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Driver's license office closing Friday after 32 years

Friday, December 28, 2012

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The facility has been serving as a place for THP to work out of as well as the driver's license office for the last 32 years. There are currently no plans for the facility after the new facility is opened next year.
For the last 32 years, the Dyer County Safety Complex on James H. Rice Road has been a place of joy for many 16-year-olds as they ventured into the building in the hopes of obtaining that small piece of plastic that allows them a bit of freedom: a driver's license. On Thursday, current and former employees of the Division of Driver's License, as well as a handful of Tennessee Highway Patrol troopers celebrated 32 years of memories at a luncheon before the facility closes. The building will issue its last licenses on Friday, as it will be closed to make way for a newer, state-of-the-art facility on Highway 51 and Forrest Avenue. THP will continue to use the facility as a station until the new facility is opened sometime next year.

Many residents have voiced their concern of closing the building before the new one is built, but according to Commissioner Bill Gibbons and Assistant Commissioner Lori Bullard of the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security, who visited Dyer County in October, the closure is necessary because the department will be migrating to a new system beginning Jan. 1, 2013. The new system requires new equipment, which is not compatible with the old facilities on James H. Rice Road and would not be able to accommodate the size of the equipment.

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Chief Deputy Mike Boals and Joyce, who worked in the Driver's License Office for 12 years until her retirement in 1995.
The new facility is expected to be about 6,000 square feet in size and will have all the latest technology available. In the meantime, in order to assist residents, the Department of Safety and Homeland Security will provide a kiosk at the Dyer County Clerk's Office. The kiosk will be able to process transactions such as: renewals, change of address and replacements but would not be able to issue new licenses. Residents looking for new licenses or transferring their licenses from another state will have to visit the department's offices in Union City or Trenton.

According to Sgt. Robert Moore of the THP, the building on James H. Rice Road opened in 1980 due in large part to the dedication of five troopers, who rallied the community behind them to build the facility. The troopers included: Elmer Hatley, Jerry Baker, Jerry Strain, Mike Boals and Leon Goff. The troopers were working out of the American Legion office on St. John Avenue and realized there was a need for a facility to call their own.

Boals, who is currently a chief deputy for the Dyer County Sheriff's Office recalled on Thursday how the big five factories at the time all contributed $5,000 apiece and the rest was raised from donations from the community. Dyer County also stepped in and granted the troopers a 99-year lease for the site to build the complex.

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Troopers gather for a photo outside the Dyer County Safety Complex during Thursday's luncheon.
The facility opened in 1980 and was dedicated to Sgt. O.D. "Joe" Williamson, who died in the line of duty in 1952 as the result of a tornado on State Road 104.

"We did most of the construction work ourselves," said Boals.

The facility included a firing range for troopers when it first opened and a driving course. According to Moore, the facility's location was ideal to support the firing range because there was nothing in the vicinity. The building was constructed before the fair was moved to its current location and before the ball fields were built on Community Park Road. However, once the area became more populated the firing range was removed.

Thursday was an opportunity for Boals and a few other individuals to recall the beginnings of the building and their appreciation of the community coming together when they needed their support.



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