Whitesburg KY
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Driver’s license exams no longer available here

‘I am furious,’ Circuit Clerk Watts says of new law that forces local residents to travel to Prestonsburg

First-time drivers in Letcher County will no longer be able to take their license exam in Letcher County.

Kentucky State Police announced last week that the driver’s testing office in Letcher County was shut down as of yesterday, forcing residents to go to Prestonsburg to take their tests. And even worse, they’ll have to make the trip two times in two days – once to register for the test and again to take it.

“I am furious,” Letcher Circuit Court Mike Watts said.

Watts voted against supporting the change in the law during a meeting of the Kentucky Circuit Clerk’s Association. He said he knew the change was coming, but thought people would at least be able to register here.

He was notified of the change after 5 p.m. on Friday, after people were already scheduled to take the test this week. Those appointments had to be canceled and reset for Prestonsburg.

While the move will eventually include moving renewal of licenses, people last week misunderstood a social media post from Watts and crammed his office in attempt to renew before they have to go to Prestonsburg.

“We’ve been flooded this week because they understood that we were going to lose it all together,” Watts said.

The bill to close county offices and move driver’s licensing into regional offices run directly by the state Department of Transportation and the Kentucky State Police was sponsored by Rep. Sal Santora, R-Florence, under the reasoning that the existing process was not secure enough for the issue of “True ID” licenses, a supposed high-security card that will be required to board an airplane even for domestic flights. The only alternative for people who want to fly is a passport.

But rather than provide equipment to local clerk’s offices, Santora’s bill required the creation of regional offices. While Watts put a petition in with more than 5,000 signatures to get the office built in Letcher County, the state has so far put the county in the Prestonsburg Region, meaning people will have to travel at least an hour one-way.

“I would give anything if that representative from northern Kentucky would come down here and let me take him from Gordon or the head of Turkey Creek to Prestonsburg,” Watts said.

In the meantime, he’ll continue to send letters and make phone calls hoping to get the decision to move licensing reversed.

Watts said with licensing here, high school students could come down one morning or afternoon, take their test, get the license and spend the rest of the day in school. Now the process will take all of two days, Watts said.

“There’s not a citizen in Letcher County this won’t affect,” he said.

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