Secretary of State opens newly-expanded office with visit to Niles

Published 4:02 am Thursday, October 7, 2004

By By SPIROS GALLOS / Niles Daily Star
NILES - It used to be, when motorists wanted to obtain their driving record from the Secretary of State office, they would have to mail in a form or drive to Lansing.
All that is a thing of the past, thanks to the new on site driving record service Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land unveiled during her visit to the South Berrien County PLUS Office in Niles Wednesday.
Motorists can now obtain a copy of their personal driving record at any Secretary of State PLUS Office simply by presenting the driver's license and paying an eight dollar fee per record.
Land said that many motorists typically require driving records for job applications or to negotiate car insurance rates.
On site driving records is just one of the new services that will be available at all PLUS offices. In the future, payment by credit card and self-service stations will be available.
The self-service stations, which are currently being developed, will work like an automatic teller machine at a bank, Land said.
Customers will be able to renew their vehicle registration and driver's license without speaking to a branch employee.
Other departments like the Department of Natural Resources could add self service programs to the stations in the future, and they are being designed with that type of expansion in mind, Land said.
Land confessed that implementing credit card payments at the branches has been an unexpected challenge.
When negotiating with Visa and Mastercard, the state proposed a one dollar service fee on all credit card payments to absorb the cost of credit card transaction rates charged by the companies.
Visa and Mastercard didn't want the fee to be in place.
The secretary said that Discover Card is interested in working with the state and has said it will allow the proposed fee for credit card transactions.
The new South Berrien County PLUS Office is the sixth of its type opened in the state. Other PLUS offices are located in Eaton, Mecosta, Roscommon, Sanilac and Wayne counties.
In addition to the PLUS offices, Land also created SUPER! Centers to provide customers with added benefits.
SUPER! Centers will provide all the benefits of the PLUS offices, as well ass Saturday hours from 9 a.m. to noon.
The idea for the new offices came from feedback Land received from customers during her tour of Secretary of State branches throughout the state in 2003.
Land said the most positive feedback she has received from customers is the increased staff members at the PLUS offices cut down waiting time.
Land also pointed out that more and more services are available online at the Secretary of State website.
In the last two years, Land said online transactions have grown from 250,000 to approximately one million per year.
The most common online transaction is vehicle registration renewal, Land said.
According to Land, the Secretary of State office processes 20 million transactions per year, with about half of those being vehicle registration renewal.
She said if five or six million transactions could be completed online, then more employees would be free to help customers at the branch offices.
For more information, visit the Secretary of State web site at