MAYVILLE A state decision to upgrade driver's licenses for $88.5 million has county officials talking.
Recently, the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles awarded a contract to the highest bidder CBN Secure Technologies, a Canadian company to produce new driver's licenses. The bid is $38 million more than the second-highest bidder.
The reasoning behind this, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office, is that the new licenses will be black-and-white photos that will safeguard against terrorists and identity thieves.
"The selected bid is a solid polycarbonate card impervious to alteration and it costs a little more per card," said Howard Glaser, Cuomo's director of state operations.
A petition drive throughout Chautauqua County has been initiated by Sandy Sopak, county clerk, to protest the bid.
"As soon as news broke, Chautauqua County residents expressed their outrage at what appears to be an exorbitant waste of taxpayer money. If there's a legitimate reason for this award, the state hasn't shared it with us," Sopak said.
Sopak will be sending the petitions opposing the state DMV bid award to state leaders next week. Anyone wishing to sign the petition must either visit one of the three DMV offices in Mayville, Jamestown or Dunkirk, or email Deputy County Clerk Tracie Kaminski Haskin at firstname.lastname@example.org by Monday. Those sending emails should include their name and city of residence as well as a note that they oppose the DMV bid award.
The bid proposal from CBN Secure Technology, Inc., is for $88.5 million, $38 million more than the next highest bid from De La Rue, the company currently producing the licenses. CBN's bid includes producing the licenses with black and white photos.
State leaders have defended the decision to award the project to the highest bidder, CBN, touting enhanced safety features. In addition to the black and white photos, CBN will also produce the licenses on a solid polycarbonate card which they say is more secure and "impervious to alteration."
"We organized this petition drive because the public was coming to us to complain," said Sopak. "We are only agents for the state and have no input on contracts or bids, but we are on the front line when people are unhappy about something. They want to vent to someone and we're the most accessible."
According to Sopak, hundreds of people have already signed the petitions, either in the DMV offices or electronically via email.
"The petition was a way for people to express their opposition directly to those who make the decisions," said Kaminski Haskin. "We've received emails with people's thoughts and brief comments, and that's good. It gives people a constructive outlet. We'll continue to accept those emails and signatures until Monday afternoon when we'll compile them all and prepare them for mailing to our state lawmakers."
The bid is being reviewed by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, following formal protests and a lawsuit by the apparent losing bidders.
The driver's license contract is part of the federal "Real ID" measure from the Department of Homeland Security to make licenses more secure. More states are expected to face similar contract decisions.