Accomack County officials frustrated after sudden DMV office closure

ACCOMACK COUNTY, Va. (WVEC) Accomack County officials are frustrated about the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles' sudden closure of its Oak Hall DMV Select Office last December and the agency's failure after 10 months to find a replacement site to serve residents of the northern part of the county.

"We are frustrated and flummoxed as to why this isn't resolved," said Accomack County Board of Supervisors Chairman Ron Wolff in an Oct. 14 letter written on behalf of the board to DMV Commissioner Richard Holcomb. Copies of the letter were sent to state officials, including Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, Sen. Lynwood Lewis and Del. Rob Bloxom.

Supervisor Paul Muhly said during a discussion at the Oct. 19 board of supervisors meeting that people still stop in the former office in Oak Hall "looking to handle their DMV business" and the former operators have indicated would be willing to provide those services again.

A DMV spokesperson said at the time the office was closed because it was not meeting service expectations.

READ MORE Accomack protests Oak Hall DMV center closing
READ MORE DMV to serve northern Accomack again

Supervisor Grayson Chesser described the atmosphere when he went to the DMV office in Onancock recently.

"While we were sitting there a right good while, it was not very many good comments — people were upset," he said.

Wolff in the letter said the Oak Hall office "handled a great many transactions and was a great help to citizens from Chincoteague and the northern half of our county." It also handled special weight permitting for trucks, he said.

Chincoteague, Accomack County's largest town with a population of nearly 3,000, is about 30 miles from the Onancock office.

DMV officials who spoke at a board of supervisors meeting in January assured the board "every effort would be made to find a suitable replacement," Wolff said.

Additionally, Wolff said he met with Sen. Lynwood Lewis and DMV officials this summer and was told a site had been selected and an announcement was pending, "but nothing has happened."

Wolff wrote that the situation "has exposed the state and your agency to significant criticism here."

In an email exchange with DMV officials prior to Wolff's letter being sent, Accomack County Administrator Steve Miner gave notice it was being written and said county supervisors since the northern office's closure "have continually received calls and comments from citizens who miss and have needed the service replaced."

Miner said DMV officials' statements at the January meeting and ones made in private since, "which have not borne fruit," along with a lack of communication, "lend themselves to the possibility that the DMV is not serious about the matter and that you were merely placating us by your earlier statements."

Holcomb in an emailed response said that allegation "is factually without merit and ignores the efforts of hardworking DMV staff."

Wolff during the board meeting described the commissioner's response, saying, "I hate to say this, but his response was what I think most people think is pretty typical of how DMV handles their customers. They think they're above and we're below."

Holcomb said the agency has "made multiple efforts to partner with local government entities in Accomack, including the county itself," as well as the towns of Chincoteague, Parksley, Hallwood and Bloxom, to replace the Oak Hall office.

Holcomb said none of those were able to offer "a viable solution that met our needs or those of the public, including adequate space, parking and handicap accessibility."

He said the town of Cheriton in Northampton County, which has a DMV Select Office since 2007, is an example of the type of successful governmental partnership the agency is seeking.

"We remain open to such a governmental partnership in northern Accomack County, should a suitable facility and resources be identified," Holcomb said.

He said the DMV has taken steps since the Oak Hall office's closure to ensure the county receives "the best service we can provide" — including adding an additional teller window and public restrooms and two additional staff members at the Onancock office and opening that office on Saturday mornings.

Holcomb said the office's location, "within a 30-minute drive from anywhere in the county," is consistent with the statewide standard.

Additionally, a mobile, full-service DMV office has added a stop in northern Accomack, at 6491 Lankford Highway in New Church, he said.

It will be there Oct. 28 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and six visits are scheduled in 2017.

Overweight permits for trucks are now being issued at the weigh station in New Church, Holcomb said.


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