File photo

City of Rio Rancho water users will soon be able to pay their bills and monitor their accounts online.

The Rio Rancho Governing Body members unanimously approved a $290,000 utility-fund budget adjustment for an online water and wastewater billing system at their meeting Wednesday night at City Hall. City Councilor Bob Tyler was absent, which meant Mayor Gregg Hull was allowed to vote.

The money does not affect the general fund, which pays for most city operations, including emergency services.

Utilities Director Jim Chiasson said ratepayers would be able to use the Invoice Cloud system to make payments online or by text message, view 24 months of billing and payment history, sign up for electronic billing, schedule a future payment, receive notices and payment reminders and more.

“We believe this is going to be a very vast improvement,” he said.

Chiasson said the system would make payment collection more efficient, decrease costs of printing and mailing bills and add new functions without software updates.

He said other city departments, such as the Motor Vehicle Department, could also use it if it works out well for the Utilities Department.

Invoice Cloud charges $2.50 per payment.

Now, Chiasson said, customers who pay water bills by credit card over the phone pay a $1.75 convenience fee to Wells Fargo, which also charges the utility department a percentage of the transaction. For each of the 115,000 transactions over the past year, he said, the average cost to the utilities department was 75 cents.

So, customers will continue to pay a $1.75 convenience fee for online payments, but the money will go to Invoice Cloud once the system is installed. The utilities department will continue to pay the extra 75 cents.

The $290,000 budget adjustment accounts for those transaction fees.

“The current system, by either check or by all other payment options, will still be available under the new system,” Chiasson said, adding that there’s no convenience fee for checks or other payment methods that don’t carry such a fee now.

The city Information Technology Department is working to improve the Utility Department phone system, too.

In other business:

• Councilor Marlene Feuer announced that she won’t run for re-election because it’s time for her to retire.

• Police Chief Stewart Steele recognized Lt. Tim Robey and Sgt. Chris Carabajal for recruiting 25 new officers and one police service aide to the department over the last year. The new officers all finished in near the top of their police academy classes.

RRPD normally recruits about 16 officers a year, and Steele said it was understaffed by 14 officers when Robey and Carabajal revamped recruiting efforts.

• Steele recognized Deputy Chief Jason Bowie for organizing security for President Donald Trump’s visit. Bowie said he had a good team at RRPD and other city employees worked well with him.

• Deputy Fire Chief Jimmy DeFillippo recognized Rio Rancho resident and Santa Fe Police Officer Jeremy Rose for saving the life of his neighbor Monterey Herrera after Herrera was injured in a chain-saw accident Aug. 9. Rose applied a tourniquet, and Rio Rancho Fire Rescue crews continued treatment and took Herrera to the hospital.

• Governing body members postponed decisions on changes to land-use zoning in Unit 10 until October.

• Governing body members approved a second and final reading of an ordinance moving animal services from RRPD to the Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department.

• Hull proclaimed October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month National Manufacturing Month, and Oct. 6-12 as Mental Illness Awareness Week in Rio Rancho.

• Hull recognized the Financial Services Department for receiving the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting for the 14th year in a row.