Operation Green Light

Program gets drivers out of debt, back on road

By Bruce Hope bruce@opcfla.com
Posted 11/4/20

ORANGE PARK – The annual Operation Green Light will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sat., Nov. 7, at the Clerk’s Office Orange Park Branch.

The program allows residents with suspended …

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Operation Green Light

Program gets drivers out of debt, back on road

Posted

ORANGE PARK – The annual Operation Green Light will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sat., Nov. 7, at the Clerk’s Office Orange Park Branch.

The program allows residents with suspended driver licenses due to outstanding court obligations to save on fees and have the chance to get their licenses reinstated. Residents will be able to pay court obligations and save on costs that accrued.

When the fees that are owed have been paid, or a payment plan has been created, drivers will be able to have their licenses reinstated. For as little as a $25 down payment, an installment plan and can get a driver the opportunity to go to the Department of Motor Vehicles to have their license reinstated.

“During Operation Green Light, it gives defendants who have one case, or multiple cases the opportunity to come in and pay in full or they can get on a payment plan without collection fees,” Said Stephanie Wright, Compliance Supervisor at the Clay County Clerk’s Office. “Anytime a case here with the clerk’s office goes past 90 days, it's turned over by Florida stature to an outside collection agency. Those outside collection agencies add 25% collection agency fee to the balances.”

For cases with larger balances, that 25% adds up quickly. The fees add up quickly, leaving them with seemingly no way out. It can get even worse when there are multiple cases.

Last year, one driver had seven cases, some dating as far back as 1999, with collection fees of more than a thousand dollars. He was able to set up a payment plan during the one-day event. All of the cases were put on the program, and the clerk’s office helped him work out a monthly amount.

He was one of many who could either pay in full or set up a plan and get their license reinstated. The chance to literally get back on the road is a big deal for many. One man who was able to get his license reinstated cried after completing the process. He had not been able to drive for the previous 10 years.

“We had good turnout [last year],” said Tracie McRae, Chief Deputy Clerk of Operations. “We had individuals who were very appreciative of the opportunity to save some money. It’s just an opportunity for us to review their cases that they have with the court system. It allows us to bring them current so that they can get their drivers’ license reinstated.

“I don’t think we can forget the guy and the girl who came screaming in on a motorcycle two minutes before we closed the door.”

The couple came to the courthouse in Green Cove Springs hoping to take advantage of the program, only to find out that it was happening at the Orange Park office on Park Avenue. They arrived just in time to take care of business before the day was over.

“They literally came up, and she was hopping off the motorcycle as he was trying to get it stopped. We let her come in and got her situated and got them back on their way,” McRae said.

In all, 35 residents took advantage of the program last year. Operation Green Light, which was pioneered by Clay County Clerk of the Circuit Court Tara Green in 2015, also provided residents with interest-free payment plan options.

The driver’s license office next to the Orange Park Clerk’s Office was opened only for those who finally were eligible to have their licenses reinstated.

Not only did 14 resolve their debt and leave with a new license, the county collected more than $11,000 in unpaid fines.

People were generally appreciative of the chance to participate in the one-day program, according to McRae.

What is the chance to get out from under the fees and get back to a place of either paying off the debt or having a reasonable plan to do like?

“It’s life-changing for a lot of people,” said Wright.

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