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Hall County clerk’s office to discontinue passport service

POSTED: June 12, 2014 12:53 a.m.

The Hall County Courthouse will no longer be a one-stop shop for your international travel and fine-paying needs.

The Clerk of Courts will no longer process passport applications starting June 30, county officials said.

“It has been my pleasure to serve as a passport acceptance agency for over five years, but with all the statutorily mandated duties this office has taken on, I believe it is time to end this service on June 30, 2014,” said Clerk of Courts Charles Baker.

Already the office had de-escalated business hours allocated toward helping residents complete and submit passport applications. The service is a popular, but not statutory, function of the office.

In a time of leaner budgets — a 16 percent decrease in five years — Baker said his office had to lend closer scrutiny to the function.

Four fewer staff are on hand to take care of duties like providing numbers during audits, and training, Baker said, and the office’s role has been expanding.

The clerk’s office has been responsible for handling all case files since 2010; the office is also in charge of restricting access to criminal histories after a change in law shifted the duty to localities.

One newer role Baker also anticipates to eat up time is overseeing the Board of Equalization, a job that was relocated from the Tax Assessor’s Office in 2011.

In addition to administrative tasks, duties include recruiting members, scheduling hearings while coordinating with the tax assessors attending hearings, and providing secretarial help to the board.

“There were 490 appeals in 2013 and more are expected in 2014 because of reassessment of lake properties,” Baker said.

While the job might be increasingly hard to accommodate, several counties still retain the practice, including clerk’s offices in White, Lumpkin, Dawson and Habersham.

Residents can also get passports processed at the U.S. Postal Office on Limestone Parkway.

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