Is Online Water Bill Pay Mayor Booker’s Greatest Failure?
When Stan Booker first ran a campaign to be Lawton's mayor in 2018, he made bold promises that resonated with a frustrated public. He vowed to bring Lawton into the current century, modernizing Lawton City Hall and allowing the citizens the same technology-focused amenities that cities much smaller have been enjoying for years.
Shortly after taking his office, he delivered on his promise to make paying our utility bills easier and more convenient than ever, digitally.
While he and the city may have caught a little flack for outsourcing this service to a company in Texas, you couldn't deny how fantastic and easy the service was with a minimal 75¢ fee per payment... but it was apparently too reliable and convenient.
Someone Can Always Do It Cheaper
As time went on and the pandemic happened, a ton of terrible and unpopular ideas came through Lawton City Hall. Forced closings of some non-essential outlets, complete freedom for others... remember the whole "Why is the country club open when everything else is closed?" It shined a light on how much influence Fort Sill's top commanders have on our quid-pro-quo city council system, but that's not the topic at hand here...
While rumors circulated that Mayor Booker stepped away for most of the pandemic, handing things over to Mayor Pro Tem & Councilor Jay Burk, the responsibility for these failures still falls at Stan's feet, which is a shame since he's such a kind and respectful guy, but those at the top get all the credit and the blame.
One of the biggest failures to come out of that weird period where nobody knew who was running the city has proven to be the new Lawton utility billing system.
For the last six months, social media and local Lawton Facebook pages have been filled with complaints about this new hybrid in-house billing system. Random bills being emailed out months behind schedule, bills not showing up at all then service being disconnected, even entire accounts disappearing in the servers forcing many to resign up with alternate email accounts and unending password resets.
The whole thing has been a giant failure of execution to the citizens who just want to pay their bills as simply and easily as they did a year ago.
Even worse, when people have troubles and reach out for help, the city representatives that made this decision have failed to train the poor utility department staff to resolve these issues, and they're having to deal with the ire of a frustrated public on a daily basis due to it.
You Either Die The Hero Or Live Long Enough To Become The Villian
Unsurprisingly, due to the ongoing SNAFUs with Lawton's new billing system, citizens are going back to the pre-2019 way of paying their utility bills. Even though Mayor Booker initially successfully brought Lawton's City Hall into the current decade, things are reverting back to the more reliable and time-consuming old-school cash and check payment options.
It's a real shame, especially since cash and check payments likely cost the city more in department spending and wages to process rather that a proper computer program that can do it instantly.
If you continue to have issues with the utility bill pay system, instead of yelling at the poor utility billing staff at city hall, take your complaint straight to the top. Try to be courteous in explaining your frustrations. As I said, Mayor Booker is a very polite and kind person... he doesn't deserve to be yelled at, but he absolutely must be made aware of the problems in his city hall since the responsibility is ultimately his.
In full transparency, I did reach out to Mayor Booker's office for a comment on these issues. The city did offer a response. You can read it here.