City seeks special license plate

It’s got Manassas’ seal, featuring the Old Town Hall, greenery and the city’s Web address running across the bottom. It’s everything Manassas for those who want to show that they support everything Manassas.

A group of local volunteers are working to get the city its very own specialty license plate.

“It identifies you with other people as being associated with the city. And it’s a great way to advertise the city,” said Helen Elkin, who together with Sterling Rush has been heading the effort, endorsed by the City Council on Nov. 14.

Since August, City Clerk Kim Allen has been helping out, offering copies of the Department of Motor Vehicles application in her office at City Hall. A total 350 applications, along with $25 checks, are needed for the DMV to begin stamping out the plates.

Organizers point out that after the first 1,000 plates, Manassas will get $15 for each $25 surcharge. The money will go to historic preservation and beautification efforts in the city.

“It makes me feel good about convincing other people that they should buy the plates,” Elkin said.

Anyone living in Virginia can apply to get a Manassas plate.

“We’re hoping people who live just outside the city limits in Prince William County will be interested in the plate too,” Elkin said.

Private citizens must go to the state’s General Assembly to have specialty license plates approved. But since the early 1990s, cities, counties and towns have been able to go to the DMV directly.

Many jurisdictions, such as Alexandria and Williamsburg, have taken advantage of the opportunity to advertise civic pride, as well as make some extra money. The city of Fairfax was one of the first.

It took organizers six to eight months to collect the mere 50 signatures and checks needed at the time, said Earl Berner, Fairfax’s economic development director. Special two-page applications, one page to fill out and the other with a picture of the license plate for the applicant to tear off and keep, were passed out at city events. The license plates were advertised in the city newsletter.

“It’s much harder getting the signatures than designing the plate,” he said.

The effort, however, paid off. Fairfax got its own license plate, sporting the city seal. And last year, the city received its first check, totaling $300.

“We give the money to the local historical society, Historic Fairfax Inc.,” Berner said.

Already, organizers in Manassas plan to canvas city events, such as the Christmas Parade on Dec. 7.

“The word is out. We’re hoping it’ll take us no time to get the 350,” Allen said.

Anyone interested in getting a Manassas license plate should contact the City Clerk’s Office at (703) 257-8211.

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