New payment system approved

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 11, 2003

In the near future,

residents in Andalusia will have numerous options in terms of how they pay their utility bills.

During the regular meeting of the City of Andalusia Utilities Board Tuesday, the board approved leasing a cashless commerce system from Alatax

Representatives of Alatax, which collects the city's sales taxes, had come before the board during a recent meeting to discuss the possibility of bringing such a system to utility customers in the city.

The system will allow customers to pay their utility bills in three ways, which include point of sale debit and credit card transactions, interactive voice response and also through an Internet web application.

Since Alatax's initial presentation to the board, Utilities Board Superintendent Earl Johnson said he has talked with several other companies, and noted that none of the companies offered the comprehensive package that Alatax did.

"There are some companies that provide one (service) but not the other, or two of the services but not the third," said Johnson.

Johnson said the agreement will put the city on "the cutting edge on offering services to our customers."

He also said he would like the system in full operation when the city moves into its new city hall building, possibly in October.

With the system, the point of sale will allow customers to pay via a credit or debit card with a convenience fee assessed to the customer.

The interactive voice response will allow customers to pay via a 1-800 number and the web application will allow customers to pay via the internet.

Customers will likely be notified about the system options through a newsletter with their utility bill.

Board member Max Matthews asked Johnson whether the board might be able to examine how customers are utilizing the system after a period of 24 to 36 months to see how feasible the system is and Johnson said the board will be able to do that.

"I think we will see a lot of (people utilizing the debit and credit card aspect of the system)," said Johnson.

During the meeting, the board also approved funding half the salary of a new administrative assistant for Johnson.

Johnson said the city and the utilities board are basically operating with one secretary and said the matters of both entities are basically too much for one person to handle.

The city council previously approved paying for one half of the new administrative assistant's salary.

Clerk Pam Steele said the new assistant, who will act as a secretary, will be paid at a range beginning at $8.50 an hour and will likely be paid less than $20,000 per year.

In other business discussed at Tuesday's meeting, the City of Andalusia Utilities Board:

Approved a proposal from Jackson-Thornton, allowing the company to set up an accounting reporting system.

Approved allowing video inspections of the sewer lines on East Three Notch Street by Smith Industrial Service of Mobile. Estimated cost of the project is $10,500.

Passed a resolution to approve the submission of the Municipal Water Pollution Prevention Program report from Wastewater Superintendent Donna Cross.

Heard reports from Electrical Superintendent Royce Whigham and Water and Sewer Superintendent Jimmy Wilson.

Approved the minutes from the May 15 meeting.