Niagara County Clerk Joe Jastrzemski released the following statement on Thursday:
“Following conversations with my fellow county clerks, we are taking steps to do what we can to protect the public using the services at the Department of Motor Vehicles, the pistol permit office and the recording office from the potential of coronavirus while understanding we need to continue to conduct business.
“Given that Niagara County Health Director Dan Stapleton has said that the virus is picked up from droplets on surfaces, we are ceasing the use of any shared pens in any of our offices. We encourage people to bring their own pens with them or we will do our best to supply a pen.
“In addition, remember renewals of vehicle registrations can be mailed to us or left in any dropbox at our three DMV locations. Our staff will work to quickly process your paperwork and get your new registration mailed back to you.
“We do ask that, if you are sick, please stay home and come our locations on another day. But we want everyone to know we are open for business. Remember, when you process your DMV transactions in Niagara County, 12.7% of your transaction dollars stay right here in our community, which is important to funding local services. So, with proper precautions and some common sense, our team is ready to serve you.”
The Erie County Clerk’s Office provides face-to-face services to the public on a daily basis, performing nearly a million transactions each year. It is undertaking “comprehensive efforts to confront COVID-19 and prevent its spread,” a press release said.
“As we learn every day, we cannot afford complacency in our efforts to help contain COVID-19,” Clerk Michael Kearns said. “We cannot be afraid to confront the truths regarding the spread of this virus. Sound preparation is not panic.”
The press release added, “In coordination with the Department of Public Works, Division of Buildings and Grounds, as well as the maintenance staffs at the auto bureau’s leased locations, measures have been implemented to ensure sanitization of the of all counter spaces is performed nightly. At the Erie County Auto Bureaus, an environmental audit was performed by Catholic Health after Kearns took office. On their recommendation to help prevent the spreading of disease and viruses, chairs were purchased that can be frequently sanitized. These chairs are also being sanitized each evening.”
The CDC identified public pens as a trouble spot for transmission. Many transactions require the public to use a pen to fill out forms. As such, Kearns is instituting a “takeaway pen” program in the Erie County Clerk’s Office and auto bureaus where customers will no longer be sharing pens. Yesterday, a request for immediate consideration was filed with the Erie County Legislature to permit the county clerk to accept donated pens from local businesses to eliminate the taxpayer burden of this program. Customers are also encouraged to use their own pens.
Kearns also addressed other measures to avoid the spread of COVID-19.
“We have heard that ‘social distancing,’ or eliminating exposure to large crowds, is another tool in this fight to prevent the spread of COVID-19. I am strongly urging all visitors to the local auto bureaus that they use our online reservation system for all their visits. Our online reservation system has proven over the years to eliminate wait times and prevent congestion in our auto bureaus. Please, if you have business with our auto bureau, make an appointment so we can lessen customer’s exposure to others and prevent large numbers of folks waiting in our auto bureaus.”