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Driver-testing office in city could close

A preliminary statewide review of driver’s license exam stations conducted by the Ohio State Highway Patrol recommends closing locations in Ironton and Portsmouth. A new facility in Wheelersburg would replace them, with an estimated cost savings to the state of $12,000 annually.

Geoff Dutton, a spokesman with the Ohio Department of Public Safety, stressed this week that the closures are not imminent. He said the OSHP, which operates the facilities, does these types of reviews often and similar reports were compiled in 2009 and 2008. He noted that the Ironton and Portsmouth stations were not mentioned in either of the earlier reports.

Dutton said few, if any, of the recommendations are ever carried out and before any action is taken, additional in-depth research would be conducted and those findings would be balanced by other considerations such as the needs of the local communities.

The Ironton exam station, located at 2717 S. Third Street, offers driving tests for automobiles and motorcycles. It is next door to a Deputy Registrar License Agency, which has not been recommended for closure.

Deputy Registrar offices are operated privately under contracts with the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles. They offer a variety of services including driver’s licenses renewal and license plate/registration services.

The Portsmouth exam station is located at 3980 Rhodes Avenue in New Boston. Each station administers about 40 exams daily, according to OSHP figures. In 2010, the Portsmouth office gave 9,920 exams while the Ironton office gave 10,860. Closing both stations and opening the new Wheelersburg location would garner a cost savings of about $1,000 a month in rent and utility payments.

The report, compiled in July, recommends the closure of 34 drivers exam stations statewide, most of them mobile units or part-time stations, open only a few days a week. In Cuyahoga County and in southwest Ohio, the report recommended large centralized stations with longer operating hours to replace several smaller stations.

It also recommended closures be implemented in phases with mobile units being shut down first, followed by part-time exam stations and lastly full-time exam stations slated for consolidation. The report estimates the closures and consolidations could reap an annual savings of $700,000.

In addition to the proposed Wheelersburg location, local residents would be still be able to take drivers exams at either county’s OSHP post.