By RICHARD F. BELISLE
8:52 PM EDT, July 9, 2012
A handful of people seemed perplexed Monday morning as they peered into the empty windows of what was the familiar office of the West Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles at 1438 Edwin Miller Blvd.
They were nine days too late.
The office closed for business June 30. As of noon Monday, it was replaced by a shiny, new 9,000-square-foot regional office about three miles west of Interstate 81 at 38 Severna Parkway off W.Va. 9.
The new office was built in an attempt to adhere to DMV’s mantra of locating offices “within 25 miles of any West Virginia resident ... as the crow flies,” DMV Commissioner Joe E. Miller said at Monday’s dedication ceremony.
There is no DMV office in neighboring Morgan County because the county’s population — 17,535 — is not large enough to support a DMV office, Miller said.
“Every year, the silver-haired Legislature comes down loud and clear on us saying they want regional offices, but the population in some areas is not big enough,” Miller said. “There are still large areas in the state that are not covered, but the people in the Berkeley Springs area spoke and we listened.”
The new Martinsburg office also will serve residents in eastern Hampshire County.
The 7,000-square-foot office on Edwin Miller Boulevard opened in 1979. It ran short of space and became too inefficient to handle the Panhandle’s growing population and changing demographics, Miller said.
It also lacked a motorcycle-testing facility, so the DMV had to send instructors to James Rumsey Technical Institute in Hedgesville, W.Va., to give the tests. The new office has an on-site testing area, he said.
The office is open five days a week and until noon on Saturdays.
“A lot of people in the Panhandle work in the Washington and Baltimore areas, and Saturday morning is the only time they can get to a DMV office,” Miller said.
The Edwin Miller Boulevard office opened with nine employees. The office only issued vehicle registrations and decals, Miller said. The new office, the second-largest in the state, has 26 employees.
“It will be easier for our employees from Morgan County to get to work,” said Bernadine Hixon, a customer service representative. “This office has more room, and it’s nice and clean.”
The lease for the building and 1.6 acres it sits on will cost the state about $166,000 a year, officials said previously. The construction bid was awarded to Panhandle Builders & Excavating of Martinsburg.
Lyn Marsh Hansen, property coordinator for the company, said a commercial and residential development known as Stone Crest Subdivision is planned to be built on the 70-acre tract that surrounds the new DMV building.
The company, owned by Allen Henry, has built commercial and residential developments in the Spring Mills, W.Va., area north of Martinsburg, she said.
The DMV opened the Jefferson County office in Bardane, W.Va., five years ago to serve residents in that county and those in nearby Berkeley County, said state Sen. Herb Snyder, D-16th, who spoke at the dedication.
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