Milford and Derby offices in July because of long wait times and too large a customer volume for the offices to handle, according to a press release issued at the time. The aim was to alleviate the burden in the small offices and refocus employees to the full-service centers.

West Haven resident Mark Antonucci said over the years, the DMV has been a “disaster,” but opening the West Haven center “is going to be a good public service and a step in the right direction.”