While it has been able to provide some services during the pandemic, the Niagara County Clerk's Office is also preparing to take on a big backup of license renewals and other services that usually require face-to-face interaction. The county clerk spoke Wednesday about what his office has done, and how they are preparing to reopen under continued distancing guidelines.
The Niagara County Clerk's Office has been closed to the general public since March 24. The exception has been parties filing any court proceedings deemed essential by the New York State Unified Court System. Real Estate transactions have still been recorded but document deliveries have been restricted to electronic transfer, mail or shipping services, while personal deliveries and couriers have been prohibited.
Vehicle registration service has been offered by mail as well. In the meantime, the Clerk's Office is preparing to handle an estimated 7,000 driver's licenses in need of renewal. Speaking during the county's COVID-19 briefing on Lockport Community Television, Clerk Joseph Jastrzemski expressed hope that his office will be allowed to reopen on Monday, June 8.
"We're already starting to put a plan together as to how we're going to open. Our thoughts are to be able to open by appointment only," he said. "We're looking at over 7000 people that are going to have to renew their driver's license alone, that have lapsed."
Those whose licenses or registrations have lapsed since the Clerk's Office closed are currently not being ticketed. Jastrzemski is hopeful the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles will offer an additional grace period, after his office reopens, so that they may be allowed to get caught up on clients in need of renewals.
"We've reached out to Commissioner Schroeder as to how that's going to be extended as we move forward. We're recommending it be 90 days, you know, in regards to something like that. Because, let's face it, you've got 7,000 people. How are you going to get them in and process them as quickly as we're going to be, and maintain social distance as well?"
Learner's permits and road tests, however, remain on hold because those are service which require face-to-face interaction. Jastrzemski noted, though, that candidates who completed the five-hour course but watched it lapse as the result of the pandemic will not be required to retake it when they may finally schedule the road test.
He reminded the viewing audience that the requirement to possess a Read ID, a federally-sanctioned license that will allow the holder to board domestic air flights, has been pushed back one year to October 2021.
Jastrzemski also discussed what his office has done in the meantime to address pistol permit business.
"We put in a process where you'll be able to mail in for your amendment now," he explained. "People can go to the Niagara County website and go to the department. It'll explain exactly what the process will be, and how to send in your pistol permit. Send in your amendment, and we'll do your amendment. You pay your $3 fee or $5 fee or whatever that fee might be, send it back to you, and you'll be able to get your release, if you had bought a new pistol or whatever transaction you might have to do."