By Linda Dillman
Canal Winchester utility customers will have a new way to pay their water bill by computer in 2016.
Canal Winchester Finance Director Amanda Jackson said the city is preparing to go live online after Jan. 1 and offer Internet access to a secure, third party vendor to pay bills due in February, April, June, August, October and December.
“We’re working on the finishing touches for online bill pay,” said Jackson.
While residents have many ways to pay their bill without incurring a convenience fee—such as paying with cash, a check or credit card at the municipal office during regular business hours or via a 24-hour drop box—there will be a small fee for electronic service.
“The only fee we’re charging is for online credit card or echeck,” said Jackson. “Everything else is free. You can still come in and pay your bill.”
According to Jackson, the convenience fee is $1.50 to process an echeck and $2.95 for credit card transactions for the first $100, with an additional $1.50 for each $50 increment.
According to Jackson, these fees are all passed on to the consumer and paid directly to the third party processor to cover their processing costs.
“The city does not see this money at all,” said Jackson.
“I think it’s fair for the (utility) user who wants to use this option,” added Mayor Mike Ebert. “There are nine different options to pay a bill.”
Jackson hopes the convenience of online bill pay will help curb a portion of the hundreds of late bills regularly processed by the city. She said the fee charged for the service is “less than our late fee.”
Customers will be notified when the electronic bill pay service is active and ready for use by mail and through the city’s website and public announcements.
Interurban station renovations
It’s back to the bidding process for interior renovations for the interurban station following a disappointing response to a recent bid opening. An ordinance was forwarded for Canal Winchester City Council action rejecting a single, late bid because it was greater than 10 percent over the architect’s estimate.
Construction Services Administrator Bill Sims said the actual bid was well over the 10 percent ceiling.
“During the bidding process we did not have that much interest in the project,” Sims. “Only two general contractors picked up plans. We really did not generate a lot of interest, so there was not a lot of competition.”
Sims said the holiday season is a tough time to garner interest in a smaller construction project and is typically when companies are closing out their books before the end of the year.
“Our normal process for projects is right after the first of the year,” said Sims, who offered two options for the renovation, including rebidding or waiving competitive bidding and proceeding with a proposal process. “We were hoping to award the project this year, but that is not possible now. I would anticipate we could have something for council to award in late January to mid-February; so (there is) about a 40 to 60 day delay.”
The construction timeline is approximately 90 days and, if the city does not encounter any more roadblocks, Sims anticipates issuing a notice to proceed sometime in March. He expects the budget to remain within $150,000.
Sims said while some items in the lone bid were in line with estimates, others—such as electric—were substantially higher than projected. In addition, any work contracted by the city must fall within bonding, insurance and prevailing wage parameters.
“There might be some things we can go back and look at, but the plan is pretty simple,” Sims said.
He felt the city could get a better response if it had the opportunity to seek out people who specialize in historical projects and plans to submit legislation at the Dec. 21 meeting asking council to waive the competitive bidding process.
The historic interurban station is located west of South High Street in downtown Canal Winchester behind businesses near Stradley Park.