Controversial registration fee in Luzerne County


WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — A controversial vehicle registration fee in Luzerne County, which was approved last year by the county council, is once again in the spotlight. Some are calling this a classic case of “upon further review.”

It all has to do with how that $5 per vehicle fee is paid by county residents. And now there’s even talk among some county council members of eliminating the fee.

“They will call it a fee but it’s a tax. People are getting so tired of it,” Al Ottensman of Plymouth Township said.

So says Ottensman. Eyewitness News caught up with him as he cut his grass. He says he never supported the $5 per vehicle registration fee.

“It’s not that I can’t afford it but when you pay for two cars, and they are not assisting you like paving or anything like that, I think it’s a tax. It’s not a fee,” Ottensman said.

The fee created quite a stir last year when it was debated and eventually approved by the county council. But it was passed under terms that changed without notice.

“At that time, they said if you register for two years it would only be one $5 fee. In October, they made an amendment to that bill down in Harrisburg, and they changed that $5 for each and every year,” Luzerne County Council Chairman Tim McGinley said.

The fee will raise some big money for the cash-strapped county.

“They calculate we are going to get somewhere between $1.2, $1.4 million from the fee. If they match that, it now becomes $2.4, 2.6, 2.8 million,” McGinley said.

The “they” he is talking about is PennDOT. That’s why McGinley is hopeful that his colleagues on council think long and hard about the elimination of this fee.

“Well I think it will be a point of discussion with the council, but it comes down to basically do we want to be able to get the match from the state. Do we want to get the million-plus dollars in addition. That’s a big sum of money that can help us with our roads and bridges,” McGinley said.

Eyewitness News spoke to several other county council members who say they can’t imagine the fee simply going away because it is so crucial to help repair the county’s roads and bridges. But they were quick to add this is Luzerne County and anything can happen.

Council is expected to discuss the vehicle registration fee at their meeting next week.

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