One of the two state Driver Service Centers in Hamilton County will be moving Wednesday from Cherokee Boulevard to a larger, permanent space on Dayton Boulevard.
But some folks aren't too happy about it, especially since the center is one of the places where voters can get photo IDs now needed to participate in next year's elections.
The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security closed the branch at 530 Cherokee Blvd. Friday and will open a new, full-service center at 4873 Dayton Blvd. The new location, just north of Browntown Road behind a Red Bank Fire Department station, is about seven miles from the old one.
The new center will open Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. Its normal hours will be 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
"The facility on Cherokee Boulevard was always a temporary solution to supplement the operations at the driver service center on Bonny Oaks Drive," state Safety Commissioner Bill Gibbons said in a news release. "We now have a permanent facility to provide driver license services to the citizens of Chattanooga and the surrounding areas."
In addition to driver's licenses, the state service centers are in charge of issuing free photo IDs and driver's license photo upgrades for registered voters. A new law requires photo IDs at voting precincts starting next year.
Hamilton County Democratic Party President Paul Smith said Friday that he is concerned the new location's distance from town will pose problems for registered voters seeking IDs.
The Driver Service Center isn't on a bus line, he said, and many of those seeking photo IDs are elderly or minorities, folks who don't always have their own vehicles and must use public transportation.
"It's further away from the central city," Smith said. "They've made it inaccessible to people who are trying to their photo IDs."
Dalya Qualls, a Department of Safety spokeswoman, said in a Friday email that the lease expired on the Cherokee Boulevard site, which the state opened in 2007 to alleviate crowding at the Bonny Oaks center.
She said the department wanted a Red Bank location to cover the area across the county from the Bonny Oaks site. The Dayton Boulevard site was chosen as the lowest qualifying bid from private companies, she said.
The state will lease a new, 7,800-square-foot facility that will include space for Tennessee Highway Patrol troopers and administrators.
The Bonny Oaks Driver Service Center, at 6502 Bonny Oaks Drive, will remain open for its normal business hours, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays.
Licensed drivers seeking duplicates or renewals also can visit the county clerk's office in the Hamilton County Courthouse location. The county charges a $4 fee for the service.
Chattanooga resident Steven Brown, 23, brought his fiancée to the Cherokee Boulevard center Friday to get her driver's permit. He said they waited about four hours. He didn't think the distance between the old location and the new was a problem.
"Dayton's right up the street," Brown said.
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