HAMMOND — Following a lengthy discussion, the City Council on Tuesday gave its unanimous approval for the city to enter into an agreement with the state Office of Motor Vehicles to create a privately run office that would offer similar services as the state closes the public office.
The resolution calls for the city to enter into a third-party agreement with Auto Titles LLC, a business owned and managed by Barbara Tallo Farkas. Farkas will continue offering all services that were formerly filled by state OMV employees. The office will remain at its location on North Morrison Blvd.
Mayor Mayson Foster, who asked the council to give its final approval to the agreement, said that his primary concern was to assure that residents had a motor vehicle office in Hammond. Foster said the state had notified him that an OMV facility would remain in Amite, the Tangipahoa Parish seat, as required by state law, but that the office in Hammond would be closed.
Foster said that the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections has been privatizing OMV offices throughout the state.
For several years, the city has helped keep the Hammond OMV office open by agreeing to pay the rent and maintain the building. A $3 surcharge on transactions has been levied by the city to maintain the building.
Foster said the city is holding $150,000 that must be used for the OMV building. He said some of that money will be used to improve and update the building before Farkas moves her business to the site.
The mayor estimated that the changeover from the OMV to Farkas’s company will probably be completed by Jan. 1. He said services at the Hammond will not be interrupted in the interim.
Donna Shakerin, the owner of LA Notary Public LLC, a public tag agency, asked the council why Farkas had been awarded the contract without the public being told about the action. “I read about it in the newspaper when you introduced this two weeks ago, and this was the first I knew about it,” Shakerin complained.
Shakerin, whose business is adjacent to the OMV office, said she gains customers because many motorists grow tired of the long lines at the OMV office. She said they are willing to pay her a fee to accomplish the business they needed to conduct at the OMV office. She said that when Farkas takes over the OMV office it will hurt her business.
Shakerin conceded that at this time she cannot provide the range of services offered by Farkas, but said that given a larger office and more time to prepare, she could eventually own and manage a full-service motor vehicle business.
Foster said the state Office of Motor Vehicles originally approached him about finding a private business to run the Hammond office or the office would be closed. He said that he then met with Farkas to discuss taking over the OMV facility because she had a long history of providing quality service in the areas of vehicle registration, title service, issuing of tags and other services.
He also pointed out that Farkas will have to charge her customers $3 more for services than her competitors because she has to remit that amount to the city for maintenance and rental of the building where her business will be moved.