Update: This article has been updated to include Official Payment as one of the contracts the City of Wilmington has signed for utility billing services and to include language from that contract and the city’s contract with Creative Microsystems Inc.
WILMINGTON — Confusion at Wilmington City Council about changes to the City of Wilmington’s Utility Billing Department stalled the creation of a fund that could be used for unanticipated expenses.
Council is expected to discuss the issue tonight, Thursday, August 20, according to its agenda.
Also, the billing department signed two contracts in 2013 with Creative Microsystems Inc. and Official Payments that will enable them to take credit card payments online now that the office’s server can connect to the internet. The contract with CMI costs $1,800 per year.
There is no cost assessed to the city for Official Payments, which processes the payments. Official Payments will charge residents $3.95 per credit card transaction and $1.95 per debit card transaction. Both contracts are valid for three more years, according to Barb McVey, Wilmington’s utility billing department supervisor.
Neither contract impacts those who pay using direct debit.
Thursday, August 6, council members postponed creating a new fund in the utility billing department because they weren’t sure if the billing department was taking credit cards online.
“At this particular point, I don’t see the need to create something that we’re not quite sure that we’re understanding what the change is that occurred,” said Council member Rob Jaehnig. “Are we taking credit cards or are we not taking credit cards (as payment, over the phone)?”
Council member Marian Miller said the fund that would have been established isn’t supposed to receive money, but it could be there in case of an unanticipated expense.
Jaehnig added that the current agreement doesn’t incur a cost “but that didn’t mean that in perpetuity there wouldn’t be a cost.”
Council decided to move the item to next meeting’s agenda while they clarify practices at the billing department.
McVey told the Wilmington News Journal that the department has stopped taking credit card payments over the phone. She said notices were provided on all billing statements in June and most of July’s billing statements.
Those notices cite the rising cost of bank card transactions and security concerns. Wilmington Mayor Randy Riley said the department had to write credit card numbers down on a slip of paper, which he said was a security risk for residents.
McVey said a contract was signed with Creative Microsystems Inc. to process credit cards online, a feature the utility billing department doesn’t currently have but will have implemented soon.
Those using direct debit payments can continue to use those methods of payment.
A convenience fee will be charged to customers paying with credit cards but not to the city, according to McVey. City Auditor David Hollingsworth said, at council, that he believed a fee would be charged to the city.
According to the contract with Official Payments, customers, defined as a person, business or entity “that initiates and makes payment” through a credit or debit card transaction will be charged the fees listed above. There are no fees assessed to the “client,” which is the city by Official Payments.
As reported, CMI’s contract does cost the city $1,800 per year. CMI provides web service.
Also in Council:
• Riley proclaimed the month of September as Feed Ohio Month in Wilmington. Riley urged citizens to give “what you can,” including time or donations, to area efforts to address hunger.
• Wilmington resident Paul Hunter said the city’s news of fixing a leak earlier this year had overestimated the size of the leak. Hunter said a contractor hired to survey leaks estimated saving 304,775 gallons per day, but, Hunter said, “the loss rate had barely changed and that we still have an unacceptable water loss problem.”
• Received an income tax report that showed an almost 5 percent increase in income tax collections from January to July of 2014 as compared to the same period in 2015. Collections from January to July of 2014 were $3,016,625.77. Collections from January to July of 2015 were $3,165,153.88.
• Council listed as surplus a 2001 haul truck and a 1993 dump truck from the sanitation department, and a 2009 van from the transit department, and authorized the sale of those vehicles.
• Council passed a first reading on a resolution vacating a portion of an alley in the E.R. Mills Grandview Addition. The property is owned by former mayor David Raizk and Mary Ann Raizk. Lauren Raizk, their daughter, said they hoped to sell part of it and wanted to clean up the legal description.
• Council passed a second reading on a resolution authorizing the submittal of a proposal with the Ohio Department of Transportation for a grant through the U.S. Department of Transportation and a contract with ODOT upon grant acceptance. That grant helps fund Wilmington’s transit system.
• Council passed a second reading on a resolution authorizing Riley to enter into a contract with ODOT for elderly and disabled transit fare assistance.
• Council passed an amendment to a swine prohibition ordinance that would allow miniature pigs to reside, as pets, within city limits, as previously reported.
• Council revised its rural transit contract with ODOT for the current year. Those revisions increased two line items by less than $1,500 but won’t require moving funds from the general fund to the transit program.
• Council appropriated $10,500 to the Wilmington Fire Department to rewire the fire department building and education and training fees. Council member Marian Miller said the fire department can’t communicate except through radios in its own building.
• Council appropriated $10,000 to the cemetery fund for headstone foundation, which is incurred in advance of cemetery users paying for the burial.
• Council appropriated $8,250 for removing trees in the city’s right-of-way, $750 for indigent burial and $37,000 for street lighting utilities.
Reach Nathan Kraatz at 937-382-2574, ext. 2510 or on Twitter @NathanKraatz.