With the success of a new program that allows Glendale Water & Power customers to pay their bills at any 7-Eleven, store officials aim to reduce visits to in-house cashiers by 5% — a welcome shift as the cash-strapped department continues to pare back spending.

But at least one Glendale Water & Power Commissioner expressed some reservations about the cost of the program during a utility commission meeting on Monday.

The program, called “Pay Near Me,” is operated by a second party and doesn’t cost Glendale Water & Power a cent, but it does cost customers $2.99 every time they make a payment through the remote system. And it may be low-income customers who are utilizing the service the most, said Commissioner Matthew Hale.

Glendale Water & Power officials carried out a full-fledged marketing campaign to get people to use the 7-Eleven payment system, but Hale asked officials if they could increase their marketing efforts to share with low-income customers to let them know that they can still pay in person at City Hall for free.

Many customers who are paying their bill in person — several of whom are making payments in installments with a $2.99 charge every time — are using the Pay Near Me service at a 7-Eleven that is within walking distance from City Hall, where they can get the same service without a fee.

“Just let them know they can walk across the street,” Hale told officials.

Tami Vallier, the utility’s customer service operations manager, said she will continue to watch the program as it grows and see if there is more outreach her staff should do.

She added that since October, when the program began, 387 payments have been made to Glendale Water & Power from a variety of 7-Eleven stores. Most of the convenience stores are in the city, but customers have also made payments at 7-Eleven stores in Burbank, Canoga Park and elsewhere. The 387 payments came from 290 unique customers, she said.

Although customers can pay online for free, some, mostly seniors, like to pay in person, said Glendale Water & Power General Manager Steve Zurn.

“To date, we’re very pleased with the option,” Vallier said, adding that the utility hasn’t received any negative feedback about the service from customers.

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Follow Brittany Levine on Google+ and on Twitter: @brittanylevine.

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