Operating hours for the driver's license exam office in Decatur will expand by one hour daily beginning Monday to handle anticipated demand for Star ID licenses, but the office’s staffing level won’t increase.
The office will open 30 minutes earlier at 7:30 a.m. and close 30 minutes later at 4:30 p.m., officials said Wednesday. Morgan Sheriff Ron Puckett said those times are identical to hours the courthouse is open.
Lines outside the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency’s Driver License Division exam office on the first floor of the courthouse are common in the morning, and that has been the case this week.
Brittany Felgate, 32, of Athens, had been waiting in line 1 hour, 43 minutes, on Wednesday morning and still had two people in front of her. She was waiting during a news conference officials held to announce the extended hours.
“That’s great news since my boyfriend needs to come down and get his license changed over,” she said. “We just moved down here from Montana.”
Felgate said she was hoping to get the Star ID designation but wasn’t sure she had all the documentation she’d need.
More Alabama residents are expected to seek the Star ID in the next 10 months even if their driver's license doesn’t need renewing. Airline passengers traveling within the United States will need a state-issued ID that is Real ID compliant, which is the Star ID in Alabama, or a valid passport beginning Oct. 1, 2020.
“We had an additional influx of people coming in to actually get Star ID,” Trooper Curtis Summerville said. “This hour will certainly make a difference for a lot of people."
Robyn Bryan, spokeswoman with ALEA, said Wednesday that 315,634 Star ID licenses had been issued in Alabama as of Nov. 6. She said ALEA doesn't expect all of the state's 4,032,500 driver's license holders to want the Star ID because they never plan to fly within the U.S. or will use their valid passport for domestic flights.
Lt. Darrell Campbell, North Region commander for the Driver License Division, said there won't be an additional cost to the state for the expanded Decatur office hours, which will be handled by staggering shifts.
“It’s all about scheduling. We’ll have some come in earlier and some come in later,” he said. “Usually most of the people (applying for licenses) are here first thing in the morning. … Once we get the line worked, it usually dies down late in the day.”
Campbell said additional hours weren’t offered previously because the state tried to keep all of its license exam offices on "pretty much standard hours.”
State Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, said the five additional weekly opening hours in Decatur will continue “for the foreseeable future as long as this Star ID crush is happening.”
There are no plans to open the Decatur exam office on Saturdays. The Huntsville office at 1115 Church St. N.W. is open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays, and Bryan said it will be open this week. The number of driver's license offices in the state open on Saturdays will be at nine after more add the extra day next month.
Puckett said opening the Morgan County Courthouse on Saturdays would require additional money for courthouse security and screening that his department provides.