Angela Soleymani expects business at All Shipping and Printing (ASAP) to slow down now that the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) closed the Sterling DMV office.
"I'm very disappointed they're doing that," said Soleymani, manager of ASAP in the Sterling Park Shopping Mall. "We're a small business and we count on every customer that comes inside the mall."
Customers heading to DMV, which is located near the shopping mall, access the office by driving through the mall and may stop at ASAP for notary and fax services and to get copies, Soleymani said. "They have to drive into the shopping center to see our stores," she said. "The whole mall is hidden. ... It's not really visible from where Sterling Boulevard is."
"I don't think it's a good thing for the area at all," said Deputy Chris Jones, community police officer for the Loudoun County Sheriff's Office. "It potentially could have an impact because it's so busy all the time. These folks who frequent DMV probably are stopping for lunch at the fast food [restaurants] and perhaps running errands while they're in the area."
GOV. MARK WARNER (D) closed the Sterling and 11 other DMV offices as part of his $858 million budget reduction plan, more than half of what is needed to cover the state's $1.5 billion shortfall for fiscal year 2003. Three of the DMV offices include customer-service centers — Sterling, Fair Oaks and Warrenton — along with a Northern Virginia Dealer Center in Alexandria. The cuts leave DMV with 61 offices statewide.
"DMV is not alone. All state agencies received cuts," said Pam Goheen, DMV spokesperson. "We all recognize the severity of Virginia's budget situation. Our hope is to rebuild in the future."
The state could have avoided closing the DMV offices, said Del. Richard "Dick" Black (R-32). Earlier this year, Warner appropriated $332 million from the Transportation Trust Fund, including $15 million in DMV license fees, to transfer to the state's general fund, what Black described as a "raiding" of the designated funds. The General Assembly has the authority to appropriate the Transportation Trust Fund, which is earmarked for spending on transportation projects, and other such funds with an appropriations bill that overrides all other provisions of the state code except where the provisions are based on the Constitution, he said.
"DMV is supposed to be self-funding through license fees," Black said. "It shows you can't rely on politician's promises on protecting these funds."
WARNER KEPT the Leesburg DMV office open though it receives less business than the Sterling office, Black said. "I think it's going to be a disaster because most of the suburban area of Loudoun County is served by that Sterling DMV. ... We have a huge stream of people who are constantly going in there."
Black said Warner is trying to create "an apparent crisis for political purposes," he said.
"This shortfall comes on top of a $3.8 billion revenue shortfall that the governor and General Assembly closed earlier this year," said Kevin Hall, deputy press secretary for Warner's office, in response to Black's comment. "As the governor said in his speech ... a lot of the easy choices have been made and to close the continuing shortfall will require sacrifice from state workers and every Virginian."
The DMV offices that were closed were selected for a variety of factors, including their proximity to other offices, whether they were located in leased buildings and the number of transactions they conducted, Goheen said. "Sterling has a combination of those factors," she said.
The closing of DMV offices and shortening of service hours at other locations resulted in the layoff of 353 full-time employees, including 10 employees at the Sterling office. The layoffs, which will take effect in two shifts on Nov. 1 and Nov. 15, will leave DMV with 1,605 employees.
"It's very difficult. We're more than a state agency. We consider ourselves to be family," Goheen said, adding that she expects service to be slower at existing DMV offices and the drive time for some customers to increase. "Losing employees is extremely difficult, but we'll continue to service our customers."
The DMV office is Sterling closed on Oct. 24. The shortened hours at remaining DMV offices will take effect on Nov. 1.