Clark County might finally accept credit, debit cards for fees

A sign on the reception window at the Clark County Combined Health District lets people know they only are accepting cash or checks now. Bill Lackey/Staff
A sign on the reception window at the Clark County Combined Health District lets people know they only are accepting cash or checks now. Bill Lackey/Staff

The Clark County Utilities Department is the lone agency to accept that form of payment.

Clark County offices — which still require residents to pay for most fees with cash or checks — might finally allow credit or debit card payments after the health district has again pushed the issue.

The Clark County Board of Health recently passed a resolution asking the county to seek out a new vendor for credit and debit services, Health Commissioner Charles Patterson said. Several times per day, people will walk into the health district to purchase birth certificates but leave because they didn’t bring cash with them, he said.

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He asked Clark County commissioners last week to reconsider another request for proposals for electronic payment services.

“We’re imploring you to provide us that so that we can serve our clients in the most efficient manner possible moving forward,” Patterson said.

The Clark County Utilities Department is the lone county agency that accepts credit and debit cards payments, Clark County Clerk Megan Lokai said.

The utilities department and the health district will both be included in an upcoming request for proposals, which will likely be released in February, she said. The Clerk of Courts, sheriff’s office, Solid Waste District and the Community and Economic Development departments are also interested in making the transition, she said.

“We’ll do it for the whole county,” Lokai said.

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All three county commissioners expressed support for the initiative.

“It’s 2017,” Commissioner Melanie Flax-Wilt said. “I can’t even believe we’re having this conversation.”

Clark County Commissioner Lowell McGlothin wants to move forward with the project as soon as possible, he said.

“It’s been on the back burner way too long,” he said.

The county began a trial run with the utilities department several years ago, Lokai said. A second vendor was hired after the initial vendor discontinued its service, she said. The second vendor’s contract expires in June, Lokai said.

“It’s another way to make it easier for the public to pay whatever they need to pay,” she said. “Hopefully, we’ll be under contract pretty soon.”

The service has been a success at the utilities department after many years of complaints, Director Chuck Bauer said. One customer complained they had recently paid for items at a garage sale with a debit card, but couldn’t pay their water and sewer bill that way.

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“We took that to heart,” Bauer said.

The county contracts with Paymentus Corp. The convenience fee is $2.50 per transaction with a transaction limit of $200.

Between July of 2014 and October of 2015, utilities customers made 12,650 online payments worth about $980,000 in water and sewer fees.

In the past, residents facing disconnection had to drive to the office to pay their bill, he said. Now they can quickly pay their bills online before being disconnected, which is more efficient for both the county and the customer, he said. They can also have other people help them pay the bill online, Bauer said.

The services has resulted in more people paying their bills late, he said, but also has reduced the number of shut-offs.

“It makes a difference,” Bauer said. “It’s a convenience factor all the way around. We haven’t any negative feedback.”

The Solid Waste District would also like to accept credit and debit payments for specialty recycling, Bauer said.

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The county auditor allows credit and debit payments for dog tags, but it’s set up through a different section of the Ohio Revised Code, Lokai said.

The Board of Health had a vendor ready to go two years ago, but delayed the project because it must be approved by the Clark County commissioners.

At the time, the county had begun a trial run with its utilities department. The health district waited to implement its contract as the county began seeking requests for proposals for a countywide vendor, Patterson said.

The health district could also utilize credit and debit transactions for immunizations, permits and a variety of other services, Patterson said

At the health district last week, South Charleston resident Sally Blake was unaware she couldn’t use credit or debit cards to pay for services. She was signing up for EMT classes and getting vaccinations. It’s easier to use credit or debit cards, she said.

“I carry plastic,” she said. “I don’t think I’ve carried cash on me for years.”

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By the numbers

12,650: online payments Clark County Utilities Department customers made between July of 2014 and October of 2015

$980,000: Amount paid online in for water and sewer fees during that time

$2.50: Convenience fee charged on online utility payments

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