State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

Harrisburg officials blame extended online payment outage on slow legal team

Written by Katie Meyer, Capitol Bureau Chief | Jul 26, 2018 3:27 PM
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Pennsylvania's capitol city hasn't been able to accept online or phone payments since February. (Photo by AP)

 

(Harrisburg) -- For five months, Harrisburg residents have been unable to pay parking tickets, utility bills, and virtually any other money owed to the city online or over the phone.

Officials now say a slow response from key city offices is to blame for the length of the outage.

The trouble started in February, when online payment host EZPay suddenly went out of business.

According to city Treasurer Dan Miller, there was no notice.

"We tried to contact them and they weren't responding," he said.

Within a few weeks of the shutdown, the city lined up a new contractor--Value Payment Systems LLC. Miller said at that point, complaints were coming in and he considered the issue a "top priority."

"[People] want to pay online for parking tickets," he said. "You're supposed to pay that quickly, and you can't necessarily do that."

But then progress stopped dead.

"I don't want to disparage another department," Miller said. "But what did happen was...it went into our legal department, and it was there for, I think, three months."

Miller doesn't know what took so long, calling the necessary document a "pretty standard contract." He said the delay "blows my mind, frankly."

Calls to the city solicitor's office went unanswered.

Frustrated messages from residents confused about how to pay parking tickets and other bills have continued, Miller said.

The city hasn't formally waived any payment deadlines.  

As of the beginning of this month, contracts with Value Payment Systems are finally signed and Miller said the city hopes to have online and phone payments back up by the end of August.

And he noted, there is a bright side.

EZPay, he said, came with high fees for users to submit payments online. Value Pay LLC is cheaper--the minimum fee for traffic tickets, utility bills, and other payments are only expected to be a dollar apiece.

"We are expecting a much higher volume [of people paying online]," he said.

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