- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 8, 2005

The D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles expects to open renovated branches in the coming months but has no solid plans for a second vehicle-inspection station, officials said.

Agency Director Anne Witt told a D.C. Council committee Thursday that the Georgetown branch could reopen within the next two weeks and that a new customer-service branch in Southwest should be ready in January. The openings should help customers who recently have been waiting in longer-than-usual lines for vehicle registration and driver’s license renewals.

In August, the agency closed its Northeast offices because of ventilation problems, but most of its other offices already were closed for renovations.

“It’s been a bit of a rocky time,” Miss Witt said.

She said the squeeze also has forced her to share an office, but the situation is improving.

Most services have been restored at alternate locations since the agency abruptly closed its offices at 65 K St. NE in August, when a failed air-conditioning system allowed temperatures to reach 90 degrees inside.

“That facility is closed, boarded up and never again to be entered, I’m pleased to report,” Miss Witt said.

The city rented the space for more than $1 million a year, but the lease already had expired and the building’s owner had extended the time for only a few months, she said.

When the air conditioning failed, Miss Witt decided the agency should move out early.

The agency’s call center is not yet back to normal, so calls are routed to the mayor’s call center. Service should be fully restored when more office space opens next month, Miss Witt said.

However, there is no immediate solution for the agency’s only vehicle inspection station, where customers often wait two hours or more for service, said D.C. Council member Carol Schwartz, at-large Republican.

Construction had begun on a second station in Northeast, but disagreements with the contractor led to a lawsuit that has stopped its progress. A settlement is expected soon, and the station could open in 2007, Miss Witt said.

Mrs. Schwartz chided city officials for selling government buildings and industrial land for shopping centers and other development while the agency needs space for an impoundment lot and other agencies are renting space.

“There’s so many needs, government needs, that are not being met, and then we’re selling off property,” she said. “To me, that’s insanity.”

Mrs. Schwartz said she might propose a moratorium on all sales of D.C. land until a proper review is conducted.

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