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Water payment Kiosk to save city $63,000 over a decade

  • Release on:2016-08-30

Tyler Water Utilities customers can now pay their bills with cash or check anytime of the day.

On Tuesday, the department activated a 24-hour electronic kiosk in the drive thru of the Water Department building, 511 W. Locust St.

The kiosk will replace tellers, which previously operated a bank-style drive thru from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. The tellers will remain employed with the city with different job responsibilities.

The kiosk will take cash, check or credit cards and money orders. It has a barcode scanner to easily look up accounts as well. The machine is not capable of giving change, so customers who pay in cash will receive a credit to their bill in lieu of physical change.

The kiosk will accept more forms of payment than the drive thru did. The department’s policy will not allow an employee to swipe a customer credit card, Yanker said. The customer has to swipe it themselves, which was not possible with the former configuration.

Residents should be aware that layout of traffic flow into the drive thru was changed to accommodate the machine.

Traffic will enter from Border Avenue and exit onto Locust Street, according to the city. This will put the driver’s side window against the wall of the Water Utilities building where the kiosk is mounted.

The kiosk gives residents five options to pay their bill. They also can pay inside the water office, online, at one of 33 approved businesses or by setting up auto draft.

The kiosk is a cost-saving measure for the department, which operates on an enterprise fund and does not receive tax dollars, said Jim Yanker, utilities financial manager and water business office manager.

The city estimates the department will save almost $62,000 over 10 years by using the kiosk. The savings is likely more because the kiosk came in $10,000 less than initial projections.

The device cost $22,300, and cost $12,000 for a separate company to install.

Yanker said the department began evaluating making the switch four years ago as a Lean Six Sigma project, to save money.

After crunching the numbers, the department sent out a survey to specific customers who usually to pay their bills inside the office or through the drive thru. That was done about a year and a half ago, he said.

The city had a 94 percent response rate to that survey, and 80 percent of the people questioned indicated they were in favor of the kiosk.

With the numbers and public opinion on the same page, the city moved forward with purchasing the kiosk.

“The city is growing, but we haven’t added any staff in the business office in five years,” Yanker said. “We are one person less than we used to be, and this gives us the opportunity to absorb the growth of the city and not have to add additional staff.”