The City of St. Augustine is known as America’s Oldest City for a reason … they are slow to embrace new ways of doing things — especially in government.
Despite the fact that much smaller communities, like Palm Coast, have offered online payment of utility billings for some time, the City of St. Augustine is finally making its first attempt at using this technology.
“I hope this as a starting point, not a final destination” said one customer who we interviewed this morning. Some of the observations that we made in researching this story made us somewhat dissatisfied, too.
For example, the service informs you that a “$2.00 convenience charge will be applied at the end of this transaction. This charge will be reflected on your monthly statement depending on your selected payment method.” This seems out-of-place in a financial services transaction today, and, in fact, other utility providers like FPL, AT&T and Comcast each offer free Internet payment options.
When making a payment, the service says, “If you choose to pay by credit card the convenience charge will be added to your total due amount and will appear as a single payment. If you choose to pay by check the convenience charge will appear as a separate charge.” What? This is kind of a confusing explanation to start with and only made worse by the fact that the service does not allow you to pay by credit card at all.
We feel that this needs improvement since offering credit card payment improves the collection of the City’s accounts receivable as well as the fact that you can still call the city Finance Department at 904-825-1037 and pay by credit card – with NO FEE.
If you register with e Pay-Bill to pay your city utility bill online and you need any assistance with the online transaction, you are directed to call the Help Desk at Logical Solutions, Inc., which does not provide a toll free number. The number given is 706.327.7795 x102. The help desk service is available from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. EST Monday through Friday. When there are problems (there always will be some) customer service should be available at a local number.
To the City’s credit, they are making an attempt to address the issue. After they have some experience with the demands and weaknesses of this program, we will look forward to reporting that an improved service is available very soon.