By Ed Brock
It was just after 9 a.m.and the line at the Georgia Department of Motor Vehicle Safety driver's license facility in Forest Park was already trailing out the door into the summer heat.
Army Sgt. Diana Layne was in that line.
"I'm standing in line here because I'm trying to get my license back and this is ridiculous," Layne said.
Just ahead of her, Judy Headen of Jonesboro was waiting to get her driving record. A look of shock spread across her face when she was told that, when a new DMVS facility is completed in Henry County next year, the Forest Park building would be closed.
"I want one in Clayton County. We're going far enough now," Headen said. "We need another one but bigger, better and faster."
That's exactly what DMVS officials say they're working with the Clayton County Board of Commissioners to achieve.
They just want to make sure they get it right, DMVS spokeswoman Susan Sports said.
"We don't want to put a Bandaid on it," Sports said. "We want a facility that will grow with us."
Henry County Commissioner Warren Holder said he met earlier this week with DMVS officials and the architect for the Henry County center that will be built behind Tanger Outlet Mall in Locust Grove. The county will provide the building and the DMVS will staff it.
"We should be just a few days away from going out to bid on this project," Holder said, adding that the approximately $1.8 million building should be ready by spring or summer of 2005.
With about 10,000 square feet, the new facility will be very modern and efficient, DMVS Director of Facilities Management Waymond Henry said.
There will be an information counter where visitors will make their first stop to make sure they have the proper paperwork before they get in line, Henry said. And the Q-MATIC computerized queuing system that will be installed in the building will allow the building manager to track where each customer is in the system, who is helping them and how long it is taking.
Like the building in Forest Park, the new facility will be a place where residents can go to take the driving test, renew their license or get other services.
When some Clayton County elected officials heard about the possibility that the Forest Park center would be closed when the Henry County facility opens they protested. Now Henry is working with Clayton County Commission Chairman Crandle Bray to see about finding a new location in Clayton County.
"We looked at one building that belongs to the Department of Labor, but that didn't work out," Henry said. "We're just trying to provide the people down there with a facility that they deserve as taxpaying citizens of Georgia."
The current building is "totally inadequate," Henry said. For example, Sports said previously that 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.
Bray said he couldn't say if Clayton County would follow Henry County's lead in providing the property for DMVS.
"We're trying our best to keep them in the county if we can," Bray said.