Missouri regulators scramble to reopen a DMV amidst bizarre controversy

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TROY, Mo. (KTVI) – A DMV in Troy, Missouri is at the center of the dispute between two parties who both say they should be running it.

The state of Missouri is now stepping in to manage the DMV on Cherry Street, which reopened this week under limited staffing and strange circumstances. The Troy Chamber of Commerce won the bid to operate the location, but they’re being locked out for a reason you have to see to believe.

Last week, we watched drivers constantly turned away. Many couldn’t wait another day.

“It’s virtually impossible for me to get (my registration) and now here it is closed,” Steve Villinger said.

Some left without plates, searching for another DMV. Trinity Allen has just a few days before her temp tags expire.

“Now I have to drive to Bowling Green just to get it done and that’s a 45-minute-to-an-hour drive,” she said.

While the Wentzville location was closer, Allen feared everyone from Troy would be flooding that location.

“This is a very busy (DMV) office, so it’s a constant stream of people all the time,” Troy Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Rachel South said.

South’s chamber of commerce was supposed to be opening the DMV this month after winning their bid with the State.

“We were ecstatic. I’m sure they could hear me hollering all the way down the building,” she said. “When the chamber ran it years ago, that money is put right back into our business community.”

The chamber won a recent bid in a scoring process that evaluates elements the state believes will provide the best customer service. Bidders are scored by points – the most of which you can get for being close to the DMV. The Troy Chamber of Commerce is right next to it.

“We’re in the same building,” South said. “If there’s a problem they know where to find us.”

The Troy DMV has recently been operated by a company called Koester and Koester, which operates DMVs across the state and is located in Bowling Green. That would have given the chamber an advantage in the latest bid, except the Koesters bid under a new name, LO Management, listing an address less than a mile away – 491 W. Wood Street.

South visited that address.

“I found a lot – an empty lot,” she said. “It was very strange and then I made a couple calls to our county assessor and our 911 to verify the address.”

That’s why the state awarded the chamber of commerce, but LO Management protested contending their bid is the lowest and best—adding in a letter to the state—the empty lot is not really their address and saying, “LO Management was deprived of 24 points it should have received based on a simple, understandable mistake.”

It provided a commercial lease contract showing a “rental amount of $1,500 for six months” at 491 W. Wood. Then the leasing agent wrote an affidavit saying that address was written down by mistake and that it was really located right down the road at 195 W. Wood Street.

Google Maps brought us to a building marked 157 W. Wood. After some searching, we learned 195 is listed in the building marked 157. It’s under renovation. We then called the contact number and reached co-owner James Koester.

When visiting 157 Wood, we asked, “How can I find out where LO Management is?
James Koester answered, “Uh, I don’t know if it even exists anymore. Is that the license office?”

We answered: “Correct, it’s what is vying to win the bid for the license office.”

“I don’t really know where it’s at. I’ve never been to it,” Koester said.

Office Manager DJ Koester later called to say this was a valid, bonafide location that they were prepared to renovate and move into. He said he’d been here personally and that the state would have also learned that if they had called like we did.

A judge agreed it deserves investigation, issuing a temporary restraining order and barring the chamber of commerce from taking over the Troy DMV.

“As of right now, the chamber and the community members have been an innocent bystander in this entire process,” South said. “We wish it could go more peacefully and more smoothly so that this community can be serviced the way it should be.”

Since the state already kicked out the Koesters, it’s using $150,000 in tax dollars to run the office while a judge decides the true winning bidder. The state reopened the office Monday. A judge will decide who takes over this summer.

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