Lander addressing credit card issues at rural water house; new PIN system likely

Lander city staff are working to address ongoing problems at the municipal rural water house on Buena Vista Drive.

The issue came up during last week’s Lander City Council meeting, when Councilmember Chris Hulme asked about the credit card system at the water house.

“I heard from multiple people it’s been the last two weeks where it’s been really spotty,” he said. “(They’re) not able to input actual cards mechanically.”

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Hulme described “lines of six to eight people” who have had to give up and leave the water house without completing a transaction.

Others whose credit cards are accepted have been buying water for other people in exchange for cash, he said.

City treasurer Charri Lara said staff have been working on “network problems” at the water house, but she hadn’t heard about the recent credit card problems.

“I thought we had most of those problems fixed,” she said.

She asked members of the public to notify the city when there are issues at the water house so staff can determine “whether it’s a network issue with the internet service provider, (or) if it’s the software itself.”

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“We’re really trying to pinpoint what causes it,” she said. “Is it downtime on the credit card processing? Because we’ve had that. … The credit card processing company itself has downtime.”

Sunday outage

After looking into the issue last week, Lara said staff “thought we had it figured out.”

But then, “the darn thing didn’t work this weekend,” Lara said on Monday.

The credit card machine was completely shut down between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. Sunday, Lara said.

Temperatures were high at the time, and the machine was “really hot,” she said, so staff will try putting a fan in the building to keep things cool.

But in the near future, she said the city plans to transition to a new payment system at the water house that will allow users to access the service using a personal identification number instead of a credit card.

The PIN number would track each person’s water usage, with the accumulated bill available to pay later online.

“Then we wouldn’t have to be worried about the connectivity or the credit card processing,” Lara said. “If you just had a PIN number … you wouldn’t have an issue.”

‘A lot of usage’

The city would prefer not to go back to the old cash-pay system at the water house because of auditing processes, Lara said.

“Dealing with the cash we were setting ourselves up for more a liability,” she explained.

Plus, she said, the credit card system allows the city to track usage at the water house – which records up to 3,000 transactions each month.

“There’s a lot of usage up there,” Lara said. “If you live in the county and your water’s not good, they use it, and that’s their drinking water.”

‘People got wet’

One resident who approached the council last week about the water house problem mentioned another malfunction he experienced, this one involving the timer on the water machine itself.

He said he tried three different credit cards at the water house last week, and when one finally worked, the timer on the machine malfunctioned, so he ended up paying for more water than he actually got.

Lara said the timer issue occurred after staff updated the water rates in the municipal system.

For some reason, she said the update also “changed the delay time” on the water machine.

 “A lot of people got wet,” she said. “I really apologize, because I didn’t know that happened.”

The issue has since been addressed, Lara added.

For more information contact the City of Lander at 332-2870.

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