Lucas County Clerk of Courts J. Bernie Quilter announced last week that the Oregon auto title branch will close in January 31 due to budget cuts.
The Oregon branch, at 3034 Navarre Avenue, is the only auto title office on the East Side.
The Heatherdowns branch, 4456 Heatherdowns Blvd., will also close at the same time.
That leaves two branches open - 1600 Madison Avenue, Toledo, and N. McCord Road, Sylvania – where the public can obtain auto titles.
Employees at the branch will be laid off, according to Larry Loutzenhiser, public information officer for Quilter.
“It’s a budgetary issue,” said Loutzenhiser. The state legislature, despite requests from the county, has repeatedly refused to increase state title fees, among the lowest in the area, said Loutzenhiser.
The move represents a goal of over $300,000 in budgetary cuts, he said.
“We have not had a title fee adjustment. We’re basically living on a 1993 budget in 2009,” he said.
“We charge $5 for a title when in fact most states around us - most places in the country - are charging anywhere from $16-$20 or more to process a title,” he said. “Sometimes, they have to wait for a week to three weeks to receive that title where we turn them over the same day.”
The auto title offices are entirely funded by the auto title fees, he said.
“We’ve been trying to get a title fee adjustment for a number of years. We thought we have no choice but to lay off employees at the same time we’re closing two offices because we have to realize significant monies that we need to cut. Unfortunately, they have to be the Oregon and Heatherdowns branches that we have to cut. If we’re able to secure a title adjustment fee in the budget this year with the state, then we can take a look and revisit the issue with these offices and those employees that will be laid off,” said Loutzenhiser.
“Mr. Quilter has been working tirelessly for the last four years on this issue. We basically get nowhere on the whole thing. What we’re asking for is an increase of $10 in the title fee. We have yet to receive a negative comment from customers about that small adjustment,” he said.
“The county commissioners have also asked for a 5 percent across the board cut in all general fund departments, so that’s impacting us as well,” he said.
“We’ve already contacted the dealers that do business with us. We’ve had signage in our office informing the public that title work, however much an inconvenience, will have to go to our McCord Road or Madison Avenue branches,” he said.
The decision to close the Oregon and Heatherdowns branches were made by Quilter.
“The downtown office has all our files, so we can’t close that,” said Loutzenhiser. “That’s where all our files are kept. And the Sylvania office is probably our busiest office. It deals with the Central Avenue strip car dealers, plus that whole area out there is huge. It was a matter of looking at where the most business is at.
Both locations are considered “one stop shops.”
“We lose that ability to have one stop shops, where we locate right next to divisions of motor vehicles. You could get your title work done, then go next door and get your tags,” he said.