Lawmakers want seniors-only option at western Mass. RMVs

  • The Greenfield Registry of Motor Vehicles, as seen Tuesday, March 27, 2018. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo

Staff Writer
Published: 9/16/2020 6:57:05 PM

Area lawmakers are calling on Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack to reopen Registry of Motor Vehicles offices in Greenfield and Easthampton and offer dedicated service hours to older drivers across the region.

Special hours for those 74 and older to renew their licenses in person were recently added at the RMV Service Center in Springfield, but that’s not enough for some members of the western Massachusetts delegation.

“This is just another example of something that is fundamentally unfair to the western part of the state,” said Sen. John Velis, D-Westfield.

In Massachusetts, those 75 and older must renew their driver’s licenses in person.

Initially, when the RMV announced on Sept. 1 dedicated service hours for those 75 and older renewing their licenses in person, no western Massachusetts locations were included. The RMV locations included in that initial announcement were Danvers, Leominster, New Bedford, South Yarmouth and Watertown, with Watertown offering the hours starting on Sept. 2 and the other locations offering the hours starting on Sept. 9.

On Wednesday, the Springfield RMV debuted a half-day of dedicated service hours.

In response to the announcement, 13 legislators, including Velis, signed a letter to Pollack.

“We are writing today to request that you reopen the RMV locations in Greenfield and Easthampton and provide dedicated service hours for customers who are 75 years of age or older at three sites in western Massachusetts: one in Berkshire County, one in Franklin County and one in Hampshire County,” reads part of the letter.

Others signatories included Rep. Natalie Blais, D-Sunderland, Rep. Dan Carey, D-Easthampton, Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa, D-Northampton, and Sen. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton.

The special hours being offered at RMV locations are for those 74 and older, to accommodate those who have to renew their licenses on their 75th birthday.

The Easthampton and Greenfield RMV locations have been closed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We have just heard horror stories from constituents who have waited hours at the RMV in Springfield,” Blais said.

Carey said that while he is happy that hours are being offered in Springfield, “I think that we can do better.”

“It’s completely and utterly unacceptable,” Comerford said of the hours being offered in Springfield only.

Comerford said the RMV should either add other physical locations with dedicated hours or find another solution for older people, such as allowing them to renew online. And she expressed her support for the Easthampton and Greenfield RMVs being reopened.

Carey said he’s “constantly hearing from constituents about frustrations with the RMV,” and that a lot of these complaints have to do with services moving online.

Sabadosa said that if people are experiencing difficulties with renewing their registration, they should contact their state representative, and that the RMV has been able accommodate people.

In a response to the legislators’ letter, RMV Registrar Jamey Tesler wrote in a Wednesday letter that there are plans to offer the senior hours at the North Adams and Pittsfield RMV locations later in the fall. Tesler also said that those 75 and over can renew their licenses outside of dedicated hours at almost all of the RMV’s locations, including Pittsfield and Springfield.

As for the Easthampton and Greenfield locations, Tesler wrote that there are plans to reopen the Greenfield office in mid-October.

Carey described the response as “disappointing,” and noted that it did not address the Easthampton RMV.

“It’s a two-page letter and the word Easthampton’s not in it,” he said.

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