Car tags: Hard to read fine print
by Sarah Fay Campbell
Some Coweta County vehicle owners may have noticed something missing on their 2014 tag decals - their tag number.
An intermittent printing problem at the Coweta County Tag Office means that some decals only have faint traces of the tag number printed on them.
Cowetan George Lawrence noticed the issue Monday when he renewed five vehicle registrations. He said he told the tag clerk about the issue and 'she said 'well, we've been having problems with our printers.'' Lawrence decided to go see Tax Commissioner Tommy Ferrell and got him to write a letter on county letterhead saying that the decals were valid.
Lawrence said he was concerned because his brother once accidentally mixed up some decals and put the wrong ones on a vehicle.
'If you mix them up, it's a big d--- deal - if you put the wrong sticker on the wrong tag,' Lawrence said. 'They will roast you for that.'
The problem started several weeks ago, said Ferrell, and has been very sporadic.
'A printer could be doing fine in the morning and then all of a sudden start smearing the decals, and then go back to printing fine,' Ferrell said. 'Certain type decals will print better than others, but not necessarily the same if printed on a different printer.'
Cowetans probably won't get any kind of ticket if they get pulled over in Coweta County and the issue is discovered, but if an officer sees the missing tag number, that would be probable cause for a traffic stop, according to Lt. Col. Mike Kinsey of the Coweta County Sheriff's Office and Newnan Police Chief Douglas 'Buster' Meadows.
But once officers run the tag through their computers and it comes back valid, and everything checks out, there probably won't be a problem.
'Unless there was something else that was suspicious about the vehicle or the person driving the vehicle,' said Lt. Rodney Riggs of the Newnan Police Department. 'That might make them look.'
Because the tag number is in such small print, folks who renew their tags might not necessarily notice it is missing.
Ferrell said they have been trying to fix the problem with no luck, so far.
'I have asked our IT Department to again look at the issue to see if there is something on our end, such as adjusting the printer temperature setting or something else that could be causing it,' Ferrell said. 'We have just purchased a different toner brand to see if that helps also.'
The printers are provided by the state through a contract with 3M.
'Since the state contracted with 3M… there have been various issues come up and they have addressed and corrected them as we have gone along,' Ferrell said.
The Georg ia Depa r tment of Revenue thinks it is a vendor problem, according to Nick Genesi, director of communications.
'We have contacted the vendor of the machines and that is where we think the problem is,' Genesi said. The state is trying to get 3M to 'fix this as soon as possible.'
Genesis said that, as far as he is aware, Coweta is the only county having this problem. Though the tag numbers on the decal are quite small, Kinsey said a patrol officer would definitely notice they were missing.
Kinsey said when he pulls up behind a vehicle, the first thing he does is look at the tag and decal and make sure things look correct.
Kinsey said his biggest concern would be for Cowetans who are out of town. 'There are some agencies out there that don't have computers in the cars,' he said.
Kinsey and Meadows said Wednesday that they were not aware of the issue until contacted about it by The Newnan Times-Herald.
A spokesperson for the Georgia State Patrol said 'as long as the decal is valid' there shouldn't be any problem if someone gets pulled over by a trooper. However, the tag office 'does need to fix the problem,' said Franka Young of the GSP.