The Washington Area Chamber of Commerce has lost the contract to manage the Washington License Office.
The Chamber, which has operated the license office since 1973, was notified Dec. 12 that License Office Services, LLC, based in Jefferson City, was awarded a five-year management contract to operate the office here.
This is the same company that operates the Union License Office.
Just like Washington, it was the Union Chamber of Commerce that had managed the office there, also since 1973. The Union Chamber appealed the decision, but lost and License Office Services took over in the spring of 2016.
All license office contracts in Missouri are awarded through a point-based competitive bid process. The Washington Chamber and any interested entities were required to submit a RFP (Request for Proposals) this past September to the state.
Jennifer Giesike, Chamber president/CEO, said the Chamber submitted a competitive bid and hoped its longevity in managing the office would be a plus.
“It’s very disappointing,” Giesike told The Missourian. “The Chamber has managed the license office for more than 40 years as a service to the community. It was never a moneymaker, but we felt it was an important service to offer.”
She also said the Chamber has worked hard to provide the best service to the community, including relocating the office in 2015 to a larger space in the lower level of City Hall which provided more parking.
Customer service has been a major focus, she added, and the Washington office has routinely been complimented on its operation over the years, both from its customers and the state.
An official closing date has not been set, she said, but it will likely be mid- to late-January.
Giesike said she has not been told where the new license office will be located, but License Office Services is not interested in the current space, which the Chamber leases from the city.
“The state does require that a new office be located within one mile of the current one,” she said.
Giesike said after she was notified by email from the state that the Chamber’s bid was not accepted, she met with the Chamber board to discuss the next step.
Jane Haberberger, Chamber board chair, said the board ultimately decided not to appeal the decision, based on what happened in Union and reviewing the bid submitted by License Office Services.
“We didn’t think we would be successful,” Haberberger said. “There were no major differences between their bid and ours, but they already operate 16 license offices across the state and have picked up four more recently, including the Downtown St. Louis License Office. Based on that history, we knew we would be denied.”
Giesike said License Office Services also is a Women Business Enterprise (WBE), which is a consideration in bid evaluations.
Giesike said the Chamber is in a no-win situation and instead will now focus on providing the same great service it always has until it closes. She doesn’t know if the current staff will be offered positions with the new company.
The Chamber employs a total of six license staff members, four of whom are full time.
“That’s been one of the really hard things with this . . . we have great employees and they all do a great job,” said Giesike, who has informed the staff of the coming changes.
“I think the most disappointing thing is how we’ve strived to provide excellent customer service and continued to make improvements, like relocating, and then this happens and we have no control over it,” she said.
The Washington office is a busy one. From July 1, 2016, to June 30, 2017, the license office did a total of 57,943 transactions for a total of $189,588 in processing fees.
“We did over 10,000 more transactions and over $30,000 more in processing fees than the Union location for this time period,” Giesike noted.
The Chamber board is now discussing what to do with the furniture and equipment at the license office. Some of the furniture will be repurposed at the Chamber or Fair office, Haberberger said.