I have been paying my water bill to the City of Gilroy for the past 10 years with my bank’s billpay system, and enjoying the convenience and reliability of both the billpay system and the water we use. However, in January our fair City’s Finance Director, Harjot Sangha, instituted a new system for collecting payments through some third-party. This change was “to bring our customer experience up to modern standards,” according to Mr. Sangha’s Jan. 24 letter. 

Now I can testify that the new system does indeed bring this aspect of the city’s operations up to modern standards. It is inefficient, impersonal and unreliable. Having carefully adjusted my bank’s billpay parameters to conform to the instructions from the City, this was apparently not enough to ensure correct receipt of my payment by the City’s accountants. A penalty was levied and I paid it, considering it the cost of my learning curve. 

I made the trip to City Hall and inquired at the finance office for guidance how to solve the problem. I was told that the only important number to reference on my check was the invoice number, which was different for each billing cycle. I adjusted my billpay parameters accordingly, and paid again on time. This month I received another bill with another unexplained penalty. What’s a body to do?

Apparently “modern standards for my customer experience” means reverting to the primitive payment method of writing a paper check and adding the current invoice number, tearing off the payment stub on the bill and placing them both in an envelope with postage and putting them in the US Mail. I can only guess what my next bill will look like, what it will mean, and for what unknown trespass my next penalty will be. 

My thanks to Mr. Sangha for this expensive, frustrating, infuriating, inefficient journey to an antiquated method of paying my water bill. I wonder how much the City is saving with the new system, or if all the penalties make up for an increase in operating costs. My fellow residents are the ultimate employers of Mr. Sangha. I wonder if they are happy with this thoroughly modern system.

David Lima


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