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Kathy Castor tells John Kerry lines to get passports at TPA post office are “unacceptable”

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

While members of Congress continue to demand answers to exceedingly long lines at some of the nation’s airports, Tampa-area Democratic Representative Kathy Castor is calling the long lines that have been forming at the Tampa International Airport’s Post Office recently to get passports are “unacceptable.”

“It is not unusual for individuals and families to wait all day at that location for passport processing,” Castor wrote to Secretary of State John Kerry on May 9. “This is extremely disruptive to my neighbors who work and attend school, and I respectfully request that the Department develop a plan of action to decrease wait times and improve customer service for passport service, especially during the upcoming ‘passport surge.'”

That surge Castor is referring to is something that the State Dept.’s Bureau of Consular Affairs has been warning about for months now. It’s because, in 2007, the agency experienced an “unprecedented surge in passport applications,” and says there has been an increased demand for passport renewals currently underway that should last through 2018.

“Unfortunately, it seems that staffing, space and customer service are seriously lacking at the Tampa Airport Post Office location,” Castor’s letter continues. “I understand that you have worked to increase staffing at passport offices and opened new passport agencies around the country; however more must be done to help our neighbors.”

Castor suggests additional locations to process passport applications, such as Hillsborough Community College’s Dale Mabry campus, and possibly sponsor passport fairs on Saturdays. She also praised the Hillsborough Clerk of the Circuit Court’s office as being especially efficient in providing services to acquire or renew passports.

Tom Scherberger, a spokesman for the Hillsborough Clerk of Circuit Court’s office, says that in addition to their downtown Tampa office, they also offer process new and renewed passport applications at their satellite offices in Brandon, Plant City and South Shore.

“Demand is so great, it takes two weeks to get an appointment though we also take walk-ins,” he says.

A State Dept. officially told FloridaPolitics.com that they have received the letter and “will respond appropriately.”

The official added that with the high demand for passport acceptance services in the Tampa area, they are already exploring the addition of acceptance facilities through coordination with USPS and other local partners.

Meanwhile, the House Homeland Security Committee held a hearing on Wednesday to consider legislation to deal with the situation with long lines at airports.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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