July 4, 2013 | Vol. 117 -- No. 11

Online bill pay option starts soon in Medical Lake

The city of Medical Lake is receiving a big upgrade to its utility billing system which will allow customers the opportunity and convenience of paying bills online.

The wheels for the software conversion started moving three or four years ago, City Administrator Doug Ross said. Working in earnest over the past year, the city is in the final stages of beginning to accept utility payments online through Vision Municipal Solutions and Invoice Cloud.

“It’s been a long time coming,” he said. “We’ve looked at this for a long time.”

Ross said residents could potentially start using the online bill pay system in September or October. A notification will be sent out in the fall newsletter with final information when the system goes active.

The city recently changed to postcards to handle utility statement, and has saved around $2,200 on postage alone. Other areas made more efficient by the change include staff time in the front office and additional savings have come from reduced paper and ink usage. Ross estimated that by September, residents could also choose to have their utility bill sent via email.

As noted at the last City Council meeting, there are some fees associated with paying bills online, but the system is entirely optional for residents. Fees added during online bill pay reflect the monthly contract price of the city using the billing software.

“The vendor we chose actually works directly with our billing software,” Ross said. “So it’s more involved. People can actually go in and review their account, look at their usage. It will give them some options because it does work directly with the billing system software.”

Customers can still pay in the same way they currently do and avoid the fees altogether.

In addition to paying utility bills online, the Parks and Recreation Department is receiving some major updates, allowing the department to accept online bookings. Rec1, a Georgia-based company, will provide the booking software on a month-to-month contract for Medical Lake.

Ross said Airway Heights and Cheney are under the same type of contract. Rec1 will provide online registration and booking service for the city, allowing parents to sign kids up for sports and other events.

Again, there are some fees attached when paying online due to the software contract cost. Rec1 will receive a $1,000 initial fee followed by $100 each month the system is used. Customers using the online service will also see a 4 percent fee at the end of their transaction.

As such, a youth sports signup online, around $38, would see a fee of $1.52 added to the final transaction for a total of $39.52.

“We had to figure out the system’s fees,” Ross said regarding what happened in the final stretch of implementing the system. “It’s not all that simple. With the merchants that we’ve chosen and the route that we’ve taken, if a customer wants to use their debit card to pay for their utility bill, it will cost them a service fee.”

Ross said there will be a separate window in the software that pops up to explain the exact amount of the fees and where they go. A utility bill of $100 could see a fee of $2.95, if the online billing software is used.

“Nothing is hidden,” Ross said of the fee. “It’s all in plain view.”

Medical Lake will also begin accepting court payments online in a couple of weeks through nCourt.

Action items passed at the Tuesday, June 18 City Council meeting added the final touches on the software contracts which will begin to roll out for public use in the coming weeks and months.

James Eik can be reached at james@cheneyfreepress.com.

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