- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 5, 2002

The D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles has more problems than parking-ticket overbilling, such as long lines and slow service.
Mayor Anthony A. Williams told The Washington Times on Monday that he must first "get the system working forward" before he can ensure that overbilled drivers are reimbursed the millions of dollars the agency has wrongly collected from them over the past 20 years.
But residents have other concerns, particularly about service at DMV's Brentwood Square Center.
Brentwood store owners said they are hampered by the DMV drive-through line when it stretches around the DMV building and causes traffic congestion on Brentwood Road NE.
DMV customers complained about having to stand in the sun and search for restrooms while they wait.
"There is nowhere to park, especially for employees, since the other DMV office opened," said Antoinette Boatwright, manager of the Alliance Convalescent and Surgical Supply store at Brentwood Square.
"Parking is a major problem, and it is really bad on Saturdays," said a store clerk at J.J. Liquors.
City residents' DMV problems seem to be mounting.
"I'm a lifelong District resident, and since they've put in this new [computer] system, the problems at DMV are getting worse," said Marshall Lewis, who was waiting for service yesterday at Brentwood Square.
Mr. Lewis, 43, said he had been trying to renew the registration for his Toyota Camry for three weeks. "But we just don't have three hours to wait for new tags," he said.
D.C. Council member Carol Schwartz, at-large Republican and chairman of the public works committee, said she will hold a hearing on service complaints and the DMV's new Destiny computer system on June 11.
Residents are lining up to testify.
The average wait for registration renewal at the Penn Branch center at 2:30 p.m. yesterday was "two hours and 41 minutes," according to the DMV Web site.
DMV Director Sherryl Hobbs Newman said she is working on an agreement with Israel Baptist Church to use its rear parking lot to provide additional space for customers at Brentwood.
"But the store owners have to understand that we are tenants, too," she said.
Mrs. Newman said her agency will be placing signs saying "DMV parking only" to help ease the parking congestion.
The Times reported last week that DMV officials are seeking to reimburse $860,000 they wrongly collected from as many as 21,000 drivers who were overcharged for parking and moving-violation tickets since 1999. The agency is seeking to refund $17.8 million it has wrongly collected in overcharges between 1981 and 1997.
Mr. Williams said on Monday that fixing the ongoing ticket-overpayment problem is a higher priority than tracking down motorists who were overbilled 20 years ago.
He said he would like the larger sum of overpayments to be handled in much the same way "jurisdictions manage unclaimed properties."
"What you do with unclaimed properties is you do advertisements, solicitations, so people know this property is there," Mr. Williams said yesterday at a Department of Public Works press conference.
He said the city's best option would be to figure out how to list names of those who are owed money in ticket overpayments "so they can come down with documentation and claim the money."
"What we can't promise is that we are going to hunt down every single person over all these years," the Democratic mayor said.


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