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Driver’s licensing office to reopen at new location

Drivers seeking a license or license renewal in Forks will be going to a new location.

After 40 years at the same location in the Almar Building on South Forks Ave. the state Department of Licensing (DOL) is moving the West End driver’s licensing operation to the state Department of Social and Health Services building located on the corner of Bogachiel Way and Fifth Ave.

The DOL closed its doors in Forks in early December after leakage of sewage from a cracked iron pipe was discovered in the 1,028 square-foot office. Since then driver’s (and motorcyclists who need an endorsement) seeking a license renewal or issuance of a license have had to travel almost 60 miles to the DOL office in Port Angeles, or go online to the DOL website.

The long drive means a hardship for drivers including seniors, young drivers who attend school in Forks and for employed workers, requiring a day off of work in some cases to take care of licensing business.
The new location will take up about a quarter of the space of the office used in the Almar Building. The DSHS building in Forks was rebuilt by owners Sandy Sunni LLC following a fire that devastated the building several years ago.

The licensing office in the DSHS building is scheduled to open Wednesday and Friday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. A firm reopening date has yet to be set.

“We don’t yet have a firm date for reopening. We are well underway in designing our new space and will get started installing our counters and equipment soon,” Brad Benfield, a media spokesperson for the DOL told the Forks Forum. “ We also want to make sure we do everything possible to ensure our partnership with the Department of Social and Heath Services in this new location is a success from the very first day.”

Mayor Bryon Monohon said he closely monitored the situation throughout the month.
In the days following the spill, state officials said the Forks office might be closed permanently due to state funding cutbacks.

Almar Building owner Janet Marion of Forks said repairs will be done to the vacated office and it will be offered for rent again.

She said the cost to meet state requirements for repairs to her office was prohibitive due to a tight time schedule and construction specification levels the state required.

Marion said she has some questions for representatives of the state DOL who shut down the office in her building regarding the state’s responsibility for the closure.

She said the pipe in question had been leaking for a long time before the department reported the problem to her as landlord. Office workers, as renters, are responsible for housekeeping, she Marion said, and floor tiles were coming up and water had leaked up the wall.

In deciding to close the office, Marion said, a state inspector took up a floor tile and dug a hole in the wall, looking for signs of asbestos, and taking the issue of shutting down the office beyond the sewage problem.

“The sewage leak was the initial cause of the office closure,” Benfield said. “We ordered a more comprehensive environmental assessment of the closed office in the days following the closure that did indicate asbestos was also a problem inside the office.”

It is common for older buildings to contain asbestos materials, but Marion said, if the materials are contained under a floor or inside a wall they are not a problem she claimed.

A qualified local contractor will be working to resolve problems the state found in the office, she said, and the work will be affordable as she has placed no tight deadline on the completion.
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