From today's Examiner:
The District anticipates having to repay more than $3 million to the federal government now that the Department of Motor Vehicles has decided not to reopen its Northeast Inspection Station.
Outdated, in disrepair and poorly equipped, the station, located at 1827 West Virginia Ave. NE closed in 1999 for reconstruction. Today, despite having spent nearly $8 million to rebuild it, the facility remains shuttered, and the decision has been made to keep the bays locked permanently.
DMV Interim Director Lucinda Babers recently told a D.C. Council committee that the agency’s lone inspection station, at 1001 Half St. SW., experiences "little to no lines" except on Mondays, at lunchtime and after holidays. Waits were reduced through improved staffing and new equipment that streamlined the process, she said.
"We realize that it may be more inconvenient for customers who have to still come to Southwest," Babers said. "But the cost effectiveness isn’t there."
The District spent $7.9 million, including $3.36 million in federal highway funds, to rebuild the Northeast facility.
D.C. officials say the feds likely will have to be reimbursed, though the government has yet to ask for its money back.
Just in case, D.C. is working "to identify the appropriate source of funding," mayoral spokesman Mafara Hobson said.
"Nothing’s concrete in terms of how we’re going to pay them back, but we’re sure we’re going to come up with something so we can proceed," Babers told the council committee.
The building, now 90 percent complete, likely will be turned over to the Department of Public Works for use in fleet maintenance.
The city stopped work on the station in 2003 out of frustration with delays it blamed on the contractor. The District ended up paying D.C.-based HRGM Corp. nearly $3.7 million in two installments to settle the matter.
Ward 1 Council Member Jim Graham, who has oversight of the DMV, said the federal reimbursement is an important but unanswered question. But not operating the Northeast station, he said, should save the District money in the long run.
"It certainly makes sense to pause and not do it if we don’t need it," Graham said.