Technology hiccup delays parking payments

Auke Bay harbor official says transactions are now being processed

Posted: Monday, September 21, 2009

People who park their cars at the city harbor in Auke Bay may see a small surprise on their September credit card statements. Parking fees from the entire summer are just now being processed due to a technical hiccup, city officials said.

Klas Stolpe / Juneau Empire
Klas Stolpe / Juneau Empire

In May, harbor officials installed a new automated system at the Auke Bay harbor for paid parking. The new system allows patrons to pay using cash, debit or credit cards, and allows for by-the-hour parking.

When installing the new system, harbor officials thought they had anticipated all potential problems, even going so far as buying the automated payment machine from a Canadian company to ensure it could withstand extreme weather, officials said.

But the new machine wasn't compatible with the city's existing processor of debit and credit transactions. Instead, all debit and credit payments made at the ATM-like machine at Auke Bay just cued up inside the system, waiting to be processed. Only debit and credit card payments for parking at the Auke Bay harbor were affected.

Then the city's contract with its debit and credit processor expired a short while later, and the city searched through a bidding process for a new company to do business with. Meanwhile, transactions at the harbor continued to cue up, unprocessed.

"An unfortunate incident of bad timing is what happened," said Roy McLeod, an administrative officer for the City's Dock and Harbors Department.

Those transactions were stored all summer while city officials worked to establish a new contract with a company to process all its debit and credit transactions, he said.

When the new contract was established earlier this month, a summer's worth of harbor parking fees were processed all at once, Harbor Director John Stone said. Parking-related transactions made during the summer will be grouped together on this month's credit and debit card statements.

"Initially, we didn't think there'd be any delay," Stone said. "But now it's running the way it should be."

Transactions should now only take a couple of days to appear on a patron's account, he said.

Harbor officials said they have received some calls from concerned patrons about the charges but that no errors have been discovered.

"It's regrettable that it took so long to get everything in place," McLeod said.

He said officials didn't make any attempts to notify patrons of the delay.

Other than concern regarding delayed payment processing, Stone said he has received only praise for the new automated system.

"It's simpler and more convenient for patrons and harbor employees," he said.

He said the new system saves employees from manually maintaining the slotted cash box, the way fees for parking were previously collected at the harbor. The new machines print receipts at the time of payment, which patrons display on their dashboards.

Parking rates are $1 per hour per vehicle or $5 per day during summer months.

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