Customers at the Department of Motor Vehicles service center in Leesburg, where waits stretched to three hours Friday, said they hoped for some relief now that Gov. Mark R. Warner (D) has announced plans to reopen centers in Sterling and Warrenton.
"All we're trying to do is get a license, and it's impossible," said Amy Graves, who recently moved to Hamilton from the District. "We waited for 40 minutes out in the cold, and we get to the front and they say the camera is broken. They could have had a sign."
Fire regulations prevent DMV workers from admitting the entire line into the building as it snaked around the outside wall in 40-degree weather. "I miss the D.C. DMV, and I never thought I'd say that," Graves added.
It was Graves's third attempt to obtain the new license. She didn't have all her paperwork the first two times. But now, she said, she will wait three weeks, when the other offices are expected to reopen.
Warner closed 12 DMV centers statewide last fall as part of nearly $900 million in spending cuts. He said in his State of the Commonwealth address Wednesday that his administration would use $6.4 million from a Merrill Lynch securities fraud settlement to reopen the centers, including those in Sterling, Warrenton and Fair Oaks Mall in Fairfax County.
The closure of the Sterling office and the DMV on Wheels program in western Loudoun left the Leesburg center as Loudoun's only DMV facility, and now it is closed on Wednesdays. Closing the Warrenton office made Fauquier the only county in Northern Virginia without a DMV center and forced residents to travel to Culpeper, Manassas or Leesburg for DMV services.
The DMV also has reopened the Aldie truck weigh station near the intersection of Routes 15 and 50 last week in response to local concerns about unsafe trucks, said DMV spokesman Brian Matt. The station, closed in October, will operate part time until the end of May when it will resume full-time operation, Matt said.
"We're obviously very excited, but the question is, 'How much of it comes back?' " said Harry Atherton (I-Marshall), chairman of the Fauquier Board of Supervisors. "There may be a need for the county to take over a few of the functions."
The lease on the Warrenton and Fair Oaks centers ran out, so those might take longer to reestablish than other locations, which are to reopen after the General Assembly approves their funding.
"I'm from all the way from Fauquier County," said Josh Lane of Warrenton, who came for a license. "They need to reopen." When he heard how long the wait was, he exclaimed: "I oughta go to Winchester! It's just up [Route] 7 another 45 minutes." He and a buddy drove off.
Other customers decided to use technology to do their DMV business. Jaime Justice waited more than an hour before she decided to pay her reinstatement fee over the phone.
"My time is more valuable than waiting for a piece of paper that they can mail to me," said Justice, who lives in Shepherdstown, W.Va. Nathan Towery of Leesburg left after discovering that he could change his driver's license address online.
Meanwhile, staff members at Sky Meadows State Park in Clarke and Fauquier counties said they must reduce services because of state funding cuts. Sky Meadows will no longer offer interpretive programs or overnight camping and will limit park hours to 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays, said park Manager Jess Lowry.
The park, built on land donated by Paul Mellon, has been developed as an equestrian staging and bridle trail area.
Staff writer Ian Shapira contributed to this report.