Visitors to the Washington County License Center in Valley Ridge Mall can expect it to look a bit different than it used to, and more changes are planned.
The county will adjust the center’s layout to more closely match how services are offered at other Washington County locations while still meeting new federal regulations, according to Director of Property Records and Taxpayer Services Jennifer Wagenius.
The county has moved one of its locations in the mall so its two spaces are now adjacent, and the Washington County Board recently approved a deal to rent an additional 2,015 square feet of space starting Jan. 1. That will increase the area to 6,469 square feet.
The county was able to negotiate a lower rate per square foot than it currently pays. For the first two years, monthly rent will go from $1,713 to $1,913, according to Building Services Manager Rosemary Peterson. That’s about 30 cents per square foot, instead of about 38 cents per square foot paid now.
According to Wagenius, the changes came at the request of the mall owner in order to accommodate new tenants, but it alsos helps the county.
“It also worked out well for the county, because we’re able to have our functions closer together at the mall location,” she said.
Wagenius said the center provides the same services as before, which include drivers licenses, marriage licenses and records, homestead applications, motor vehicle transaction services and more.
“The only thing that we don’t provide at the Valley Ridge Mall is the birth and death certificates,” Wagenius said.
Until earlier this year, those services had also been available, but changes to federal rules regarding separation of records meant the county had to stop offering those services at its license centers in Stillwater and Woodbury.
The new rules require the county to physically separate the processing areas for birth and death records from the areas where passports and first-time drivers licenses are processed. The county had been seeking to create “one-stop-shops” at its license centers, Wagenius said, but the regulations made that difficult.
To achieve separation, the public health department took over processing of birth and death records. Those services are now available Monday through Friday at the Washington County Government Center in Stillwater, as well as the Health Service Center in Forest Lake and the Cottage Grove Service Center.
“We don’t have weekend services available for those functions (anymore),” Wagenius said. Nevertheless, she believes the county offers a “good balance” of services while still complying with federal requirements.
The county says the extra space at the Valley Ridge Mall will help it comply with other aspects of the new regulations while improving the user experience.
“It brings the locations adjacent to each other and allows for future renovations to the space that will allow improved customer experience,” Peterson said.
She said it was too early to specify exactly what those change will be.
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