Alabaster water board considering online bill payment, e-bill system

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Alabaster residents could soon have the option to pay their water bills online.

City Customer Services Administrator Kathy Palmer presented a proposal to the Alabaster Water Board Monday night that would allow residents to pay their bills via credit or debit card online.

&8220;We have a tremendous amount of requests for an online bill payment and e-bill system,&8221; Palmer said. &8220;This will enable our customers to have 24-hour access to their accounts.&8221;

The proposed system would cost the board around $5,500 for an initial setup.

Water board members decided to hold off their vote on the proposed system while they decide if residents should be charged a fee to use the service.

&8220;What I have proposed is a $3 monthly convenience fee,&8221; Palmer said. &8220;I have talked with a number of our customers who have said they would be willing to pay this fee.&8221;

Palmer noted that credit card companies Visa and Mastercard would charge a fee for each payment processed through the new system, which the convenience fee would help pay for.

Water board chairman Gene Sanders disagreed with charging a fee, stating that he felt the board would do better to offer the service to residents free of charge.

&8220;Every way we can make things easier for our customers makes Alabaster look better,&8221; Sanders said. &8220;I wouldn&8217;t be against not having a fee period.&8221;

Residents using the system would be able to pay their bill online and receive their statements via e-mail instead of in the mail.

&8220;It will cut down on the handling of paper and checks a whole lot,&8221; Palmer said. &8220;With the requests that we have coming in day-in and day-out, I don&8217;t see us having any problem getting 2,000-plus customers using the new system.&8221;

Palmer said customers opting out of the Internet option would still be welcome to pay their paper bill and bring payments to the water board&8217;s office.

Sanders noted that with the growing number of water customers in Alabaster, an online payment system could help the water board from needing to hire more employees.

&8220;If we&8217;re going to have to hire another person, we have to look at how much we&8217;ll have to pay that person,&8221; he said. &8220;The online system seems like a very viable option.&8221;