An Aug. 9 Metro article incorrectly said that the D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles facility at 65 K St. NE has been permanently closed because of maintenance problems with the building. Officials have closed the building, where motorists pay fines and contest tickets, through Aug. 21. Officials are assessing the situation to determine whether the building will reopen. (Published 08/13/05)
The D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles facility on K Street NE, where motorists paid or contested tickets and fines for more than two decades, has been permanently closed because of maintenance problems with the building.
After watching the mercury pass 85 degrees inside and with reports of workers feeling ill, city officials over the weekend walked away for good from 65 K Street NE, deciding to close the building and relocate services and 80 employees to other DMV locations. The building has had heating and air conditioning problems for some time.
The K Street location was the only facility where motorists could pay fines in person or contest fines at hearings.
The move was an unexpected gift to scores of drivers who will have tickets dismissed because their hearings this week were canceled. An average of 120 hearings a day had been held at the K Street facility, the department said. Many more motorists who had fines due this week also will get a break as DMV issued a one-week grace period.
"We stopped the clock," said DMV Director Anne Witt. "If you had a ticket due this week, you got lucky."
Department officials said they could not estimate how much in ticket revenue would be lost.
The facility for the most comprehensive array of services is at the department's main location at 301 C Street NW. The problems at the K Street building, which the city leases for $131,978 per month, are not new. Ineffective heating forced the building to close for a day in March, leading the city to dismiss some tickets.
Last week, officials closed sections of the building because of air conditioning problems. Temperatures and air circulation problems increased, and despite additional portable air chillers and fans, employees reported feeling ill.
"I'm not going to take risks with people's health," Witt said. "By Friday, we knew we had to do something."
DMV officials are scrambling to see what departments they can stick where and which renovation projects in other buildings can be delayed or sped up.
The K Street building was slated to be closed Oct. 1, and plans were underway to transfer services and employees to other locations.
The department has leased the 38,311-square-foot former United Way building at 95 M St. SW for its new headquarters. It is also renovating space at its current headquarters, 301 C St. NW.
But neither project is finished.
"This week is going to be tight," Witt said. "But we did make sure that for emergency services -- or if you have your car towed, suspended or booted -- we are here and able to take care of it."
In the meantime, payments to release booted vehicles can be done over the department Web site at www.dmv.dc.gov or at C Street. License suspensions, drivers' records and insurance services also are available at C Street.
Also, the DMV call center, which was at K Street, will be closed temporarily. The department has referred emergency DMV calls to the mayor's call center, 202-727-1000.
Other DMV locations also are in flux.
The department's Georgetown office, which is closed for renovations, is being doubled in size to become a full-service location. It is expected to open in the fall, said DMV spokeswoman Janis D. Hazel.
And the department's efforts to open a second inspection station on West Virginia Avenue NE have been delayed by legal problems with its contractor.
The K street building is owned by Carter Cafritz, and the city leases it on a month-to-month basis, according to property management office spokeswoman Aimee Occhetti.
She said the department will negotiate with Cafritz for a rent reduction because of the problems.
Meanwhile, the building at 65 K Street is scheduled to be imploded by the owner this fall and a new office complex built on the site, Witt said.
"If I was given the privilege of pressing the button, I would do so gladly," she said.