There could be hope to keep the Driver Testing Center in McMinnville, if the basement of City Hall is deemed sufficient by the state.
According to Mayor Jimmy Haley, he and state representatives have been working diligently to find a solution and the City Hall basement is a viable option.
“Lots of work by several people has gotten us to this stage,” said Haley. “We have an opportunity to save the driver’s license center. At first it was a dead issue, but we’ve come up with several options and the best of those and the one I recommend we move forward with is to relocate the center into the basement of City Hall.”
Haley says Lori Bullard, Tennessee Department of Safety assistant commissioner, and Michael Hogan, director of the Driver Services Division, toured the basement and say it might be adequate.
“It was the accounting office for City Bank & Trust. I’ve had different driver's license officials look at the space and they say it’s adequate with minimum expense on our part, hopefully, to upgrade it a little bit – painting, cleaning and maybe a partition for our storage and locks on the doors where we have storage. It already has two handicap bathrooms. It already has three office spaces. Plus, it has a commons area.”
This initial review will be followed by a larger one.
“Bullard requested she be allowed to send a team from the Department of Safety and Homeland Security to look at the space and lay out the plans,” said Haley. “She has a technician who does all the wiring for their driver license centers to their specifications and he will also look at it. They will pay for all the expense of upgrading all the wiring. That’s not in writing, but she said it would be considered.”
On Tuesday night, Haley urged the city's Building and Grounds committee to approve the next step in the process.
“My recommendation to save our center, and this is the only way I believe we can do it, is give them the option of looking at utilizing the space downstairs and move from there,” said Haley. “This is the quickest, easiest way. Once I send her an email we can move forward, she’s going to send the team up here to look at the space.”
Committee members unanimously agreed to allow the review. Members of the committee are Steve Harvey, chair, Ryle Chastain and Ben Newman.
State Rep. Kevin Dunlap was unable to attend the meeting but during a telephone interview with the Southern Standard on Wednesday, he commended the city for taking this positive step toward saving the facility.
“This, I think, is our best hope as of right now to be able to keep it in McMinnville,” said Dunlap. “I still don’t agree with what the state is doing, but I appreciate what the city is doing to try to keep this center local. I feel, if we can save it, then we can work toward the future to bring something back or do something different. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. We really need to prevent that.”
The team’s findings and an estimated cost to upgrade the space will be presented to the committee for its review.