The Bainbridge Island City Council pushed the city closer to accepting debit and credit cards at city hall — a move that has been long anticipated by islanders.
The city currently only accepts cash or checks at its counters for items such as licenses or permits, much to the chagrin of citizens.
One such person was Mayor Debbi Lester. Last year, upon discovering she could not pay for her business license with her card, Lester had to hop a ferry to Seattle to have her bank cut a check, and then return in a race against the clock.
“I would certainly pay a fee if I could pay with my card,” Lester said Wednesday.
And fees were at the heart of the council’s decision on card acceptance this week.
Finance Director Ellen Schroer has been working on the issue in recent months, after the council chose to pursue the acceptance of cards as long as any fees would be passed onto the customer and not paid by the city.
On Wednesday, Schroer returned with options for the council to consider: turning to Sterling Bank, the financial institution for the city, to run the cards, or contract with a third party to handle the transactions.
The main difference between the two would be that a third party vendor could charge transaction fees up to 5 percent. The bank’s charges may be lower, but the city would be forced to absorb them.
The fees could range anywhere from $3 to $15 with a third party vendor. Schroer noted they could be higher if the transaction amount is high.
“The rates may be higher (with a third party vendor),” agreed Councilwoman Sarah Blossom. “But it’s a convenience fee.”
The council voted 5-1 in favor of pursuing the third party option.
Schroer will now charged find a vendor for the city.