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St. Charles Council Tables Fee for Payments by Phone

Aldermen also approve a proclamation declaring Wednesday, Oct. 17, Melvin Peterson Day in St. Charles.

The St. Charles City Council on Monday tabled without discussion a series of five ordinance amendments that would tack on an additional $7.50 to the city bills of those residents who call by phone to arrange electronic fund transfers to pay their bills.

At issue is the time it takes employees in the city’s billing department to handle the telephone requests, which also increase the likelihood of mistakes, such as data-entry errors, or miscommunication with residents about payment of the bills. Another factor is that most of the calls, city staff has said, come in on the day the bills are due, when the office already is busy, further straining manpower.

The city staff had suggested charging the $7.50 convenience fee to cover the billing department’s actual costs of processing the calls. The new fee was proposed to be implemented on Dec. 1.

The fee also might prove to be an incentive for more residents to begin using the city’s automatic billing system, in which electric and water bills are deducted automatically from their accounts, or the online bill payment system, in which residents can log on to the city’s website each month to pay their bills. Both systems are more efficient in terms of city manpower, and are less susceptible to data-entry errors and miscommunication.

City officials have said the number of phone payments is increasing. In 2010, the city was averaging 65 phone payments a month; that increased to 87 payments per month in 2011.

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Local Historian Honored

The council’s action to table the change followed the council’s adoption of a proclamation declaring Wednesday, Oct. 17, Melvin Peterson Day.

Peterson, who recently turned 91, was accompanied at the meeting by his wife, Ruth, whom he married in 1945. Peterson, whose experience has included farming, shipping and 39 years as head of the Wasco Blacksmith Shop, has become known around St. Charles as the city’s own walking, talking history book. “No one still alive today can give you chapter and verse about the agricultural history of the community,” DeWitte read from the proclamation.

But the proclamation also notes Peterson has led a lifetime of service to others, including nearly 70 years on the boards of the Baker Community Center, and on the St. Charles Heritage Center. Further, Peterson worked for months in his blacksmith shop on the project of which he is most proud, the proclamation states, which was saving the historic, 2,500-pound bronze bell anchored in front of the Heritage Center. His work in the blacksmith shop was to fix, clean and mount the bell for its permanent home. He also served as treasurer of the Heritage Center.

Peterson also served for 50 years as an usher at Bethlehem Lutheran Church, where he was the church historian.

Peterson’s proclamation was greeted by a standing ovation.

“Thank you very much,” he told those in the City Council Chambers. Many, DeWitte remarked, were members of the St. Charles Heritage Center.

“It’s fun to answer questions for people about things years and years ago around here,” he said. “... I enjoy St. Charles and hope to live very many more years.”

Related:

  • St. Charles Eyes New Fee for Some Residents

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