Columbia Customers Avoiding New Utility Fee

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COLUMBIA - Columbia utility customers are finding ways to avoid a new fee being applied when using online checks and credit cards to pay their bills. The city saw an increase in people coming into the office or sending their payment through the mail after a $4.60 credit card processing fee the city instituted the week of Sept. 16.

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1,906 more payments have been made by walk-in, drive through and mail from August 2013 to September 2013.

13,804 payments were made in person or through mail during the month of September compared to the 4,668 payments made through on-line check and credit card.

City of Columbia Assistant Finance Director Lynn Cannon said there are still some customers choosing to pay on-line despite the new fee.

"We've had 4,668 payments from the initiation on the 16th of September that have been processed on-line," Cannon said.

Cannon said that there has been some negative reaction from customers as well.

"People think the fee is a little high, but ultimately the company processes those payments, they incur those interchange fees and the banking cost plus the software development and maintenance fee."

Columbia Public Works is currently down two staff members, but Cannon said they don't seem to be having any processing issues yet.

"I think we'll still be able to manage the in flow of the increased payments that are processed in house."

In 2012, the city paid more than $450,000 in credit card fees. That's $177,000 more than it paid in 2010.