By Michael Davis
When Kathryn Morrison pulled up to the new branch of the Henry County tax and tag office Monday morning, she was surprised and delighted by a new feature ... a drive-up window.
"I only have one kid, and I can't imagine having to do this with two or three," she said, waiting for a clerk to process her new tag.
Monday was the first business day for the new tag office in Stockbridge at 164 Burke Street - a facility encompassing more than 5,000 square feet, costing $1.2 million, built by the city of Stockbridge and furnished by Henry County.
"We're going to have to get some suckers," said Branch Manager Kathy Pipkin. "That's one thing I forgot about."
The new building, about a block from the old Berry Street location, where it served taxpayers and drivers in Stockbridge and surrounding areas for 25 years, was about a year in the making. The initial move-in was delayed earlier this year when, because of weather, crews could not pave the parking lot.
But Pipkin, whose husband is Henry County Tax Commissioner Andy Pipkin, is noticeably excited about the new digs and proud of a few new features incorporated into the design of the building.
"Nice is not the word for it," she said.
With a couple of empty offices, a conference room, the drive-through and nearly empty tag storage shelves, Pipkin said "We've built for growth, and, in time, we're going to need it."
"When Andy started 28 years ago, we were selling 20,000 tags (per year)," she said. "Now we're up to 160,000."
The new office also has a receptionist who can help answer questions and field phone calls.
"I've been in this business for 25 years, and I was hoping one day I could build the perfect tag office," said Pipkin, who herself was once a tax commissioner in south Georgia and came to Henry as the Stockbridge branch manager in 1995.
Stockbridge Mayor Rudy Kelley said the building is a marked improvement over the old tag office, which at one time was Stockbridge City Hall.
"It's going to make it a lot better for the people that work there and the people that come there," he said. "More people from the county will probably use it than from the city, but that's OK," he said.
For the nine employees, getting acquainted with the new office may take a while, but Monday seemed business as usual.
"I think it's just going to take a while for us to adjust to it all and get the feel for the room," said Sherry Dye, a tag specialist.
Pulling up Monday to get a new tag, Henry County resident Jim Henry Jr. said that because the office on Berry Street was closed Friday - the employees were moving - he had to go to the McDonough office at the Henry County Administration Building, where he was reminded he had to get an emissions test and come back.
"I'm going to go see how long the lines are," he said.
An open house at the new tag office is planned for May 19, from 5 to 7 p.m.