The days of teenagers either eagerly anticipating or dreading a trip to Erlanger for a short drive with a Kentucky State Trooper as a passenger - are over.
There is now a new driver's testing center for Kenton County residents, inside the former Kroger store in Independence (which is next to the newer, larger grocery location).
"When I first came into office, we had three driver license locations and people often got confused because we have two clerks in the county," said Kenton County Circuit Court Clerk John Middleton. His position is different than that of Kenton County Clerk Gabrielle Summe, though each deals with some aspects of driver's licenses and vehicles. "They both do things related to driving a vehicle. The circuit clerk does the driver's license part with the picture ID and the county clerk does car tags."
There were previously three locations involved for would-be drivers: the Kenton County Administration Building in Covington, the Kenton County Courthouse in Independence, and the testing center in Erlanger with the State Police. "The driver testing facility was an older facility and had been there since I took my test," Middleton said. "It had been in disrepair." The multiple locations also created an inconvenience. Drivers would have to pick up a form in Independence or Covington, then go to Erlanger for a test, and then back to Covington or Independence for the final steps.
"It didn't seem all that efficient," Middleton said. So, the circuit court clerk decided to close the Erlanger testing center and the office in the Independence courthouse, combining locations at the old Kroger. The location took a few years to find since it involved multiple government agencies and bids from architects and contractors.
Now, the location will serve as a one-stop shop where new drivers can be tested and veteran drivers can renew their licenses. "There is a lot more room to get around. It won't be in a closet anymore in the old courthouse," Middleton joked.
The circuit clerk envisions a "selfie station" that would appeal to youths coming in to get their driver's license, and he will also heavily promote the Kentucky Circuit Court Trust for Life which encourages donation of organs and tissue.
And, the flow of this arm of the government will be much more efficient. "Being back with the State Police will make it much easier on parents and new drivers to get their license. Under the old scenario, you had to go to Covington or Independence to get paperwork and then to Erlanger to test and then back to Covington or Independence to get the license," Middleton said. The new space for the Circuit Clerk is being sub-leased through the Kentucky State Police. At the old courthouse in Independence, only the County Clerk and Sheriff will have regular office hours now. The Fiscal Court holds its meetings there, usually alternative with the Covington location as Kenton County has two county seats.
Middleton also worked to improve efficiencies through the launch of DriveKenton.org
, a website that he paid for himself to be an online portal for driver information. The website worked so well that another large county in Kentucky will soon launch a similar effort, he said. Meanwhile, KentonCourtClerk.org will be a similar service for the courts when the site is completed.
Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher