Smithfield utility customers who use the convenience of online bill payments will be paying more.
In August, the Town Council approved a $3 per month surcharge for customers who pay their bills online. However, Finance Director Greg Siler told members of the Smithfield Town Council Tuesday night the agreement was not signed due to a misunderstanding by the vendor on the terms of the contract.
Smithfield has been accepting online bill payments for several years but the contract with the current vendor will expire in November. Presently, Smithfield customers do not pay any fees. The vendor has been absorbing the $2.45 cost of each transaction. That will soon be changing.
Last night, Siler presented a proposal from a new company Official Payments Corporation (OPC) which offered a pricing model tied to the type of payment the customer would use rather than a flat charge for all payments.
Customers paying online by credit card would be charged a $4.50 convenience fee, $3.00 for a debit card, and $0.50 for a payment by check.
Siler said about 800 customers use online bill pay each month out of an estimated 6,000 utility customers.
Councilman Travis Scott said he struggled with charging customers for this convenience. Siler said the Town’s current vendor would be ending service in November and if the council wanted to continue accepting online payments they would need to select a new vendor.
“Do we have a choice?” Councilman Perry Harris asked.
“You can do away with it,” Town Manager Michael Scott replied.
Referring to the adoption of a contract in August and faced with adopting a new contact Tuesday night, Mayor Pro Tem Emery Ashley said, “We’ve plowed this field before but we’re right back to square one.’
In a 5-to-2 vote, the council agreed to accept a contract from OPC with the new and higher fees. Councilman Travis Scott and Roger Wood voted against the plan.
Siler reminded council members that customers who pay in person at the town hall with a check, credit or debit card will not be charged a convenience fee, only those who use the online payment option.