Steamboat Springs A longtime Routt County local could always be recognized by the letters WZ on their license plates, or even by the series of letters VXA or VXB. But that began to change a year ago when the Colorado Department of Revenue changed to a new license plate design and a new numbering system in a cost-saving measure.
Now, a pair of state legislators from the eastern plains wants to return some form of county identification to Colorado vehicle license plates.
Routt County Clerk Kay Weinland said Friday there's still a way for proud holders of "WZ" license plates signifying their long tenure in Routt County to save their identity. The Colorado Department of Revenue is moving into the second year of its program to replace all of the license plates in the state. Weinland said people who have license plates that begin with WZ (or the appropriate two letters in other counties, such as YJ in Moffat County) will receive notification from the Department of Revenue when it's time to change their plates. Those people will be given the option of ordering new vanity plates with the new white background behind green mountains and still retain their old WZ plate letters followed by four numerals. The offer is being made at no charge, Weinland said. However, the news isn't so good for owners of light trucks whose plates end with the letters WZ. The vanity plate offer is only available for plates that begin with WZ. Light truck plates for many years began with four numerals, followed by the two letters that identify the county.
Sen. Mark Hillman, R-Burlington, and Rep. Brad Young, R-Lamar, have sponsored a bill that would require county names on Colorado license plates according to where a vehicle is registered.
Routt County Clerk Kay Weinland said she can identify with the pride people take in their old place-based license plates. But she also understands what the Department of Revenue is trying to accomplish with the new plates.
"It's kind of a love/hate situation," Weinland said. "We're in the midst of a three-year plate replacement process. We're beginning the second year. I'm from Wyoming, and I still, when I see a Wyoming vehicle, know what county they're from."
The difficulty in Colorado, Weinland said, is that the pace of growth here is making it hard for the license plate factory run by the Department of Corrections to keep up with demand from the Department of Revenue.
"We've had a real inventory crunch because of the growth of the state," Weinland said. And that's under the new system. The old numbering system was even slower.
"It costs more money to reserve a specific inventory for each county," Weinland said. The license plate stamping factory had to change over its machinery every time it wanted to put out license plates for a different county. And when a county clerk was running low, they had to put in his order and wait for the next opportunity to change the machine over. That resulted in a time lag.
"Now, if we need 100 plates, they send us the next 100 plates" in the statewide sequence, Weinland said.
Weinland is on the legislative council of the county clerk's association. She said the group has discussed a couple of ways to accommodate the interest in license plates that reflect the car owner's county of residence. One idea is to issue optional stickers that have a county name on them. Another is to use license plate holders that name the county.
"I think it's a pride thing," Weinland said. "People on the Front Range don't understand. But when you're on a trip and you see a Routt County plate at a convenience store, you like to wave hello."