A recent scolding from a customer has convinced Clerk of Putnam County Circuit Court Marty Watts that the courts need to offer credit card payments as an option for those who do business with the courts.
"I had an 80-some-year-old woman come in and scold me because she couldn't pay her traffic ticket with her debit card," Watts told the Putnam County Commissioners Monday. "Nobody carries cash anymore."
Watts told the commissioners she would like to sign the courts up for the services of Pay.gov, an Internet-based collection portal for government entities that allows agencies to obtain and process credit card and automated clearing house payments (electronic checks).
"We are so far behind the times," Watts said. "We really need to get onboard as far as credit card payments go."
Although not all transactions will be able to be done through Pay.gov, Watts said several -- including traffic tickets and child support payments -- would be.
Watts also pointed out that being able to make payments online would make things easier for out-of-towners who get traffic tickets.
"There is no start-up fee, and we'll get reports," Watts said. "If we make it easier to pay, we have a better chance of collecting funds back into the county sooner. There will also be less risk of shortages because there will be less actual money handled."
Watts said Pay.gov will assume responsibility for any chargebacks. The agreement will be month-to-month. Pay.gov accepts minimum payments of $50, and customers are charged a small percentage fee to use the service.
Watts said over 50 of Indiana's 92 counties offer Pay.gov as a payment option for some transactions.
"Younger people especially don't use cash, and they don't even know how to write a check," she said.
Watts said she had done a great amount of research on Pay.gov, and had discussed it with County Attorney Scott Hoff.
The commissioners agreed to allow Watts to get the sign-up process started. Watts said the Pay.gov service should be available soon.
In other business, County Planner Kim Hyten presented the commissioners with an agreement he drafted that would transfer ownership of the county's new 911 tower, installation of which is set to take place on the Putnam County Courthouse roof today, to the county commissioners should HOP Telecom Inc., which will own the tower, should liquidate its assets.
"The tower is going up, and I thought there ought to be some sort of agreement," Hyten said.
County attorney Scott Hoff said he would take a look at the agreement and meet with each commissioner individually to discuss it. The matter will likely be on the agenda at the next commissioners' meeting, slated for April 20.
Also, Putnam County Community Foundation community development director Eric Wolfe asked the commissioners to consider funding brackets for banners to spruce up the courthouse side of the downtown square in Greencastle.
Winter banners adorned with snowmen were purchased this past winter through the Dick and Sally Sunkel Fund, which is a donor-advised endowment aimed at improving the face of downtown Greencastle. The banners were hung on the side of the square opposite the courthouse.
"(The Sunkels') vision was to bring conformity to downtown," Wolfe explained. "They noticed there was nothing on the courthouse side of the square."
Wolfe said the commissioners were willing to pay for the brackets, winter banners would be ordered "retroactively" for the courthouse side of the square, and more banners would be added to the already placed order for spring-summer banners.
Commission President Gene Beck made the unanimously passed motion to fund the necessary hardware for the additional banners.
"If they're willing to pay for the banners, I think we ought to help," he said.