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Attempt to stop DMV move blocked

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An attempt to remove more than $9 million earmarked to move the state Division of Motor Vehicles headquarters to Rocky Mount was thwarted on Thursday, in part due to a delegation of area legislators.

In what Rep. James Gailliard, D-Nash, called a surprise move, the N.C. House’s Wake County caucus proposed an amendment to House Bill 966, the Appropriations Act, or “budget bill.” The amendment, filed by Rep. Julie von Haefen, D-Wake, would have removed more than $9.3 million in funding for the DMV move to Rocky Mount and reallocated the money to the N.C. Division of Highways Maintenance Fund.

The Wake delegation argued that the move would be detrimental to current employees, and that state offices should remain in Raleigh since the current location was in a low-wealth empowerment zone in need of the jobs that would be lost.

Republicans and Democrats were divided on the issue. Rep. John Torbett, R-Gaston, defended the DMV move, saying, “This horse has already left the barn.”

Gailliard spoke out against the amendment from the House floor.

“This decision is a result of a thorough RFP (request for proposals) process and is clearly detailed by the deputy chief engineer in a previously published 2018 relocation study,” Gailliard said. “After 12 potential sites, Rocky Mount was determined the most suitable location. The second location was over $3 million more and was only a five-minute shorter commute time from the centroid address provided based on current employee demographics. This decision was then approved by House committees, with input from the DMV, DOT, Department of Administration and a unanimous vote from the Council of State. This is just another effort by Wake County officials to reverse a well-vetted process. When a Tier 1 county proves they can compete in an open RFP process against a Tier 3 county, we don’t need to move the finish line.”

In the end, the amendment was defeated by a 63-52 vote, with the Rocky Mount delegation — Gailliard, Rep. Lisa Stone Barnes, R-Nash, and Rep. Shelley Willingham, D-Edgecombe — all voting against the amendment and in support of the DMV move remaining fully funded.

Neighboring county Reps. Jean Farmer-Butterfield, D-Wilson, and Raymond Smith, D-Wayne, also voted against the amendment.

After the voting session Gailliard said, “As we move forward, particularly following the next census, there will be increasing challenges with the rural-urban divide in N.C. In the same way, large cities are voting in block, we must also have strong regional alliances supporting infrastructure, job creation, education, health care and workforce development.”