"A license tag office would be a completely new business for Guilford County government, and it would mean hiring about a half-dozen new county employees to provide a service that's handled by private companies in almost every other county in the state.
It would also mean that Guilford County government would be in direct competition with the two privately owned license plate offices currently operating in the county.
...Commissioner Billy Yow said that, though the idea hasn't been presented to the Board of Commissioners yet – or even discussed publicly – the project is already clearly being fast-tracked by Guilford County Manager Brenda Jones Fox, Tax Director Ben Chavis and other county staff.
...Yow said ...county staff has already picked out the location and has applied to the state for the authority to run the office.
The county has even already been certified by the state to provide the service.
...Yow said, Guilford County plans to pay its tag agency workers much higher wages than employees in similar jobs at privately run tag offices across the state.
"They're talking about hiring five employees at $48,000 each and a supervisor making $68,000 a year," Yow said.
...Yow also said he doesn't like the way the plan to open the office has been moving forward so aggressively with zero input from commissioners.
...he had no idea county staff planned to do this...
...Fox and Chavis say they think a county-run license tag office can become a real revenue generator.
Commissioner Paul Gibson said ...he wished he'd been kept apprised of what has been going on behind the scenes.
Gibson said he was surprised to learn the plan was moving along full-steam ahead yet no one had bothered to tell the commissioners.
...Other commissioners apparently only learned about the county getting into the license plate office business later...
...the county commissioners have been presented with virtually no information.
...One reason Chavis states is that the county could offer a "higher level of customer service" to county residents. Chavis said that's because Guilford County has "a greater vested interest" than a private company does in giving good service.
"We are confident that we can provide better customer service than the public generally gets at License Plate Agencies under the current program,"...
..."Internal Audit Controls will be available not only through DMV but through our own Internal Audit Department," his memo states.
Like cash payments?
...Chavis said a lot of money is involved.
"The annual levy for registered motor vehicles among all jurisdictions we collect for is $41.9 million," Chavis stated in his memo.
...hiring new employees also meant providing retirement programs and other benefits to those employees.
Yow said there was no agreement yet on how much the state would pay Guilford County for the various services it performs at the proposed license plate office.
"When I asked Ben, 'What are they going to pay you per transaction?' Ben said, 'I don't know,'" Yow said.
...Yow said he also didn't like the fact that Guilford County would be competing with private industry. He said that could open the door for unfair competitive practices.
Guilford County Attorney Mark Payne said ...that not all contracts with the state are boilerplate; he said contracts with the state can vary from county to county even if they are for similar services.
"The state can say to one county, 'Well, we'll work with you on this issue,'" Payne said.
...The county has tried to make money before in interesting ways – for instance, years ago Guilford County attempted to make money holding state prisoners at the county's Prison Farm and charging the state for doing so.
However, that endeavor failed miserably."