Anoka County is planning to open a second passport center this year.
Until last fall, passport applications had been handled at the county’s Blaine and Ramsey license centers.
But new federal regulations that went into effect Nov. 1, 2013, required physical separation for passport applications, including a separate entrance door and different staff, so passport applications could no longer be accepted as part of normal license center business.
“The federal action was because of security concerns,” said John Lenarz, county manager of license bureau services-administration.
That meant that passport applications could no longer be taken at the Ramsey License Bureau after Nov. 1, but that day a new Blaine Passport Center opened adjacent to the existing Blaine License Center at 10995 Club West Parkway, Suite 700b.
The decision to move forward with a second passport office, which will be in Coon Rapids, has been made because the Blaine center is at capacity, according to Lenarz and Brad Fields, county director of integrated waste management and license bureau services.
Part of the reason is the elimination of passport applications at the Ramsey License Center, but also because Hennepin County no longer takes passport applications as a result of the new federal regulations and Anoka County residents who previously got their passports processed in Hennepin County are now using the Blaine Passport Center, Lenarz said.
Existing office and conference room space at the Coon Rapids License Center will be remodeled to create a passport center with a physical separation, including the entrance, from the other functions at the license center, according to John VonDeLinde, county division manager for parks and community services, which include the license centers.
“This is underutilized space,” VonDeLinde said.
The Anoka County Board’s Parks and Recreation Committee has given the new passport center project the green light, and staff has been working with the county’s facilities management and construction staff on the renovation work.
The proposal was scheduled to go before the county board’s Finance and Capital Improvements Committee April 15 for consideration and recommendation to the full county board, Lenarz said.
Once the county board has approved the project, quotes for the construction work will be solicited with an anticipated late summer or early fall opening, he said.
The estimated remodeling cost of $62,500 is proposed to come from an internal budget transfer, repaid over two or three years from revenues generated by the passport center, VonDeLinde said.
Information provided by staff to the Parks and Community Services Committee anticipates annual revenue from the new passport center of $183,500 with annual expense of $133,000 to create net annual revenue of $50,500.
That revenue projection is based on 5,000 passport applications per year or 20 a day plus 3,333 passport photos per year or 13 a day.
The county can charge a $25 filing fee for passport applications plus a fee for taking passport photos, from which the state takes a cut, Lenarz said.
In addition, the county board’s Management Committee will be asked to recommend to the full board the hiring of new employees to staff the center: a full-time passport specialist program manager and three part-time passport center specialists.
Those new positions will be budget neutral because passport center revenues will cover the cost of the new employees, VonDeLinde said.
The Coon Rapids License Center is located at 455 99th Ave. NW, Suite 100 and is currently open 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday. It is closed Saturdays and Sundays.
The Blaine Passport Center is open 9 a.m. to noon and 1-5 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday. Customers are encouraged to make an appointment for a passport application. Go to anokacounty.us/passports to use the online appointment scheduler or call 763-323-5777.