Utilities consider auto-bill payments

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AUBURN – The Auburn Water and Sewer District is considering a plan to let customers pay their bills automatically, directly from their banks.

A survey to be included in some of next quarter’s water bills will ask customers if they would use that kind of service, and if they would like to pay bills monthly instead of every three months.

The district is merely testing the water, said Superintendent Norm Lamie.

“We do have a lot of people asking us if we accept credit or debit cards – and we don’t,” he said. Most banks charge a 3 percent card use fee to merchants, and that fee would be passed along to other Auburn customers.

The district now takes payments in only cash or checks, either mailed or dropped off at the Court Street offices. Many customers pay online through their banks. Under those programs, the banks mail checks to the district and take the money out of users’ accounts.

“We’ve looked at creating a check clearinghouse for electronic payments,” Lamie said. Customers would sign up for the program, giving the district their bank account information. The district would withdraw regular payments directly from those bank accounts.

“It would take some effort to set up, and it would involve some software changes at our level,” Lamie said. “We want to see if people would actually use it or not before we do anything.”

The survey also asks if customers would prefer to be billed for their water and sewer usage on a monthly basis and how many customers would prefer to communicate with the district via e-mail.

Lamie said the survey will be mailed to about one-third of the district’s customers. Those who don’t receive a survey can fill one out online at the district’s Web site, www.awsd.org.

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