Pat Bourdeau got a pleasant surprise when she took daughter Maddie to get her driving permit Thursday.
"This facility is gorgeous," Bourdeau said of the new Department of Driver Services Center off Pilgrim Mill Road in Cumming. "And everything has been so efficient."
While the 9,000-square-foot facility has been open to customers since late July, it was officially welcomed Thursday as city, county and state leaders gathered for a ribbon cutting ceremony.
Cumming Mayor H. Ford Gravitt welcomed guests and praised the city council and District 27 state Sen. Jack Murphy for their continued support of the facility.
"We’re so grateful to Sen. Murphy and to my board who all said, ‘Let’s go for it,’ as soon as I brought this idea to them," Gravitt said.
Murphy, in turn, thanked city leaders for their efforts.
"I went to the mayor after [the city] acquired this property … and the council took all of a week to approve this," he said.
Murphy recalled customers standing outside in scorching heat and freezing winter weather while waiting to get into the old 2,000-square-foot center, which shared space with Georgia State Patrol Post 37 on County Way in north Forsyth.
"Now we have a great facility that is one of the finest in the state and will accommodate our citizens for years to come," he said.
"Congratulations to the city for jumping in and doing this project, which is a great benefit to Cumming, Forsyth County and the state."
The new center, which was built for about $839,000, is on property that also houses Cumming Aquatic Center, which opened in late June.
There are also plans for a satellite campus of North Georgia College & State University and a National Guard Armory on the site.
Greg Dozier, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Driver Services, also attended the ribbon cutting.
"We pride ourselves on the care model that involves the respect and ethics we use while serving our customers," he said. "This facility embodies everything we feel we owe our customers."
Dozier also hailed the center’s staff for their efforts.
"The staff here have been so good," he said. "[They] received the most improved center award, not because of this new facility, but because of the service level and how they treat customers."
The former facility served about 65,000 customers a year, a figure he said likely will grow at the new, larger center.
Waymond Henry, the department’s director of facilities, said the new site took about eight months to complete.
"It’s the newest and greatest center in the state," he said, noting there are 62 others across Georgia.
Three-quarters of the building is used for customer needs and behind it is a 400-by-400-foot "pad" for onsite driving tests and training.
"A little later we’ll be able to offer CDL testing and motorcycle training here too," he said.
Richard Turpin, manager of the center, said it employs about 10, three of whom were added before the move.
"Customers love how open and spacious it is," he said of the facility. "The examiners really like it too because they have a lot more room to work."
Customer Hubert Grizzle echoed Turpin’s sentiments.
"This is 100 times better than the one where I just moved from up in Blue Ridge Ridge," he said.