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RMV opener set

New location to be ready Sept. 27

George Daw, left, eats lunch with his friend Joseph Leduc at the new Senior Center in the Southbridge Community Center. Ryan Grannan-Doll. (click for larger version)
August 23, 2010
SOUTHBRIDGE — At long last, a new branch of the Registry of Motor Vehicles will open in one month.

The new facility at the site of the former Casaubon Senior Center on Larochelle Way will open at 9 a.m. Monday, Sept. 27, according to RMV spokesman Ann Dufresne. The Charlton branch, located off the Massachusetts Turnpike, will close, but Dufresne did not specify when. All of its staff will move to the Southbridge branch, and no layoffs are planned, she said.

"The lease has not been executed as yet, but we are still hoping to open on Sept. 27," Dufresne wrote in an e-mail last week.

The new branch will be an "express" registry, with driving and licensing permit tests remaining at the state's Department of Transportation facility in Sturbridge.

In anticipation of the move, the Senior Center has relocated to the Southbridge Community Center on Chestnut Street, known locally as the Armory, as of Friday, Aug. 20, according to its Director Michael Trombley. He and others were unpacking their items during a visit on its first day.

"So far, it has been extremely hectic," he said. "In three weeks, we will back to normal."

The moves are the tail end of a long running issue that started last year when the RMV closed its former branch at the Big Bunny plaza. A month later, the RMV opened the Charlton branch.

The decisions, however, sparked controversy with residents, lawmakers and local officials who claimed the Charlton branch was unsafe and the decision to move the Southbridge branch was unfair. As a result, an effort was made to bring the branch back to the Big Bunny plaza, but the RMV insisted on getting any new space rent-free. Under the 10-year lease for the new branch, the RMV will pay about $10,000 annually for three years, but the figure will increase each year after. The Southbridge Town Council, in an 8-1 vote, approved the lease in late June, after some opposition from Councilor Richard Logan. He expressed concern over creating more traffic around the new RMV branch.

See Tuesday's Southbridge Evening News for complete coverage of community news.

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