Some Rio Grande Valley drivers could have to drive to a neighboring county to apply for driver license renewal if a state agency decides to approve the Texas Department of Public Safety’s proposal to close 87 of its offices.
Currently under review by the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission, DPS has released a preliminary list of 87 offices it has recommended for closure after an April commission report recommended that DPS “develop and implement a plan to close inefficient driver license offices.”
The agency estimates these offices average 2,500 customers annually.
On the list is the Palmview Driver License Office, located on North Breyfogle Road in Mission. Were this office to close, Hidalgo County would be left with three offices in McAllen, Edinburg and Weslaco.
Also on the list are 78 offices that are the only ones in their counties, like those in cities such as Falfurrias, Hebbronville and George West which serve all of Brooks, Jim Hogg and Live Oak Counties, respectively.
Elected officials in those districts — including State Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, and State Rep. Ryan Guillen, D-Rio Grande City — have criticized DPS’ plan, arguing rural residents would be most affected.
Hinojosa, Guillen and 22 other lawmakers argued in a July 17 letter sent to the Sunset Commission chairman that “most rural citizens already drive many miles from home to their county (DPS) office to receive those services,” which entail the issuing of a driver license or identification card.
“We have been told the dollar savings from the closing of the 87 offices would exceed $760,000,” the letter reads. “However, the wasted dollars and the inefficiencies suffered by the citizens of these rural counties will in the long run exceed these savings.”
In an interview Friday, Hinojosa said lawmakers are very much in favor of keeping as many DPS offices open across the state as possible. While they may consider closing an office that is underutilized and consolidating it with a nearby office, he said, “whether you’re in a rural or urban county, you need a driver’s license for the simple reason that it’s needed every day.”
He said he would push to keep as many offices open in the Valley as possible, given that’s one of the fastest growing regions in the state, noting that DPS opened its newest “mega center” in Edinburg last October.
The Sunset Advisory Commission will meet Aug. 29 to decide which DPS recommendations to forward to the Legislature when it convenes in January.
In a statement released Friday, DPS emphasized that it “will take no action on this significant staff recommendation without direction from state leadership and the Legislature,” and that it will work with lawmakers “during the upcoming session to obtain the resources needed to meet” the demand for driver license services across the state.