In the news recently is a story about how the state Department of Natural Resources decided to "outsource" the state's hunting and fishing licensing and boating registration.
The sole bidder back in February was Central Bank, out of Jefferson City, Mo. The cost to the consumer will increase due to Central Bank's "convenience fee" and an estimated 80 percent of the current retailers around the state will no longer be providing this service.
Central Bank will focus on having Georgia citizens receive their licenses and have their boats registered via the Internet or phone. Central Bank will choose who gets to sell licenses and registrations by the top 20 percent of current license retailers based on sales volume, according to the DNR. That means the "big box" stores like Wal-Mart and Bass Pro Shops will likely benefit as our state's primary sources of hunting and fishing licenses.
Last year, 1.7 million hunting and fishing licenses were sold in Georgia and 344,000 boats were registered using the state's 1,039 vendors.
Many of those vendors were bait shops and "mom-and-pop" local business establishments. They only receive 60 cents per license sold - hardly enough to make it worth their while. Their profit comes from the traffic selling licenses and registration brings to their stores.
DNR officials said they made this move because their current system was outdated and the hardware for the computer equipment was no longer being produced.
I'm not biting.
Some elementary mathematics. The Georgia Wildlife Federation - which is protesting this move - estimates that Central Bank will earn $3.3 million a year from this contract. If you multiply 1.7 million (number of hunting & fishing licenses issued last year) x $9.50 (estimated average cost of license) = $16.15 million. That's not even considering boat registration fees.
I realize there are other costs involved, but I find it hard to believe that the state doesn't have enough money to update their equipment. Heck - charge a "convenience fee" - that will net you a cool $3 million a year right there.
Also consider who stands to benefit most from this move. A bank out of Missouri gets the state fishing/hunting license contract. Where is Bass Pro Shops headquartered? Uh, Missouri.
Coincidence - perhaps.
Or perhaps it's an example of our state government getting ahead of itself.
Less than half of Georgia's residents have access to a home or work computer - i.e., Internet access. I don't know how many don't have a credit card.
How is some guy who's fishing off a country bridge in rural Georgia going to get his fishing license when he doesn't have access to a computer or a credit card?
He won't. He'll fish without one.
And what about the hunter who comes from out of state to South Georgia and gets his hunting license online? Will he then go into the hardware store in small town Georgia to get his ammo and other gear? It's doubtful. Why make another trip when he can get the same items in his home state?
Who's losing all those sales tax dollars and license fees? Georgia is. And so are Georgia's schools and police departments and other public entities.
Basically, what this action does is take money out of our state's communities and small businesses and puts it into corporate hands - a tactic that is become more and more popular in Atlanta.
I'm fed up with it. If you are too, contact your local legislator. Maybe they can void this contract before it becomes effective in the fall.
This is a dog that doesn't need to hunt.
Len Robbins is editor and publisher of The Clinch County News.