By Ed Brock
Clayton County's 250,000 plus residents may lose their driver's license testing center, perhaps leading them to flood the new center planned to be built in Henry County.
Earlier this month the Henry County Commission agreed to begin looking for a site, probably in the south end of the county, to build a $2.5 million facility that the Department of Motor Vehicle Safety would then staff. The plans for that facility are still in the very early stages and if it happens it will be at least a year before it opens, DMVS spokeswoman Susan Sports said.
"If it does come through we would close Forest Park," Sports said. "We decided a long time ago that the Forest Park facility does not meet our customer service plan."
For example, Sports said, the lobby of the Forest Park facility is designed in such a way that it is difficult for waiting customers to see the electronic display that shows the customer number that is being served. Also, customers who are getting their picture taken are forced to walk through the area where other customers are taking the written driving test.
If the Forest Park facility closes it would be good riddance as far as Frank Holtzclaw Jr. of Morrow is concerned.
"I think that is a terrible location. They're handling too much business," Holtzclaw said. "We usually go all the way down to Griffin. If you have the time that saves you two or three hours. And it's a 32-mile trip."
But several Clayton County officials are unhappy about the idea of losing the Forest Park center.
"We have 250,000 people in this county and we deserve better than that," said Georgia State Sen. Terrell Starr, D-Jonesboro.
The Forest Park facility is totally adequate, Starr said, especially because it is so close to I-75 and Forest Parkway and therefore is easy to access.
Starr said he is trying to contact officials with the DMVS to discuss the situation and possible alternatives. Clayton County Commissioners Charlie Griswell and Carl Rhodenizer have taken an interest in the situation as well.
"It's very important that we keep it here in Clayton County for the convenience of all our people and people in surrounding counties," Griswell said.
Rhodenizer said he began receiving phone calls from citizens on Thursday about the possible closing and he then contacted Starr and Griswell.
"I think it would be a great disservice (to close the center)," Rhodenizer said.
Still, Kim Spivey of Jonesboro also said she doesn't like the Forest Park facility and neither did her friend, former Clayton County resident Kristy Thompson of Fayetteville.
"As scary as Forest Park is, I wouldn't miss it," Thompson said.
Henry County Commissioner Warren Holder is spearheading the project there. While the possibility of closing the Forest Park building has arisen during his negotiations with the DMVS, Holder said the new facility is badly needed in Henry County where the DMVS recently closed a license renewal center in McDonough.
"It's hard for me to believe that (the DMVS) would close the (Forest Park) facility or not open a new one with the number of people in Clayton County," Holder said.
Sports said she has not heard of any plans to build a new facility in Clayton County. Henry County is providing the DMVS with the new building there.
Along with that facility, Clayton County residents would be able to go to facilities in Fayetteville and Griffin for renewals and to take the driving test.
From January to June of this year the Forest Park facility issued 18,278 driver's licenses, Sports said.