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Former GOP legislator, Springfield non-profit, snag latest license office contracts

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Jan. 7, 2010 -  A former Republican state legislator is back as the operator of two drivers license offices in the St. Louis area.

The state Department of Revenue announced Thursday that Jim Murphy, a veteran member of the state House for decades, was awarded the contract to run the region's south St. Louis County license office -- long one of the most lucrative and busiest offices in the state.

Murphy -- a longtime Crestwood legislator who was forced out by term limits in 2002 -- and his son, also named Jim Murphy, previously had won the contract to run the Affton license office.

The south county office will continue to be situated at 27 Ronnie’s Plaza, near the intersection of South Lindbergh Boulevard and Baptist Church Road.

Murphy and his son are associated with the Lavin Co., LLC , which is the official recipient of the south county and Affton contracts.

According to the department, "The winning bid for the south county office was one of five submitted, and it includes an 8 percent ($36,783) return to the state."

While Murphy was in the Legislature, he assisted his wife in running the Bridgeton license office for years.

Meanwhile, Alternative Opportunities Inc., a not-for-profit agency based in Springfield, Mo., also has apparently corrected application problems that prompted its loss -- at least temporarily -- of 10 state license contracts.

The agency, which provides assistance for the disabled and teens in foster care, was awarded a contract Thursday to operate the license office in Nixa, Mo. -- the third such contract that Alternative Opportunities has obtained in the last week.

Such awards could signal that the agency may be successful in re-snagging 10 license-office contracts that the state Department of Revenue withdrew last month, including two in the St. Louis area, because of technical problems with the original bids.

Those problems, which centered on the improper listing of a subcontractor as the office manager, did not occur on the latest bids.

Alternative Opportunities continues to operate the 10 license offices in limbo, and has re-applied for the final contracts.

Department of Revenue spokesman Ted Farnen emphasized Thursday that there is no guarantee that Alternative Opportunities will be re-awarded any or all of the previous contracts. But he did confirm that the three newest awards didn't have the application problems that plagued the earlier ones.

Alternative Opportunities was among two applicants for the Nixa license office, which will continue to operate at at 214-A Village Center Rd. "The corporation’s winning bid was one of two submitted, and a 5 percent ($9,931) return to state was included in the proposal,'' the Revenue Department said.

Last week, the agency was awarded the Carthage and Farmington license offices.

Also Thursday, the department announced it had awarded the Des Peres license-office contract to Ryker Enterprises, Inc.

"The corporation’s bid was one of six submitted, and a 5 percent ($16,130) return to the state was included,'' the Revenue Department said in a statement. "The business is associated with Danah Lewis of Eureka, who has several years of experience as manager and agent for the west county license office.  Ryker was also awarded the Chesterfield license office in December."

The Revenue Department oversees 183 privately run license offices, often called "fee offices,'' statewide. " Of the 172 offices awarded so far, 97 have gone to incumbents, groups associated with incumbent agents or interim agents," the department said. "Seventy-five of the offices have been awarded to new agents."

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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