Sullivan considers new clerk's office for Kingsport

J. H. Osborne • Feb 20, 2020 at 12:00 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — The Kingsport office of the Sullivan County clerk — probably best known as “the tag office” because it’s where you buy and renew vehicle tags — could soon have a new home.

The Sullivan County Commission on Thursday night could have its first public discussion about a proposal to move the office from Kingsport’s current (but soon to be former) city hall, on West Center Street, to a freestanding former bank building a block or so away on Clay Street. The commission will have its first reading of a resolution to buy that building. The cost: $400,000.

The move wouldn’t just give the clerk’s office more interior space. It’s also ready-made to provide drive-up service, which currently is available only at the clerk’s Blountville office.

On Tuesday, Sullivan County Mayor Richard Venable said the county owns about 19% of Kingsport’s city hall. However, the city has purchased the former Regions Bank building on Church Circle, and most city offices will be moving there once renovations are complete. Venable said the county pays the city about $200,000 per year for maintenance on its space inside city hall. Moving the clerk’s office out of the building could mean cutting that by as much as half, Venable said.

The resolution seeks $475,000 total. The $75,000 is for proposed renovations to the clerk’s office in Blountville.

County Clerk Teresa Jacobs said the renovations are designed to provide more room for her office’s issuance of driver’s licenses. That portion of her business has boomed in recent months as public demand for the state’s new “Real ID” licenses, which feature a star logo, has grown. According to the Tennessee Department of Homeland Security, “The REAL ID Act of 2005 establishes minimum security standards for license issuance and production and prohibits Federal agencies from accepting for certain purposes driver licenses and identification cards from states not meeting the Act’s minimum standards. Beginning October 1, 2020, all persons must have a REAL ID license for accessing certain Federal buildings, entering nuclear facilities, and boarding commercial flights within the United States.” That requirement applies only to those who rely on their state-issued identification. Alternative forms of identification, including a U.S. passport, can be used in place of a REAL ID license.

The Sullivan County Commission is scheduled to meet at 6 p.m. on the second floor of the historic Sullivan County Courthouse.