Anoka County is trying to save residents a trip to the courthouse.

At the five regional License Centers, where residents have long gone to renew tabs and licenses, get new plates and buy hunting and fishing licenses, residents can pay property taxes in person, as of Oct. 1. Starting in January, people can purchase Anoka County Parks permits. In addition, residents can register to vote, purchase passports and get documents such as marriage and birth certificates.

The changes are in response to requests from county residents who use the centers, said Anoka County Government Services Division Manager Steve Novak. "We're always searching for things we can add to the portfolio to make it more convenient for people in terms of a one-stop shop," he said. "In this era, when gas prices are so high, people measure their trips."

Residents still can do their county business at the courthouse in Anoka, but Novak said that given additional security now required for courthouses, it made sense to disperse services to satellite locations.

There's another benefit to consumers: Unlike the courthouse, the License Centers are open until 5:30 p.m., an hour later than the courthouse. They're also open Saturdays.

Over the past three years, three of the five centers have been remodeled. The Ham Lake location is in the midst of a modernization. The division has added interpreters and configured passport desks to comply with Homeland Security recommendations.

In spite of the diversified services, the offices still will be called License Centers.

"License Centers have a history," Novak said. "People are familiar with buying licenses, tabs, hunting and fishing licenses there. For a lot of people how they feel about a particular county government has to do with how they're treated when they come to make these kinds of purchases." Maria Elena Baca • 612-673-4409