In a work session meeting on August 3, the City Manager, Randy Bridge, met with the city council to introduce the subject of hiring a company to manage an customer online water payment system, possibly as soon as the beginning of 2018.
Bridge shared data from past years and the cost of the current system as it relates to bank fees paid by the city, which cover the cost of customers paying by credit card. From 2012 through 2016, the payments made for each year were an average of $2,100.00 per month, with reductions being shown in the last two years. For the first half of 2017, the city is on track to spend the same amount, with a total of $10,926.97 through the end of July. Historically, these bank fees have equaled nearly 3% of the total water bill payment revenues.
Under the system currently being researched, the city is anticipating changes to how customers will pay their bills in the future. In addition, customers would also be able to view and print their bills from the site, rather than waiting for a bill to be mailed. Bridge stressed to the council the improvement of their billing services and the convenience for the customer as they will now have their account information available to them at all times.
The greatest changes to be made will affect those who pay their bills with a credit or debit card. Under the new plan, the city will charge customers $1.95 per $100.00 paid on their water bill and they will no longer accept payments over the telephone. The city water office will still accept payments at the window, but the same $1.95 per $100.00 will apply. In addition, the city plans to encourage New Carlisle residents to enroll in the new e-bill program, which will save the city roughly 35 cents per bill. According to Utility Clerk Cathy Marshall, for July, 2017, 2,303 accounts were processed for billing, with approximately 75% of those being under $100.00 a month.
Until the program is in place for a year or more, Bridge is unable to forecast the potential savings to the city overall, but it is anticipated it will save them, at minimum, the majority of the bank fees they currently pay each month.
In order to add this service, a change must be made to the city’s laws, therefore two readings of the proposal will be made at the next two council meetings, with the first reading being offered on August 21, 2017. The second reading will be done at the council meeting scheduled for September 4, 2017. During both of these sessions, community input is requested. A final vote on the change will take place 15 days after the second reading.
The second half of the work session was to introduce committee advisory board member Becky McKenzie of the New Carlisle Parks & Recreation Advisory Committee (NCPRAC). Ms. McKenzie requested a greater clarification of the role of the advisory council and their ability to perform projects at the city’s parks. City Manager Bridge, as well as Mayor Lowrey, made clearer the need to discuss with Bridge any projects so permission might be given, in the event city funds are required.
At the end of this discussion, Ms. McKenzie shared with the city a critical need for active, committed, and eager volunteers for the advisory council who are willing to donate their time to aid in maintaining the parks and assist with future projects. Creating a governing body for the NCPRAC was brought up and officers will be chosen in the near future for the volunteer organization, as well as creating a mission statement for the group.
The city council meets every 1st and 3rd Monday of each month and are always open to the public.