Pity the poor Bend office of the Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles. For the past year or so it's led a nomadic existence, wandering around like a lost child.
First the lease expired on its longtime home on Emkay Drive on the Westside. That forced it to move into a building on the north end of Third Street that old-timers will remember as the former Bend Welcome Center.
But the DMV needs to find cheaper quarters, and its continuing search led it to Brookswood Meadow Plaza, a small shopping center on the southwest side of town. Unfortunately, that location is a bad choice for a number of reasons.
To begin with, it's in the middle of a residential neighborhood. The people who live there are concerned about the effect that an average of more than 300 DMV customers driving through it every day will have on their peace and tranquility. They also fear for the safety of their children, who play on the quiet (for now) neighborhood streets and cross Brookswood Boulevard to go to Elk Meadow Elementary School.
Adding to the neighbors' irritation is the fact that the DMV didn't bother to inform them about its plans before it signed the lease. It wasn't legally required to, but good public relations - and good manners - dictated that it should have.
In the past we've been critical of NIMBYism, but there are times when "Not in my backyard" is a perfectly legitimate response, and this is one of them. A small shopping center surrounded by homes, schools and playgrounds just isn't the right place for something that will generate as much traffic as the DMV office will.
On the other hand the office might not generate as much traffic as the DMV predicts, because people are going to have a hard time getting to it. The chosen location is off the beaten track, far from the main population centers of town and not easy to find if you're not familiar with the area.
So why, with all these problems, did the DMV pick this spot? The answer mainly seems to boil down to money: The Brookswood location was the cheapest the DMV could find that suited its needs. DMV officials say the rent over the 10-year length of its lease - starting at around $8,200 a month and rising to about $9,500 - will be $1.8 million less than it would pay to stay in the old Welcome Center and about $300,000 less than it would cost to return to the Emkay Drive location.
Nobody can blame a state agency for trying to save money, especially in these penny-pinching times. But with the huge amount of commercial space currently available for lease all around Bend it's hard to believe the DMV couldn't find just as good a deal, or close to it, in some spot that's more suited to its purpose.
The DMV should join us in giving THE BOOT to its current choice, try to find a way out of the lease and resume its search for a new home.