Passport services return to Willmar after a 3.5-year hiatus
WILLMAR -- After 3 1/2 years without a passport application center in Willmar, the service will return Nov. 10. At its meeting Tuesday, the Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners agreed to reinstate the service at the county's downtown Willmar o...
WILLMAR –– After 3½ years without a passport application center in Willmar, the service will return Nov. 10.
At its meeting Tuesday, the Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners agreed to reinstate the service at the county’s downtown Willmar office building.
“We’re excited about it,” said County Administrator Larry Kleindl. “This is a big deal for us.”
The county was forced to stop serving as a passport-acceptance facility in April of 2011 because of stringent rules from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
In an effort to thwart fraud, federal rules prohibit individuals who handle birth certificates from also processing passport applications.
In the past, staff from the Kandiyohi County Recorder’s Office did both tasks at the same desk at a one-stop shop.
Individuals who process driver’s license forms are also prohibited from handling passport applications.
Because the county could not afford to hire staff to process passports only, the service was terminated.
Since that time, the only passport application locations in Kandiyohi County have been at the post offices in Pennock and Atwater.
But with the county’s recent redesign of the downtown office building and the restructuring of departments housed there, the county is now able to meet the federal rules and provide the service without adding staff.
Three county employees have taken the extra training and exam to become certified for passport applications.
The $25 county fee to handle the applications will be the same as it was in 2011.
The county will also take passport photos for $15 per person, which is also the same rate as it was in 2011, Kleindl said.
The service will be provided from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday in the auditor’s department.
The commissioners agreed to give administration the flexibility to at some point extend the hours earlier in the morning. Because of limitations for meeting the overnight mailing requirements, Kleindl said the hours would not go later than 3 p.m.
Kleindl said the Nov. 10 start-up date will give the staff time to get the word out.
While the commissioners were eager to bring the service back to the county building in Willmar, the shift will no doubt affect business at the Pennock and Atwater post offices.
Pete Nowacki, information officer with the U.S. Postal Service, said in Atwater the passport business “roughly doubled in the year following the county’s action in 2011.”
Nowacki said the business has continued to grow by “double-digit percentages every year since” in Atwater.
He did not have the figures for the Pennock office, but Jodi Williamson, postmaster in Pennock, said her office handles at least one passport application every day.
“It’s pretty busy,” she said, adding that the passport service will continue to be offered there.
Nowacki said reinstating the service in Willmar will likely have an impact on the small-town post offices but he said the post offices would like to keep as much of the business as possible.
“I do think people in the area have appreciated the good service they’ve received at our Atwater and Pennock offices,” Nowacki said. “And, of course, getting the passport at the Post Office is a great way to take care of two tasks with one trip.”