JeffCo mayors explore new ways to shorten car tag lines

The car tag wait in Jefferson County isn't over just yet. But by this fall, new software, new offices and even new employees may be in place to reduce the long car tag lines.

A law went into effect in January allowing cities to issue car tags for its own citizens. Interest initially dwindled due to the cost; however, mayors came up with some economical ways at a Monday meeting to reduce the long lines.

For four years, Jefferson County car owners have dealt with lengthy delays.

"People are frustrated and naturally you are too," said Fultondale Mayor Jim Lowery.

To bypass those lines, at least eight mayors are seriously considering allowing their citizens to pay taxes and renew car tags at city hall. But it requires upgrading computers, training employees, buying decals and setting up office space. The cities would only get about a dollar fifty back for each tag renewal. That's why cities, especially smaller ones, want to come together in small groups to provide the service.

State attorneys must check to ensure that can legally be done. If not, Representative Paul DeMarco, (R) Homewood, says he's willing to sponsor a bill to make the necessary changes to the law.

Mayor Lowery can see Fultondale working with Gardendale, Brookside and Graysville.

"If the cities can go together, that will help offset some of the expense. I think a few thousand will help go a long way," said Lowery.

No other Alabama cities have tried this before, and the new law only applies to Jefferson County.

Jefferson County's Revenue Department director questions the impact because the people eligible for renewals at city halls could also do it online or by mail. He says forty percent of car owners already do it.

But the revenue office has lost nearly half its staff, so the director does like another idea thrown out at a Monday meeting with the state and Jefferson County mayors. It was to use city employees to work for the county."It might be more cost effective in the long run because we already have the system in place and training programs in place," said Travis Hulsey, Jefferson County revenue director.

Wait time at the courthouse in Birmingham was around three hours. The state is even working on an idea to speed up renewals throughout the state.

"We're not there yet. But once we get to print on demand registration and decals, kiosks are certainly something we are looking at," said Brenda Coone, director of the Motor Vehicle Division of the Alabama Department of Revenue about the state's wish list.

The kiosks would be a one stop for all car tag needs at city and county offices.

Until then, the county hopes to finally reduce the wait with an investment of approximately one million dollars in newer, faster software and computers by October 1.

The next step is for the interested mayors to create a contract with the county for car tag renewals.

Rep. DeMarco sponsored the bill to allow cities to offer simple car tag renewals.