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St. Charles may charge to pay utilities by phone

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2012 5:30 a.m. CDT

ST. CHARLES – Residents wanting to pay a utility bill over the phone likely will be charged a $7.50 convenience fee beginning Dec. 1.

The Government Operations Committee on Monday supported the new fee in a 7-2 vote. The fee must be approved by the City Council.

Aldermen Ray Rogina of the 3rd Ward and Maureen Lewis of the 5th Ward voted no.

The fee is intended to shift customers to another, less labor-intensive form of payment such as the city’s online system. Phone payments not only take time, staff said, but they also have a greater potential for miscommunication and data entry errors.

The utility billing office accepted an average of 87 phone payments per month in 2011, up from 65 phone payments per month in 2010, assistant finance director Julie Herr said.

“The number does keep growing,” she said.

Rogina understands the reason for the fee, but he said he was thinking of people such as his 89-year-old father who don’t own a computer. He didn’t want the fee to be a burden on senior citizens.

Herr couldn’t say whether a certain age group pays by phone, but she said it is the same people every month.

She noted the city will continue to accept other methods of payment, including by mail.

Only one convenience fee will apply per payment. It is scheduled to begin Dec. 1 to give staff time to inform customers of the charge.

In other news, the City Council unanimously approved proposal from Hardin Paving Services to complete the public streets and sidewalks in the Artesian Springs subdivision for $89,262.55. Hardin’s proposal was the lowest of four.

Staff said the work will be done this fall, and will start as early as next week.

Staff secured funds from an $80,000 letter of credit to complete these improvements after inaction from the developer.

Artesian Springs is on the city’s far west side.

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