The Hall County Library System may soon be able to issue passports from the Blackshear Place branch on Atlanta Highway.
The post office on Limestone Parkway is the only location in Hall County that issues passports after the Hall County Clerk of Courts stopped processing applications last year. Court officials said budget cuts had limited the personnel and resources available to operate the program.
The federal Department of State reports that it approves passport programs based on critical need, and it indicated that the library system could be eligible sometime this fall to begin issuing passports.
According to a letter from the state department obtained by The Times, there are nine agencies issuing passports within a 21-mile radius of Hall County.
A purported backlog caused the department to put a hold on new applications from agencies across the country looking to issue passports.
The delays for Hall County seem to have been remedied after help from the state’s two U.S. senators.
Mark Pettitt, chairman of the library Board of Trustees, said the library system has applied to become an acceptance agency and is moving forward.
“I wasn’t willing to accept ‘no’ as an answer when we sought to offer this service to the community,” Pettitt said. “Hall County deserves a convenient venue to apply for passports.”
Pettitt contacted the offices of Sen. David Perdue and Sen. Johnny Isakson in Washington, D.C., and urged them to lobby the Department of State on the library’s behalf.
“I am so very grateful to them for their help in allowing us to move forward with offering this service,” Pettitt said. “I hope that this will generate enough revenue to directly impact the patrons we serve by allowing us to open more in the evenings and weekends.”
The library system has seen dramatic budget cuts in recent years, and officials believe a passport service can help stabilize its finances.
For example, the system’s budget stands at $2.62 million for the current fiscal year, down from about $3.7 million in 2008, an almost 30 percent drop.
Pettitt said the passport program could generate between $80,000 and $120,000 annually.