Richardson resigns from appointed position
THAYER -- As of March 2, Thayer residents were no longer able to conduct their motor vehicle business at the Thayer License Fee Office. The office closed at the end of business March 1.
Thayer License Fee Agent Dick Richardson will no longer operate the office. He submitted his resignation Feb. 4 and March 1 was his last day at the Thayer office.
Richardson was appointed to the office in April of 2003 by then-Gov. Bob Holden due to the death of long-time local fee agent Don Norman. Richardson served in this capacity as a contracted fee agent just like Alton Fee Office agent Don Simpson. Simpson has served in the Alton position since 1993.
"I have been through three governors and signed two contracts," Simpson said. He said the contracts are not for any time period but until the contract is terminated either by the fee agent or by the Missouri Department of Motor Vehicle which oversees the offices.
At present, there are 14 license fee offices operated by the state in Missouri. All the rest, some 180 offices, are by contracted agents. "The way we understand it, all 14 state operated offices will be shut down and the governor will contract an appointed agent to each of these offices," Richardson said.
Richardson explained that in a contracted office the agent owns the office. They are not state employees.
"The state furnishes the office very little -- the machine that makes drivers' licenses, a computer where we can contact the DMV office in Jefferson City, a fax machine, license plates and other items. We make our money off people that come in the door. We pay rent (in Simpson's case he owns his building) and all. We pay for the computer software where the office accounting is done and we pay the insurance on the building contents," Richardson said.
Richardson said he had not completed his 2004 taxes yet, but the first year he worked at the DMV office, from April to December 2003, he made $10,000 after overhead expenses.
"One of the things that bothers me about this office is I have to give DMV a 30-day notice when I plan to leave the position like I just did. They can drop me at any time," Richardson said. That, and the fact that the new contract offered by the DMV makes it impossible to make a profit in the office, is the reason he resigned, he said.
In Missouri the contracted fee agents are appointed by the governor. Richardson and Simpson both said they have not seen or been offered a contract.
Richardson said by talking with other contracted fee office agents, he understands the contract is not something he would sign if it were offered to him.
He said he understands some of the changes will include a provision requiring all agents to open a personal checking account which will allow the state to take expenses from the account, including bad checks received in the office and a fee of $22 for every error over 2 percent made in the office.
All fee agents will be required to supply their own computers. The office hours at the license fee offices will change to a mandated nine hours a day, five days a week, and the last Saturday of each month the office will be required to be open.
Richardson currently keeps the Thayer office open five days a week, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Richardson said he understands the new contract will have the agents pay all on-line, DSL and fax charges. He says for the office to make any money paying these charges, plus postage, envelopes, ink fax charges and paper, is impossible.
Both men know the guard has been changed in Jefferson City and history shows when that happens new appointments more than likely take place. "I haven't seen one, but from what I have heard, the new contract is not for me. If they offered it to me I wouldn't take it," Simpson said. When asked if he was going to resign, Simpson said he had not made up his mind yet. "We finally got the fees up. Now they are taking that and more away," he said.
Back at Thayer, Richardson said the office will be closed until further notice. He said he thinks the governor will appoint a new fee agent and the office will re-open.
"When I took this job it was required that all office agents had two weeks training. I can't imagine someone just walking in and taking over this office without being trained," Richardson said.
The fee agent said he has enjoyed his nearly two years working in the Thayer office. "I have built up this office. Brought people in. People from West Plains even came here to do their business for one reason or another," he said.
Jessica Robinson of the Missouri DMV in Jefferson City confirmed Feb. 23 that March 1 would be Richardson's last day at the Thayer office. She said the office would close its doors March 2 and Thayer residents will have to make arrangements to go to another DMV office to conduct their motor vehicle business.
"At the present time there has not been a replacement appointed at the Thayer office. We expect the Thayer office to be closed approximately a month," Robinson said. She added that it is priority for her office to get the Thayer office re-opened.
She said the Missouri DMV had made new contracts and anyone interested in the position would go through background checks and be required to sign the new contract.
"It is unfortunate the Thayer office will have to be closed, but there are 181 offices across the state where business can be conducted," Robinson said.
After Gov. Matt Blunt took office in January he appointed Trish Vincent as director of the Missouri DMV.