Walla Walla's Department of Licensing office off closure list

Over the past year the DOL has closed 12 other offices and opened one. No further cutbacks are in the picture.

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WALLA WALLA -- The local state Department of Licensing office is no longer on an endangered list.

In January the department announced plans to shutter the Walla Walla office sometime between July and September as part of cost-cutting efforts. The closure would have left the DOL office in Kennewick as the closest one for county residents.

The prospect of having to make a two-hour round trip to reach a licensing office sparked an outcry by local citizens, who called, wrote and e-mailed local officials and legislators. After working with state Sen. Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla, state Rep. Maureen Walsh, R-College Place and city of Walla Walla Mayor Dan Johnson, the department announced in late January the closure would be postponed by at least 18 months.

But that plan has been dropped, department spokesman Brad Benfield said Thursday.

"I have confirmed that my agency is not planning to close the Walla Walla driver licensing office," he said in an e-mail.

Over the past year the DOL has closed 12 other offices and opened one for a net total of 11 closures. No further cutbacks are in the picture.

According to the department, the Walla Walla office has three full-time employees who handled 23,465 transactions in 2008.

The department's final office consolidation plan was completed in October, Benfield said. It included closing offices in Othello, Auburn, Greenwood, East Seattle, Olympia, Bellevue, Bothell, Kirkland and University Place in Tacoma.

In addition, two limited service offices in Yakima and Vancouver were closed while an office was opened in a new location in the Bellevue area.

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