LUMBERTON — At least two Robeson County legislators want to know why the state Department of Motor Vehicles is awarding the contract to operate the vehicle license and plate renewal office in downtown Lumberton to someone other than family members of the contractor who operated the agency for years.
The contract for more than 30 years was held by the late Helen Beasley. Renewal of the contract, which is for three years,was requested by Beasley’s children, Ouida Smith and Charlie Beasley. Smith has been working at the agency for 30 years and Beasley for 25 years.
But according to Marge Howell, a spokesperson for the DMV in Raleigh, the awarding of the new contract to Aaron Thomas, president of Metcon Inc., is a done deal. As a result, the current office at 220 N.Chestnut St. will be closed and a new office opened at a site selected by Thomas. Thomas is also responsible for hiring his own staff, Howell said.
Howell said that since the current contract was in the name of their mother Helen, the Beasleys’ application for the contract was treated by DMV as a new applicant and not as a contract renewal.
“It was reviewed as any new application,” Howell said. “Applications are looked at on a case-by-case basis.”
In a letter to DMV Commissioner Mike Robertson, state Rep. G.L. Pridgen called awarding the contract to anyone but the Beasleys “an apparent disregard of the law.” Such action, he said, violates state law prohibiting the commissioner from canceling or amending a contract for any other reason than “malfeasance, misfeasance, or nonfeasance” until a joint legislative committee studying the DMV’s contract program makes final recommendations later this year.
“The committee has not received any final recommendations … much less acted upon them,” Pridgen said in the letter. “Consequently, your purported cancellation of the Lumberton LPA’s contract based on a desire to replace that contractor with another clearly violates this prohibition.”
Pridgen told The Robesonian that he hates to see the agency be located anywhere but in downtown Lumberton.
“It’s location is so good for the people,” he said. “Also, those working in that office are so professional and helpful. I hate to see them go.”
State Sen. Michael Walters said Friday that when the application process began about 60 days ago, he wrote a letter to DMV supporting the Beasleys’ application to continue to operate the DMV office.
“I’ve been involved through the whole process,” he said. “I’ve made numerous phone calls, as late as just two weeks ago, in support of the current contractor.
“DMV has not yet given me a reason for their decision to change the contractor.”
Walters said that he has been told by the DMV that Thomas will be locating the agency within Lumberton city limits, possibly on Lackey Street.
Thomas could not be reached for comment.
Reach staff writer Bob Shiles at 910-272-6117 or email@example.com.