By SVERRE BAKKE
Customers of City of White Salmon services now can pay their utility bills or purchase business licenses and building permits with credit/debit cards online or by telephone.
The city has an Online Payments link set up in the left-hand corner on the front page of its Web site, white-salmon.net, as well as under the Services tab's drop-down menu.
Under either option, customers can select what type of online transaction they wish to make using the Point and Pay program, which processes credit/debit card and eCheck payments to the city for a fee. The service went live at the beginning of 2012, and was initiated to provide customers with more options for making payments.
"We've had customers inquire about paying with a credit card or over the phone," Johnson noted. "This service is to allow for that capability."
The fees, Johnson said, only apply to credit card payments made via the Web site, by telephone or when a person comes into City Hall. In the case of over-the-phone or in-person credit payments, City Hall does the on-line processing of the payment rather than the customer.
"We would typically try to direct the customers to the Web site for them to fill out the information and do the processing themselves," Johnson noted. "If they don't have access (to the Web), then we will take the credit card number, expiration date, etcetera, all over the phone and inform them of the associated Point and Pay fee."
Fees for the service are:
$2.95 for each eCheck payment of any amount;
$2 for each credit card payment between $.01 and $50;
$3 for each credit card payment between $50.01 and $100;
and an additional $3 for each additional $100 of credit card payment.
No fees will be charged for using any other current method of payment, such as paying in cash at the front desk in City Hall or at the drive-up window. Nor will customers be charged a fee for using bill pay through their personal bank, or for the Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) service the city provides. Through the EFT service the city withdraws payments from customer checking accounts on the 20th of every month.
Johnson said the fees will not be added to a utility bill, for example, but will be paid directly to Point and Pay, the service provider the city chose to contract with in early 2011. The city does not pay for the service, which is supported strictly by the user fees, nor will it receive any of the fees collected by Point and Pay.
"Overall, the city wanted to make it easier for customers by allowing them more options for paying their utility bills, permit fees or business licenses online," Johnson noted. "It may also free up some staff time, depending on how many people utilize the service."
Johnson added that the city Finance Department is looking at ways to further improve the billing process, such as implementing a paperless option, "but at this time we're not quite there yet."