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Credit cards single issue for quorum

Continued consideration of establishing credit/debit card transactions for the county was nearly the sole item for business at the March 21 Lonoke County Quorum Court meeting.

Lonoke County Judge Doug Erwin and Justices of the Peace Brent Canon, Mike Dolan, Henry Lang, Tim Lemons, Lee Linville, Roger Lynch, Larry Odom, Bill Ryker, Matt Sanders, Darrin Waymack and B.J. Weathers attended the meeting.

Charles Evans and Adam Sims were unable to attend.

Following reports by the treasurer and officials, Weathers told of the extent that the credit card issue has progressed. At the Feb. 21 quorum court meeting, Weathers advanced the idea of the county accepting credit/debit cards and has since been gathering information.

Weathers said he and Linville are still reviewing the various programs offered by service providers. “Some are way off in left field, one is hard to understand, another is pretty self-explanatory … But we have narrowed it down to two [card service providers],” Weathers said.

Generally, fees charged by the processor would be a percentage of each “swipe” on credit cards, and straight fees on debit transactions and e-checks. E-checks are transactions drawing on checking accounts using the routing number of the bank the check is written on, and are charged less than card transactions, Weathers said.

It will be a matter of deciding which service is best for the county. “But the more we dig in state laws… we are finding that there are lot of rules that apply to this. You don’t just throw [a card service] in and start taking transactions,” Weathers said.

Some apparently contradictory information has been found, such as service fees can be charged for paying court fines, but may be only the amount being charged for the service. But an attorney general’s opinion allows up to four percent, Weathers said.

But when using debit cards, a convenience fee may not be charged at all, Weathers said.

This brings into question the service already being used at the collector’s office, where a $4 flat fee is charged. At $100, that would be all right, but at $50 it is 8 percent, Weathers said.

“This is one of the things I want to check into … according to what I have found out, we are breaking the law right now … but, I don’t know. I want to find out,” Weathers said, adding he wanted another 30 days for further study.

“It has been a long, drawn out process, but I want to make sure before we actually put something into play that we are not breaking any laws,” Weathers said.

Linville added that while the figures used by Weathers are correct, the difference is in being an attorney general’s opinion. “This is an opinion. This isn’t from a state statute or federal statute,” he said.

The opinion is that up to four percent may be charged for the transaction… You can’t charge more than it is costing you,” Linville said. There is concern about being certain of the transaction charge, he said.

Lemons asked about lag time between the card being used and the funds being credited to the county.

Linville said it takes 48 hours, though it could be accelerated to 24 hours for a $40 fee. “I think we could wait two days,” he said.

The quorum court voted to table the issue to the April 18 meeting.

After the meeting, Weathers said that smart phone applications for credit/debit transactions were considered, briefly. Issues of phone ownership, and the cost of the service, quickly led to abandoning the option, he said.

Irwin said two other agenda items set for the March 21 meeting, that of time clocks for the county and a request from coroner have been delayed to the April 18 meeting at the request of the action sponsors.

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