July 2, 2013

DMV fee for Essex Co. run over

ELIZABETHTOWN — The push to draft a local law authorizing an annual Essex County motor-vehicle registration fee ran out of gas Monday.

The County Board of Supervisors defeated, 11 to 6, a resolution that would have authorized County Attorney Daniel Manning III to write a local law charging a $5-a-year fee on personal autos and $10 on commercial vehicles.

The fee is allowed under state law — and is collected by surrounding counties — but now won’t be by Essex County.


Supervisor David Blades (R-Lewis) tried to rally support for the law before the vote Monday morning.

“We have very savvy people living in Essex County. This should go to a public hearing to hear what they say.”

Several lawmakers had said at last week’s Ways and Means session that they wanted to have Manning draft a law only so it could go to public hearing to test citizen support.

But a story in the Press-Republican about the idea resulted in a flurry of opposition from residents, said Supervisor Gerald Morrow (D-Chesterfield), who had opposed the law at the previous meeting.

“My constituents were 100 percent behind my comments,” he said. “Only the ones driving the roads, the people of Essex County, are going to pay this tax.”

Supervisor Daniel Connell (D-Westport) said he also got calls and visits from people who don’t want a new fee.

“I’ve not had anybody contact me in support of this. At this point, I don’t need a public hearing; everybody has contacted me.”

Supervisor Randy Preston (I-Wilmington) said his constituents were also against the fee, but he would support it out of what he saw as necessity.

“If we’re looking at a (possible) 20 percent property-tax increase, we have to take the lesser of two evils,” Preston said. “We’re going to have a very big struggle with the (2014 county) budget.”

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