City to explore alternative options for license plate office

Published 5:10 pm Tuesday, April 14, 2020

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With in-person services shutdown at most government offices, the City of Washington is exploring alternative options for the placement of a new license plate agency for Beaufort County.

According to Washington City Manager Jonathan Russell, because the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles has delayed the trainings necessary for staff to run the new agency, the City now has more time to make sure it finds the best possible location for the agency. Originally, city leaders had hoped to have the LPA open this month.

“We are still gathering information,” Russell said. “It was moving at a rather quick pace to meet the state deadline for the LPA, but they had delayed the state-required training for the staff, so we have a little more time to analyze the overall project and to do some additional research on other potential sites.”

On Monday, the Washington City Council discussed the possibility of establishing the LPA across the street from the Washington Municipal building, the former location of Select Bank. Proposed terms for renting the building were a three-year lease with monthly rent of $1,275 per month, plus a 3% annual increase in years two and three. According to the meeting agenda, that site would “eliminate the disruption and congestion if the LPA were to be located at City Hall,” plus provide adequate parking and accessibility.

Though the Council did not take any action on that recommendation, Russell says city staff was directed to continue scouting alternative locations for the LPA.

“They advised us to solicit additional quotes and review additional sites from a financial and feasibility standpoint to make sure we’re making the best decision,” Russell said. “They would like to gather additional information on the Select Bank site and get some more firm numbers on cost of updating, and also to canvass the community to see what other sites are available.”

Since May 31 of last year, Beaufort County residents have either had to go online or travel out of county for in-person license plate services. While drivers are still technically required to get their vehicles inspected and their tags renewed during the COVID-19 outbreak, the N.C. General Assembly is eyeing possibilities to address the issue when it convenes on April 28.

N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore and N.C. Senate Leader Phil Berger issued a joint statement last week to that effect, saying, “We support passage of legislation when the General Assembly reconvenes to retroactively extend vehicle inspection deadlines. Until such legislation passes, we support bureaucratic flexibility on compliance with the existing deadlines. Based on our communications with the Executive Branch, we understand that the Department of Public Safety and State Highway Patrol are doing just that by not prioritizing enforcement.”

Those who have already had their vehicles inspected, or who need other services, can access them online at