The Dunleavy administration plans to close offices of the Division of Motor Vehicles in Eagle River, Tok, Valdez, Homer, Haines and Delta Junction, cutting six jobs.

The employees in the Eagle River office would be transferred to Anchorage, the proposed Dunleavy budget says.

“Customers have the option to travel to Anchorage for DMV services or utilize online systems. It is likely that a private partner would open an office in this market,” the proposed budget asserts.

As to how and why the Dunleavy administration knows that a private partner would be likely to open a new office, the budget document is silent. It says the office generated $1 million in revenue in fiscal year 2020 and the move would save $62,000.

One of several private partners already doing DMV work is UMV, LLC, which is owned by Einar and Krista Gonder, relatives of health commissioner Adam Crum, and part owners of the Crum family business, Northern Industrial Training.

For the DMV offices in smaller communities, the Dunleavy budget says residents can drive to other offices. In each case, the argument is that the population is too small and the office doesn’t do enough business to stay in business.

Delta Junction is “95 miles away by road to the next closest DMV office. The community has 931 people, 0.13% of the state’s population. The office generated $204,342 in FY2020, which was 0.40% of total DMV revenue. The closure of this office will result in a savings in personnel and lease costs. Customers have the option to travel to Fairbanks for DMV services or utilize online systems.”

Tok is “202 miles away by road to the next closest DMV office. The community has 1,258 people, 0.17% of the state’s population. The office generated $230,187 in FY2020, which was 0.45% of total DMV revenue. The closure of this office will generate savings in personnel and lease costs, as well as travel costs. Customers have the option to travel to Fairbanks for DMV services or utilize online systems,” the state says.

Valdez is “120 miles away by road to the next closest DMV office. The community has 3,834 people, 0.52% of the state’s population. The office generated approximately $150,000 in FY2020, which was 0.29% of total DMV revenue. The closure of this office will result in a savings in personnel and lease costs. Customers have the option to travel to Glenallen for DMV services or utilize online systems,” the state says.

Haines “is 20 miles away by ferry to the next closest DMV office. (Skagway.) The community has 1,713 people, 0.19% of the state’s population. The office generated $95,868 in FY2020, which was 0.19% of total DMV revenue. The closure of this office will result in a savings in personnel costs and lease costs. Customers have the option to travel to Juneau for DMV services or utilize online systems.”

Two full-time positions would be cut in Homer, but the budget includes the wrong text as justification, repeating the sentences about Valdez.

The Legislature will review these proposals and weigh in on what the state can afford in DMV services.

Many of the residents in Eagle River, Delta, Tok, Valdez, Haines, and Homer probably are in favor of budget cuts in the abstract. It is only when the budget-cutting discussion deals with specifics that it becomes realistic. This is a small example with many more to follow.

Dermot Cole is a longtime Alaskan, an author of several history books and a former Daily News-Miner staff columnist who now writes an occasional column on Alaska politics and history at www.dermotcole.com/. His email address is dermotmcole@gmail.com.

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