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County clerks doing more work by mail, online during COVID-19 crisis

Vaught’s note: Kentucky Today sports editor Keith Taylor is providing some different stories during this non-sports activity time and today he has information on courthouse closures and how they could impact you.

By KEITH TAYLOR, Kentucky Today

It’s business as usual in an unusual way at the Madison County Courthouse.

Although the courthouse, as with others across the state are closed, citizens can renew their automobile licenses online or by mail as the state continues to take precautionary measures against the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

For automobile licensing and titling can be renewed at drive.ky.gov and also can be mailed into the county clerk’s office. Mail-in renewals should include prior year receipt, proof of insurance and payment addressed to your local court clerk. Vehicle transfers have been suspended until further notice, because person-to-person interaction is needed to complete those transfers.

Fayette County Clerk Don Blevins closed his doors to the general public last Tuesday and others across the state followed suit.

“I am acutely aware that this decision will inconvenience a lot of people, so I do not make this decision lightly,” Blevins said. “I also believe that we all need to make a large investment in social distancing to protect those most vulnerable to COVID-19. To do any less is simply not an option.”

Although Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear has issued a 90-day extension on automobile and drivers license renewals, Madison County Clerk Kenny Barger strongly advised citizens to use the online and mail-in options available to the general public. He also said renewals can be handled over the phone.

“Anything can be done like it’s always been able to be done,” he said. “There is just no in-person contact at the courthouse. I encourage people not to wait (on automobile and tag renewals) to let it (expire). If we don’t do any renewals in March and start back up at the end of April, we’re going to have all of March and all of April to renew. If people think they are going to walk in and quickly get their car renewed, they’re wrong, because we’re going to have (long) lines. After we start, we’re going to have lines like you have never seen before for the next three or four months.”

Notary licenses and marriage licenses have been suspended until further notice, but Barger is hopeful marriage licensing can resume, at least part-time, as soon as the threat of coronavirus subsides.

“We’re looking at it day-to-day,” Barger said. “Some offices are taking them by appointment only and once we get a better handle on where we are with the contagiousness of this epidemic, I don’t think it makes any sense to close on Wednesday and have the public come in a do marriage licenses on Thursday. We need to some time to see how serious this really is. If it’s not getting us hard around here, we’ll start doing marriages by appointment and let people come in or we will meet them outside and we’ll figure out some protocol for that.”
Recording for property transfers are handled via mail “90 percent of the time” and Barger said those services won’t be disrupted.

Barger is looking at options for the future if his office is closed to the public for an extended period of time. A vacant building near the Madison County Courthouse that previously housed a bank has three drive-thru lanes and Barger said those types of buildings are viable options if needed.

“We’re looking at other facilities to use as a drive-thru and things like that,” he said. “It will take a little time to get that set up and there would be a cost (involved), but you can’t postponed the county’s business just until this is over and sit and wait — we’re going to be overwhelmed with the backlog.”

Barger hopes those types of alternatives aren’t an option.

“I’m hoping it doesn’t get to that point,” he said. “I’m ready to start back up tomorrow. The stuff we’re not getting done right now is just piling up — it’s not going away.”

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