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.
To give Chautauqua County residents a voice, the county clerk's office is making petitions available throughout the county at each of the three DMV offices, as well as the office of the county clerk.
The bid is being reviewed by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, following formal protests and a lawsuit by the apparent losing bidders.
"According to the AP news report, the state comptroller's office is reviewing the bid award and must make a determination before the award can be approved," said Tracie Kaminski Haskin, deputy county clerk. "We don't know how long that may take, so we are urging residents who oppose this award to visit one of our DMV offices in Jamestown, Mayville or Dunkirk and sign the petition as soon as possible."
The county clerk's office would like to get as many signatures to state representatives as possible, to ensure that the voice of the people is heard.
"Anyone unable to get to one of the offices may email me their name and city of residence and it will be added to the list," Kaminski Haskin said.
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.