Twelve Department of Motor Vehicles Service centers around the state are now closed because of budget cuts. More than 120 full-time employees lost their jobs. Those locations are:
Fair Oaks Mall
Northern Virginia Dealer Center
For more information about open locations, visit the DMV Web site at: http://www.dmvnow.com, or call 1-866-368-5463 or 1-800-435-5137.
This seemed to create confusion as about 50 people stopped by the mall location during the lunch hour Friday, Oct. 25.
Some people had one-word reactions to the sign before turning to walk away, but others had more to say about the state agency people seem to love to hate.
"That's why I came here today, because I wanted to get here before they closed," Anne Shuurman, of Arlington, said. Shuurman said she had seen the state announcement that DMV locations would close Nov. 15.
Instead, Wednesday, Oct. 23, was the last day of operation for 12 centers across the state.
"That's very, very poor customer service," Shuurman said of the early closing of the Fair Oaks location. "I don't drive; I'm here for one of those non-driver ID cards."
For someone like Shuurman, who does not own a car and took a Fairfax Connector bus to Fair Oaks Mall, the two alternate locations listed--in Chantilly and Leesburg--are simply not an option.
"I'll have to take the Metro to Springfield Mall, but I'll call to check that they're still there before I go," she said.
Eighteen full-time employees at the Fair Oaks center lost their jobs this month, as did 10 full-time employees from the Sterling location.
A $1.5 billion state budget shortfall, announced Oct. 15 by Gov. Mark R. Warner (D), mandated the closings.
The offices that would be shut down were selected based on which leases would be easy to cancel, proximity to other DMV offices and customer volume, according to DMV officials, and were supposed to close Friday, Nov. 15.
That plan was changed because of operations, Pam Goheen, deputy director of communication for DMV, said.
"The [Nov. 15] closing was the original plan. We notified our employees on Friday and Saturday that the centers would be closing, and you can imagine that the news was extremely difficult," Goheen said. "The agency made the decision that it was in everyone's best interest to permanently close the centers."
That news was a big surprise to customers.
"I didn't even know it was closing at all," Michelle McManious, who works in the housewares department at the Fair Oaks Hecht's, said.
"Probably I'll have to go to the one near my house," said McManious, who lives in Winchester. "But I drive an hour to work, drive an hour home, and, by the time I get home, DMV there is closed anyway."
Although DMV officials acknowledge that service will be slower, they are urging customers not to use the service centers.
"We'd like customers to consider alternatives. Many routine transactions can be done online, through the mail or through an automated phone system," Goheen said.
That is what some customers did Friday afternoon at a kiosk set up outside the shuttered office in the mall, as a handful of employees inside the darkened office scurried about and ignored people waiting outside.
But not every transaction can be done online, and at least one state politician said the decision to close the Northern Virginia locations is a mistake.
State Del. Thomas D. Rust (R-86th) sent a letter to Gov. Warner, citing a "devastating impact" that the closure of the Sterling office will have on local customers.
"I would've hoped there would've been more emphasis on the level of service the offices provided, rather than the ease of closing," said Rust, who has not received a formal reply to his letter.
In fiscal year 2002, the Fair Oaks location served 231,665 customers, and the Sterling location served 124,162 customers, according to DMV records. These numbers are only driver and vehicle transactions and do not include other functions, such as records requests or handicapped decal requests.
About 11 percent of all driver's license renewals were done online, but that percentage could be much higher, Goheen said.
Across the state, more than 120 full-time DMV employees and 25 hourly employees will be laid off as a result of the closings. Over two years, the total DMV budget reduction will be approximately $45.5 million.
"Unfortunately, I think we're going to see more and more cuts," Rust said. "This may be a forewarning of additional bad news."
DMV officials also acknowledge that money news is not good news right now.
"We all recognize the severity of the budget crisis in Virginia, and sacrifices have to be made. And those offices will close in November," Goheen said.