Roseville to expand crowded License Center


The Roseville City Council gave the go-ahead May 15 for a new lease and an expansion of the city’s License Center, located on Lexington Avenue near County Road C. The center is often packed with people, with lines going out the door, to the detriment of business.

Roseville resident Matt Becker posted this photo to Twitter May 7 — the Roseville License Center was set to open in seven minutes. Becker said he was roughly 15th in line and once the center opened he was in and out in 20 minutes. He said he saw only one person give up on the crowd. An expansion approved by the Roseville City Council May 15 seeks to eliminate crowding at the center and speed up wait times.

City to sign new five-year lease

 

Responding to persistently long lines and crowded waits, Roseville is moving forward with plans to expand its 3,300-square-foot License Center, aiming to complete work by the end of the year.

The move was approved at the May 15 city council work session, with a unanimous vote to sign a new five-year lease on the center’s current location at 2737 Lexington Ave. The council also gave city staff the go-ahead to make arrangements for the center to take over an adjacent 1,500-square-foot space.

“It is frustrating to see people see the lines out the door and have them turn around,” said city finance director Chris Miller, addressing the council on the need for upgrades at the center. “That’s money that’s ready to be spent right then and now.”

Beyond seeking the new space, which will essentially double the center’s yearly rent, Miller sought roughly $250,000 from the center’s budget reserves for improvements and updates at the facility. 

Even without the additional space, the center’s annual lease was set to jump because of improved market conditions, Miller noted.

He said the business the center draws — long lines or not — should justify such investments.

The number of transactions at the License Center, which can process a range of vehicle licenses and titles, as well as passports, has increased by 4 percent each year over the past half decade, Miller said, with revenues increasing by 8 percent, each year, over the same time span.

The center would benefit by having more room to process passports and for work it receives from auto dealers — usually large numbers of car titles, he said.

“Those areas have remained strong,” Miller said, “those are our money-makers — I’ll be blunt.”

 

‘I think it’s a safe bet’

Though Roseville has long explored other options for the license center — in November the council discussed the viability of building a city-owned facility to house it — the timing of the center’s lease, which expired in January, limited the options.

In 2016, the center’s annual rent was $66,774. According to city documents, with the additional space and market-based increases in the price of the lease, for 2017 the total cost will be $103,545.

Per the proposed terms of the lease, the annual cost of rent would increase incrementally over the life of the contract topping out at $126,664 for 2021, the final year of the lease.

Council member Tammy McGehee said she was bullish on the city’s investment in the center.

“I have been impressed ... with how the License Center has run,” she said. “I think it’s a safe bet — I’m going to bet on the improvement of the License Center.”

Miller said the highest priority at the center is expanding it’s passport counter so it can handle more than two people at once, with aims of doubling its capacity. The next priority would be to create more space to handle car dealership work, while also providing privacy for people filling out vehicle-related forms.

“We need to do a better job of securing customer privacy at the counters,” he said.

According to Miller, the License Center has about $1 million in reserves, and the estimated need of $250,000 for upgrades and improvements — it could be less money, he said — would come out of those funds.

Council member Jason Etten noted License Center surpluses, in previous years, have gone towards keeping down property tax levy increases. 

Miller said the availability of the $300,000 in annual center funds that have been used by the city for such purposes and others would have to be gauged year-by-year following the expansion and improvements.

 

Aesthetics, Real ID

With the new lease, expansion and improvements all but agreed upon, council members discussed the particulars of what they hope to see from the work. 

Council member Lisa Laliberte said she hoped the landlord would address the center’s rough parking lot; council member Bob Willmus said the aesthetics of the center could use an update — more city branding, for instance — with Miller agreeing.

“It’s a very institutional feel, maybe not in the best ways,” Miller said.

Another council concern centered on Real ID and the center’s readiness to accommodate needs for the enhanced identification cards. Center supervisor Pam Ryan said she and her staff are ready to move, however and whenever a final word on the matter comes form the Capitol. 

That word came May 18, when Gov. Mark Dayton signed a Real ID bill.

Construction and design considerations could come back before the council as soon as June, and Miller said he was confident expansion and upgrade work at the License Center would be complete by the end of the year.

 

Mike Munzenrider can be reached at mmunzenrider@lillienews.com or 651-748-7813. 

 

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