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Legislators fight for RMV Eastfield office

Date: 8/5/2009

By G. Michael Dobbs, Managing Editor

A group of area legislators are challenging the decision to close the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RVM) express service at Eastfield Mall in Springfield.

In a letter to Registrar Rachel Kaprielian, State Sen. Gale Candaras and State Reps. Sean Curran, Thomas Petrolati and Angelo Puppolo stated the registry may have violated state law by not reporting the intention to close the office 60 days prior to the date to the House and Senate Ways and Means and Transportation committees.

Puppolo said the law was in place when the closing was announced and the legal staffs for the House and Senate are looking into the matter.

"We're not giving up," Puppolo told Reminder Publications.

Kaprielian announced last week the Eastfield Mall office would close along with offices in North Attleboro, Cambridgeside Galleria, Southbridge, Framingham, Falmouth, Eastham, Beverly, Chinatown in Boston and New Bedford. There were some new offices opened as well.

The Chicopee branch office was spared in the round of closings on Aug. 1. The two employees from the Eastfield branch will be transferred to the Springfield office. For Hampden County there are now only the Springfield and Chicopee branches open.

Candaras said the management of Eastfield Mall had never charged the RMV rent for the space in the food court area, but prior to the closing offered to lower the minimal services fees it was charging.

Candaras said the RVM was "inflexible."

Despite the offer from the mall, Candaras said RVM officials told her "the wheels were already in motion."

The legislators stated in their letter the actual savings realized by closing the Eastfield Mall branch would be just $16,000 and that might be on "the high side" according to Puppolo. The legislators said 37,000 people used the Eastfield branch annually.

What concerns Candaras are those 37,000 additional customers trying to get service at the downtown Springfield location, which the senator noted is already very busy and has inadequate parking.

The Eastfield location offered abundant parking close to the RVM office, she noted.

Candaras confirmed she and the others in the Western Massachusetts delegation "intend fully to pursue the reopening of the office, but I think the Registry has no intention of re-opening it."

Kaprielian said the closings would save $1.7 million annually in rental fees and marks another step in shifting more of the registry's services to its Web site.

"There is no reason why all routine licensing and registration transactions can't be performed online," Kaprielian said. "At any given time, nearly a third of the customers waiting in line at our branches don't need to be there and can do their registry business online."

Eastfield Mall did not charge any rent to the RMV for the office. Its expenses came from electrical and data services, Puppolo explained.

Kaprielian said. "Our priority is to consistently improve customer service at the RMV with a focus on innovation and creativity."

Puppolo called the closing "senseless" and questioned why $16,000 was considered a "budget-buster."