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For drivers, one-stop shopping

Motorists in Pasco now will get driver's license and car registration at the same place.

By CHASE SQUIRES, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 4, 2003

DADE CITY -- No matter which comes first, the driver's license or the vehicle registration, it won't matter any more in Pasco County.

Starting this week, motorists will take care of both at the same offices.

Monday marked the first day of a consolidation that brings state Department of Motor Vehicles functions into the offices of Pasco County Tax Collector Mike Olson. The state closed its driver's license offices in east Pasco, Land O'Lakes and Port Richey last week.

Olson's offices began offering services on Monday.

"It's working really well, as far as I know, in Dade City, and in Land O'Lakes," Olson said Monday afternoon. "In Gulf Harbors, computer gremlins paid us a visit this morning."

Olson said a glitch in the way the computers were set up at the west Pasco office snarled lines, with many people waiting up to an hour to have their requests processed. The problem should be fixed by this morning. The decision to combine driver's license and motor vehicle registration at the Tax Collector's offices was made about 18 months ago, Olson said.

At the time, he said, there was talk licensing offices would be privatized, and Olson said he made a bid to absorb the job, keeping the service part of a governmental body.

"I don't think government ought to do everything for everybody, but there are certain things government should do," he said.

Olson said it also will eliminate confusion and trips back and forth between offices when motorists have to clear up a license problem before obtaining a registration.

The county provided more than $2-million to buy and renovate the old Frank's Nursery & Crafts site on U.S. 19 to move and expand the Tax Collector's Office, with room for licensing operations. In addition, Olson said he renovated and expanded his Land O'Lakes office to make way for the transition.

Olson said his office handles more than 30,000 walk-in customers a month, so it has the ability to handle heavy volume. Many of the state employees have moved over to the Tax Collector's Office to process driver's license needs, and Olson said his employees are learning the functions, so the operation will soon be seamless.

The move does come at a cost, both to the county and the customer.

It's expected to cost up to $200,000 in the first year to absorb the operation, but the cost is eventually expected to level out as more people are trained. And customers will pay an additional $5.25 for each driver's license. That's a fee mandated by state law, and $1 of that fee must be sent to the state, according to statutes.

"We hate it, in capital letters," Olson said of the fee. "It's not fair."

The three DMV offices that closed last week were at 10600 License Lane, near Jasmine Lakes in Port Richey; 6751 U.S. 41 in Land O'Lakes; and 10628 U.S. 301 in Dade City.

The three Tax Collector's offices offering driver's license services are Dade City, in the East Pasco Government Center, 14236 Sixth St., Room 100; New Port Richey, 4720 U.S. 19; and Land O'Lakes, Hap Clark building, 4111 Land O'Lakes Blvd.

There are plans next year to add services in Zephyrhills and Port Richey.

All offices are open 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays and 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

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