The Whitley Circuit Court Clerk’s Corbin office, which had been scheduled to be permanently closed on June 28, will remain open thanks to the efforts of State Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, and State Rep. Regina Bunch Huff, R-Williamsburg.
The senator, whose district includes Corbin, attached an amendment to HB 335, authorizing $50,000 through June 30, 2020 to fund operations at the office located in the old Corbin City Hall at 805 South Main Street.
That is less than half of the current rent.
The funds will cover the rent the Kentucky Administrative Office of the Courts pays to the City of Corbin.
Stivers said he spoke with Huff to find a House Bill on which the necessary amendment could be attached.
HB 335 amends KRS 67.0802, which deals with property owned by local governments and declaring an emergency.
Section three of the amendment deals with the Corbin office, expiring on June 30, 2020.
While it is temporary at the moment, Stivers said it gives local officials and legislators the opportunity to work with the AOC on a permanent solution.
“The first thing was to keep it from shutting down,” Stivers said. “That gives us an additional year to work through this plus another legislative session.”
The office issues driver’s licenses for Whitley, Knox and Laurel counties, and processes the paperwork for district and juvenile court in the northern portion of Whitley County.
It currently employs five staff members.
In addition to criminal, civil matters in district court, along with juvenile court, are heard in the courtroom.
The Kentucky Administrative Office of the Courts had sent a letter to Corbin Mayor Suzie Razmus in January notifying her that the office would be closed.
In the letter, AOC officials stated that changes to the way driver’s licenses are issued through the Read ID Act, in particular the provision that would make licenses valid for eight years as opposed to four, would decrease traffic to the Corbin, and other satellite offices across the state.
“After much consideration, we determined that closing these satellite facilities would be financially prudent and the Supreme Court of Kentucky has approved this recommendation,” the letter stated.
Upon receiving the letter, Razmus said she began looking into what, if any action the city could take to change the AOC’s decision.
“It is a vital service for a lot of people,” Razmus said of the office.
Approximately 10,000 driver’s licenses are issued or renewed at the Corbin office for residents of the three counties.
Stivers said Razmus, along with Whitley Circuit Court Clerk Gary Barton, multiple judges in Whitley County, and Knox County Clerk Greg Helton spoke with him about the importance of the office.
“I took a picture of the parking lot and sent it to Senator Stivers so he could see how many people rely on this office,” Razmus said.
Barton said on the court side, the AOC didn’t really understand how essential the Corbin location is to the Whitley County courts.
“If it was its own court system, it would be in the top half of the state in terms of the number of cases,” Barton said.
“On behalf of my staff, I want to thank Senator Stivers, Rep. Huff, Mayor Razmus and the Corbin City Commission for their help on this,” Barton said.
The final hurdle is for Governor Matt Bevin to sign the bill into law.
Stivers said the governor has 10 working days, beginning Friday to take action on the bill.