Columbia residents can avoid the hassle of heading downtown or mailing their utility payments since the city made online bill payments available on its Web site at the beginning of the month.
Some Columbia banks already offer the option of paying utility bills online, but the new service allows residents to pay their utility bills online directly through the city.
After establishing an account, users can pay their bills and also view data on how much water and electricity they are using, payment histories and billing rates for city services. About 150 people have taken advantage of the service thus far.
Sam Shelby, electronic government coordinator for the city, said the service is the result of a request by the Columbia City Council that the Internet Citizens Advisory Group explore how the city can better use the Internet to serve the public.
The city conducted a survey in 2003 and identified the top three services residents wanted online: activity registration, utility bill payments and court fees and fines payments, Shelby said.
To work out the kinks, the city tried online billing on a smaller level at the Parks and Recreation Department first, said city Finance Director Lori Fleming.
Those interested in paying utility bills online or viewing account information can go to www.gocolumbiamo.com and find a link on the left side of the page, or simply type “GoUtilities” in the search field on the upper-right corner of the city government home page.
At the bottom of the Utility Customer Services page are payment options; the first is online or by phone. This links to a page to log into an account or enter a tutorial for first-time users.
Users will create personal identification number while registering and then receive e-mails with links to activate their accounts. Access to bill payment and information is available immediately after activation.
The two online payment options are by credit card or e-check. E-check payments require the same information one supplies when writing a regular check.
Although it will cost the city a little more to handle credit-card payments and to maintain the online services, Fleming said she hopes the increased efficiency will offset those costs.