Home Politics Council revives credit card utility bill payment issue

Council revives credit card utility bill payment issue

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City Council is working on legislation to authorize citizens to pay their utility bills with their credit cards instead of the traditional cash or check method currently in use. At-Large Rep. Christine Knisely is hopeful that Athens homeowners will be able to do so starting early in 2014.

Before any legislation is passed, however, the council wants to find a bank that will issue lower credit card fees per transaction. As of now, the fee would stand at $3.50. The council is looking for alternative vendors with lower card usage fees.

The only obstacle left appears to be drafting and voting on the legislation as the council is unanimously supportive of the the new legislation, as are Auditor Kathy Hecht and Treasurer Mary Ann McClure, according to Knisely in an e-mail.

Currently, homeowners can either pay their utilities with cash or electronic check. Renters have it even worse, as they do not have the electronic option. The council agreed that this is a problem, particularly because renters make up over 70 percent of homeowners in Athens.

“This would have a high usage level for people who are renting,” Knisely said.

With such an inconvenience, one might ask why the council has not addressed this problem before. As it turns out, the council has talked about this issue for years now, but it always dissipated from their discussions. It was not until the Democratic primary last spring that At-Large Rep. candidate Michael Bart raised the issue again.

Now the council is working to create a more consumer friendly system. Councilwoman Jennifer Cochran mentioned the possibility of including city citations and parking tickets on the list of city bills that could be paid with a credit card. Knisely echoed this sentiment and included bus passes and code permits.

This may be wishful thinking, as talks of allowing credit cards to pay for just utility bills have failed before. More pressure from citizens might force the council to follow through.

“We haven’t had a significant number of complaints, but rather comments from tenants that they don’t have the option of paying their utility bills for the property they rent with an electronic fund transfer option,” Knisely said.

Going forward, Knisely looked optimistically at the new possibilities.

“It would be great to start the new year with this system. I hope it goes through,” Knisely said.

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