The town of Walnut Cove hopes to start accepting water and sewer payments via credit card soon. The Walnut Cove Board of Commissioners gave the town manager the go-ahead last week to move forward with establishing the service in the town office.
Town Manager Byron Ellis requested the town begin accepting credit and debit cards for water and sewer services and privilege license fees in an effort to improve convenience and boost collection rates. This would allow customers to pay either in person or over the phone. There would be a cost involved, averaging around two percent per transaction, Ellis said in his agenda notes.
Town Commissioner Sharon Conaway asked if many customers are requesting to make payments by credit card. Ellis said people call about it frequently. Conaway said a former town manager said it would be cost prohibitive, and her concerns were if enough people would use it and if the town would lose money.
Providing insight from his own workplace, Mayor Lynn Lewis said he believes accepting credit card payments does increase the number of people paying their bills.
Conaway said transactions taken over the phone without signature verification increase fees. The mayor said this service would help people who have difficulty leaving their homes. Commissioner Charles Mitchell pointed out that a lot of people on a fixed income may not have the money yet when the bill is due, which is why many places have started accepting credit. He thinks it would be to the town’s advantage to implement credit card service.
Ellis said he thought the town could start the program and see how it is used. There is a way to recoup fees if it is not working, he said.
Commissioner Kim Lewis said she likes to have the person using the service pay a portion of the fee, like a user fee. She noted that people who pay other bills over the phone or online often have an extra fee added to their payment.
Conaway asked if the town needed to have a policy in place before it approved the project. Mayor Lewis suggested they could go ahead and approve the project and then get together the service guidelines while Ellis worked to get the service set up, since that could take a while. Commissioner Elwood Mabe said he thought the policy needed to be in place first so everyone is on the same page.
Commissioner Lewis said she did not have a problem approving the initial set up. She made a motion for the town manager to obtain a machine, make arrangements with a bank and draft a town policy to be discussed next month, with implementation of the program to start after the policy is approved. The board approved the motion.
Later in the meeting the board tabled a proposed personnel policy amendment which would allow employees separating from the town to be paid no more than 40 hours of accumulated leave and the maximum allowable carryover for employees would be 80 hours of leave. Right now employees are allowed to carry over 240 hours of leave from year to year. This is a sizable potential liability to the town, Ellis said, and is unusually high. Conaway had concerns about how this could be changed legally and if it should be done. Commissioner Lewis said she like the proposal but would like to have a lawyer look over it to see the best way to implement it. The item was tabled until a future meeting.
Also during the meeting:
• The board voted 3-1 to allow the town to buy a new truck to replace an aging one, with Mabe voting against.
• Conaway asked if a hearing date had been set for the old hotel that has been condemned on Main Street, and Ellis said no.
• E.A. Timm came before the board during the public comment period to express his concern over gun control. He reminded elected officials of their oath to the Constitution. He spoke about powers not delegated to the federal government remaining with the state.
• Resident Marilyn Booe asked the board about the temporary water hook-up fee discount. She had to pay $800 while people now only have to pay $650. She also made comments about the town’s annexing and how some public responders and town employees do not know which side of the road is in the city and which is the county.
The board went into closed session to discuss contract negotiations and matters of attorney-client privilege. No action was taken.
The town will host the next Stokes County League of Governments meeting on Thursday, Jan. 24 at 6:30 p.m. at the Walnut Cove Senior Center. Officials from Stokes municipalities and the county gather to discuss what’s going on in each of their territories.
The next planning board meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 12 at the Walnut Cove Public Library at 7 p.m. The next regular Walnut Cove Board of Commissioners meeting will be held Tuesday, Feb. 5 at 7 p.m. at the Walnut Cove Senior Center.