Carbon County suspends passport services, cites caseload
Carbon County residents can no longer apply for a passport through the prothonotary’s office, effective Feb. 9. County Prothonotary Kayla Semmel says she was left with no choice but to suspend passport services.
“There is a huge discrepancy in this county with workload to staff ratios in the courthouse offices," she said. “Our caseload has expanded so much so, that it's difficult for us to keep up with our statutory obligations, which would be processing all the civil matters in Carbon County, and offer these complimentary services for passports."
Semmel asked county commissioners for an additional full-time staffer in early January.
“I was told that it could be months before they would entertain a motion to employ another full-time position in this office,” Semmel said, adding that her staff of four processed about 4,600 new civil cases this year. “Another office across the hall from mine, they did 300 cases, they have three full time employees. And an office above mine, they did 1,400 cases last year, and they have eight full time employees.”
Semmel believes suspending passport services will allow her to keep up with the caseload. Passport appointments kept the office busy with up to a dozen appointments a day, three days a week, she said. Semmel created a petition to keep passport services in Carbon County. She is hoping the commissioners will see the need for the services.
“If I could get another full time employee, we had said to the commissioners, not only can we continue that service, and all the money that we receive from passports goes back to our commissioners, it goes back to our county general fund,” Semmel said. “But they still declined to provide me one.”
Residents in Carbon County can visit this link and enter their zip code to find the nearest location to apply for a passport. The closest locations to Jim Thorpe are the Slatington Post Office and the Hazleton Post Office.
“We are the only processing facility in Carbon County, we also have a large population of elderly individuals that come to our office for those services,” she said. “It's kind of heartbreaking to me now that they have to go out of their way to other counties for these services.”
Carbon County Commissioners declined to comment on the decision.
"The overwhelming need for these sevices has been made apparent," Kayla Semmel said in a statement. "Despite the challenges to keep up with the demands of the courts and offer elective services, my staff and I are the most experienced and best suited for this specific challenge."