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City tests out new online payment system for utilities

Published 6:53pm Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The City of Alexander City is currently in the process of rolling out a new online bill payment system that will make paying the monthly utility bills as easy as a click of a mouse.

Finance director Steve Hays said the city has wanted to pursue online bill payments for sometime, but the city’s bill payment software has only recently started offering the capabilities.

“We use the cloud-based version of Springbrook,” Hays said. “We went forward with everything we had to do, the we found out it wasn’t available yet – they were still working out the kinks.”

The city processed its first payments a few weeks ago, Hays said.

“It is working pretty seamlessly as far I can tell,” Hays said. “We offered it first with city hall employees. We processed about seven payments and made sure they balanced and cleared the bank.”

Hays said he released it last week to all city employees.

“We expanded the test because most people won’t pay another bill for 30 more days – I needed more data,” Hays said. “I am not scared of getting a few hundred people signed up now. Not everybody is comfortable with paying online, but I hope to get at least 50 participating. Once I balance for a month, I really don’t see a reason we can’t roll it out to everyone.”

Hays said the new online system will be perfect for those who don’t have the time to make a trip to city hall.

“I have gotten phone calls from people saying ‘my father’s water is going to get shut off, and I can’t make it back to town,’” Hays said. “If we would have had this system online, I could have told them just go to the website.”

The online bill payment system will be offered at no additional charge to the consumer, and will accept credit card, debit card and electronic check payments.

Hays said that for those using the system for the first time, the bill will first appear on their banking statement in an amount $1 over the total bill. This $1 will disappear once the charge clears, as it is only a verification mechanism and will not actually be applied to the customer’s account.

If all goes according to plan, the new system will be offered to the general public in 30-45 days.

“I don’t anticipate any issues – I just need a good cycle of payment and repayment,” Hays said.  “It city hall employees participate again, we will have a second round of payments on file in two weeks.”

Customers will also have the option to one day opt for paperless billing, Hays added, and they can also sign up online for automatic bill payment. Even if they choose to have the bill paid automatically each month, they will still be able to review the site to make sure the payments go through and to check recent usage.