NEWTON - Residents almost lost the ability to register cars, trucks and motorcycles online last week. But soon they'll have twice as many options.
Town officials said the computerized e-reg program, which offers online vehicle registration through Interware Development Co., was costing the town more than it was bringing in. Only about five people a month were taking advantage of the service, according to Interim Town Clerk Mary Jo McCullough.
"I want to offer it to them, but it wasn't covering the $300 a year it cost to have it," she said.
On Wednesday, the town struck a deal with Interware, and now residents will have two ways to register vehicles online.
McCullough said she spoke with representatives from e-reg, who were willing to waive the $300 annual fee for the upcoming year, to keep the town as a client.
But she said that arrangement was made after she had already found an alternate online option, and signed a one-year deal with Citizens Online Maintaining Plates Annually Swiftly and Simply, also known as COMPASS. That program is similar to e-reg, except that it can't be used to register large trucks, trailers and motorcycles. Residents can pay by credit card using COMPASS, whereas e-reg only accepts check or mailed money orders.
McCullough said COMPASS charges towns a one-time $53 fee, as opposed to the $300 annual e-reg fee.
Offering two online options is unique. Only two other towns offer both. Many towns still don't offer any e-reg service. Only Atkinson, Derry, Londonderry and Plaistow offer e-reg to their residents. Sandown is the only local town that offers COMPASS.
McCullough said it's useful to have both options, because if one system goes down, residents still have a way to register their vehicles. Problems aren't frequent, she said, but they do occur. Plaistow's e-reg was down for at least two days last week because of a Verizon equipment problem.
"Now we'll have both," she said. "Something for everyone, with no added cost at all."
How Newton residents can register vehicles online
* Visit www.ereg.us
* Starting in March, visit COMPASS at www.egov.nh.gov