Bethlehem to test Lockbox bill collection

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— The Bethlehem Town Board has approved a pilot plan that would allow residents to send their water and sewer bills to a postal box operated by Key Bank rather than to the town.

At its meeting on Wednesday, April 11, Town Board members approved a three-month trial to test using the Lockbox system for those who mail their water and sewer payments instead of paying the bills online. It is estimated 70 percent of those bills are still mailed.

The bank would pick up payment checks mailed to a postal box, open them, scan the checks, make the deposits and electronically deliver the information to the town. The service would be offered free for at least a year because of the large amount of business the Town of Bethlehem does with the bank.

Although all board members eventually voted in favor of the pilot, except Councilman Kyle Kotary who was not present, Councilwomen Joann Dawson did have concerns.

“There has to be a cost and none of that has been presented to us,” said Dawson. “Obviously the bank has a cost and that hasn’t been explained to us truly.”

Receiver of Taxes Nancy Mendick also had concerns that she raised at an earlier meeting about the system’s accuracy. She said a resident once accidentally placed bill payments into the wrong envelopes, While Mendick caught the error, an insurance company’s Lockbox service cashed a $3,500 check despite the fact it was made out to the town.

Any cost savings to the town were not discussed in detail, though if staff spends less time processing payments that could lead to staffing reductions. Supervisor John Clarkson said he is opposed to making any layoffs but shrinking staff through attrition is definitely on the table.

Clarkson said more information would be known after the trial is over.

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