Online payments for water bills coming in Joliet
BY BOB OKON email@example.com August 21, 2013 5:50PM
Updated: September 23, 2013 2:36PM
Joliet residents eventually will be able to pay water bills online and do other business on the city’s website, thanks to a $3.6 million software upgrade approved this week by the city council.
It will be more than a year before water bills can be paid online, however. But Joliet will catch up with online services already provided by many other municipalities, said Scott Kinsella, the city’s chief information officer.
“Most communities have already made these investments and done them,” Kinsella said. “We’re fairly far behind.”
Joliet clamped down on capital spending when the recession hit and revenues plummeted from casino gambling and new construction. But the city has been spending again on capital projects.
The city council voted 8 to 0 for the contract with Tyler Technologies. It will be the city’s first major upgrade in public administration technology in more than 20 years, Kinsella said.
Even so, some council members said they were at first wary of the project because of the expense involved. But they became convinced as they learned more.
Councilman Larry Hug acknowledged there was “a little sticker shock initially.”
“It’s a big expense,” Hug said. “But it’s an expense we’ve not spent a penny on in 20 years.”
The new software also will allow people to apply and pay for business licenses and building permits online. Parking tickets, too, can be paid by computer.
First, however, the city’s internal systems will have to be upgraded so those payments can be processed. Internal upgrades will take anywhere from a year to 18 months after the work begins sometime in the fall or winter, Kinsella said.
“It’s a complicated animal. You have to do it in stages,” Kinsella said.
The first payment to be put online will be water bills, Kinsella said.
Demand for the service is high, and the need to improve the current system is a priority, he said. The city processes more than 45,000 water bills a month.
As long ago as the 2011 mayoral race, one of the candidates, Kevin Hegarty, pointed to the inability to pay water bills online as a sign of the city’s need to change with the times. In that race, however, the bigger issue was how the city was going to deal with looming deficits.
The city was able to balance the budget that year. And the council heard a midyear budget report this week that revenues are slightly ahead of expenses this year.