The Bureau of Motor Vehicles agency in Lewis Center will be shut down by the state of Ohio June 27, but until then it can bask as the "best in the state" winner of the Donate Life Ohio's 2008 "Organ, Tissue and Eye Donation Front Line Award."

The Bureau of Motor Vehicles agency in Lewis Center will be shut down by the state of Ohio June 27, but until then it can bask as the "best in the state" winner of the Donate Life Ohio's 2008 "Organ, Tissue and Eye Donation Front Line Award."

The award was presented last week to the agency's staff by representatives of Lifeline of Ohio, a nonprofit organization that "promotes and coordinates the donation of human organs and tissues for transplant" in the central Ohio area, Lifeline documents said.

Of the 12,072 driver's licenses issued at the agency in 2008, 70.7 percent of the licensees -- 8,538 people -- signed on to be organ donors, said George Kaitsa, Delaware County auditor, whose office runs the office at 8625 U.S. Route 23.

"The counter staff makes it a practice of asking each person if they are interested in being an organ donor and explaining it to them, Kaitsa told ThisWeek. He did not attend the ceremony.

Lifeline of Ohio spokesperson Marilyn Pongonis said, "It's important because lives are saved. The BMV counter workers, while they are just doing their jobs, save lives.

"It's important because in the United States there are over 101,000 people waiting for life-sustaining organs. Eighteen people die everyday waiting," Pongonis said.

Pongonis stressed that the organ donation happens at the time of death.

"There's a big misconception that it is a living donation, which it is not," she said.

"In 2008, 303 Ohioans shared the gift of life through organ donation at the time of their death," Lifeline documents said. "... 742 individuals received a second chance at life through transplantation."

In 2007, of 10,630 driver's licenses issued at the Lewis Center agency, 7,383 people, or 69.5, percent registered as organ donors.

The county learned last year the Ohio Department of Public Safety declined to renew its contract for the Lewis Center site, which opened in 2005. ODPS recommended the county open a BMV office in the Powell-Dublin area, Kaitsa has said.

The county hopes to follow that recommendation. Approval would have to come from state BMV registrar Mike Rankin and the Delaware County commissioners, Kaitsa said.

The state uses several criteria for determining BMV office sites, Lindsey Bohrer, spokesperson for the Ohio Department of Public Safety, has said.

Criteria include population growth based on census figures, the number of surrounding license agencies, new development of commercial property and clerk of courts title offices.

The Lewis Center office has a Delaware County Clerk of Courts title office next door. Another BMV office is less than two and a half miles south on Dillmont Drive, just south of Lazelle Road.

The county paid $19,278 to equip the Lewis Center agency and paid the landlord a remodeling cost of $57,245, Kaitsa said.

Kaitsa said there is a seven-year lease on the Lewis Center site, which began in April 2005. The lease costs $48,130 annually. Kaitsa said he will use the location for other county business.

Across Ohio, "nearly all of the 214 license agencies are operated by private individuals," Bohrer said in an e-mail. "Thirteen are operated by nonprofit organizations; 10 are operated by county auditors; seven are operated by county clerks of court (only in counties with population under 40,000), and one agency is operated by the BMV in Columbus."

Rankin, present at last week's recognition ceremony, said, "I'm talking with the auditor on a possible relocation, but I'm not in a position at this point in time nor would it be appropriate of me to discuss where we're at.

"Our goal is to provide the best customer service possible based on population trends and changes."

Rankin also declined to comment on the details that went into deciding that the Lewis Center agency would close.