County clerk extends office hours to help people buy passports before prices increase
Saturday, July 3, 2010 - 7:37 am

CANTON -- County Clerk and Republican state Senate candidate Patty Ritchie has announced extended office hours to help people purchase U.S. passports before fees increase up to 47 percent on July 13.

The county clerk’s office, at 48 Court St., can accept applications during its regular hours, weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. They will also remain open until 7 p.m. on Monday, July 12, to accept passport applications at the old fee.

The State Department announced the fee hike last week, giving the public as well as passport agencies including county clerks and some post offices just two weeks to act.

A new adult passport will cost $135, up from $100, and renewals will increase to $110, from $75. Passports for children under 16 will increase to $105, from $85. Fees for passport cards also will increase.

“Upstate families and businesses have already been impacted by the new rules requiring passports for travel between the U.S. and Canada, and this fee increase creates a new hardship,” said Ritchie, who opposed the fee hikes in a letter she co-wrote in March with Jefferson County Clerk Cheryl Lane.

In their March letter, Ritchie and Lane said the fee hike amounted to an unnecessary tax on families and businesses that rely on cross-border traffic for their livelihoods, and to visit family and friends. More than 4 million people cross the border each year in Ogdensburg, Massena and Alexandria Bay. An additional 300,000 commercial vehicles use the border crossings.

Ritchie says that the government justified the fee hikes as a way to meet a sharp increase in demand for passports that resulted from the new border rules, which Ritchie views as ironic.

“Attempting to blame the fee increase on the new passport rules is a classic case of bureaucratic double-speak that makes people shake their head in disbelief,” she said.

The clerk can process passport applications, but actual passports are mailed to applicants’ homes, usually within four to six weeks.

There are specific requirements for identification that can be found at the State Department website, travel.state.gov, or information is available from the clerk at 379-2269.

The complete list of new fees is at travel.state.gov/passport/fees/fees_5079.html.

Ritchie is the Republican candidate vying for Democrat state Senator Darrel Aubertine’s seat in the November election