- The Washington Times - Monday, June 23, 2003

Illegally parked cars won’t be booted or impounded tomorrow because the District is shutting its Department of Motor Vehicles offices for a day of employee training.

With more than 400 employees in classrooms for the day, D.C. officials decided to scale back enforcement to head off complaints from drivers looking for their towed cars.

DMV officials, who announced the office closure last week, said cars that block commuter routes will be ticketed and moved, but those vehicles will only be towed out of the roadways, not to impound lots.

The one-day closure at the DMV has left at least one council members shaking her heads.

“I don’t think you close a basic city service for a day,” said Carol Schwartz, chairman of the Committee on Public Works and the Environment, which oversees the DMV. “I don’t think you can get to all the people who are affected. They’ll get there and find closed doors.”

Mrs. Schwartz, at-large Republican, called the plan “ill-advised” and said she was not notified the offices would be closed until after the plan was implemented. She e-mailed City Administrator John Koskinen yesterday to say “these types of closures are not a good idea.”

Mayor Anthony A. Williams said yesterday he supported acting DMV Director Anne C. Witt’s decision to close the DMV for the training session.

“She is hearing the same thing I’m hearing and that is continual complaints about customer service, where someone has a problem and they don’t think our workers are giving them the support or due diligence they deserve,” Mr. Williams said. “She believes it is necessary for our workers to get more training and, really, all of our workers need to get more training. And I support that.”

DMV officials said agency employees and contract workers, such as security guards, will be involved in the training session. Officials said the “Department Development Day” will focus on vision and goals, customer service and employee enhancement.

“As much as I regret the inconvenience, everything we stand for, and the underlying purpose of this, is customer service,” Ms. Witt said. “I truly believe the return is going to be much greater than the cost.”

Mrs. Schwartz called Ms. Witt a “conscientious acting director” and her plan “well-intentioned,” but she said there has not been adequate planning or notification.

A news release was posted on the DMV Web site Thursday, and the department’s answering machines notify callers of the closure.

Regina Williams, a spokeswoman for the DMV, said 93 road tests and 136 traffic-adjudication hearings were rescheduled. She said drivers were notified by mail, and that all the hearings and road tests should be made up by Friday.

She said no vehicles will be booted tomorrow because a driver has to go to a DMV office and pay a fine to have a boot removed. She said parked cars cleared from major roadways during rush hour will be given a “courtesy tow” and relocated a few blocks away rather than taken to an impoundment lot.

Mary Myers, a spokeswoman for the Department of Public Works, which enforces parking rules, said about 65 cars are booted per day in the District and about 56 are towed during the two rush hours. She said the “courtesy tow” is standard operating procedure.

“During [morning and evening] rush hours, for the most part, cars are ticketed and removed to the closest available legal space to clear the rush-hour lanes,” she said.

Illegally parked cars will be subject to the $200 ticket issued for violating rush-hour parking restrictions. Vehicles towed or booted after hours today will not be available for pickup until Thursday. Ms. Williams also said vehicles due for inspection tomorrow will be granted a one-day extension.

Drivers whose cars are given a “courtesy tow” can contact the citywide call center at 202/727-1000 for information about where their car was towed.

Ms. Witt said the training session, which was conceived in early June, would not become a “regular event.”

“This is an opportunity to set a stage,” she said. “It’s an extreme statement, but I think it’s indicative of how seriously we’re taking” customer complaints.

Ms. Witt has been acting director of the agency since April. She was a former director of the District’s Department of Public Works when the DMV was a part of that agency. The council’s public works committee held a hearing on her nomination Friday and will vote on it July 2.

Brian DeBose contributed to this report.

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