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Hawkesbury Town Hall. Photo: James Morgan

Town of Hawkesbury planning to eliminate payment of taxes and other fees over the counter

The town hall in Hawkesbury is gradually returning to regular business, but some services are unlikely to return to exactly how they were before the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the June 16 Committee of the Whole meeting, Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Daniel Gatien explained to council his plan for having municipal staff return to work.

The most significant change will be that the town will no longer accept payments of taxes, water, and sewer rates, or licence fees or permits over the counter at the town hall.

Gatien said that the measure is designed to better protect citizens and municipal employees from potential COVID-19 exposure.  He said that all payments will be accepted online or through financial institutions (banks and Caisses populaire), or by cheque through the mail or a drop box.

Municipal information technology staff are developing a plan to ensure that online payment services are accessible and functional.

Gatien noted that most utilities, such as electricity, phone, and gas companies only accept customer payments online, at banks, or through the mail.

Councillor Raymond Campbell asked if residents would be able to again pay their taxes and other rates at the counter once the pandemic ends.

Gatien said he is recommending that online, financial institution, and mail or drop box payments continue to be the only methods of payment the town accepts.  He said that the counter often consumes a lot of time for Finance Department Employees because not all people who visit it are there to make payments, but rather to ask questions or discuss other issues.  He explained that dog licence tags could be issued to pet owners by mail.

The CAO noted that the United Counties of Prescott and Russell does not allow payments at the counter for most of its services.  He added that there are possibilities of using a mobile app, which council is also considering adopting for providing other information and communication for residents and visitors.

Under the present plan, the town hall will only be accessible to the public by appointment.  Employees are doing their jobs with a combination of working from home or working at their offices part-time.

Hawkesbury town council will discuss the return to work and service plan at its next regular meeting on Monday, June 29, at 7 p.m.  That meeting will be livestreamed at https://www.hawkesbury.ca/en/town-hall/the-municipal-council/council-minutes

James Morgan

James Morgan is a freelance contributor. He has worked for several print and broadcast media outlets. James loves the history, natural beauty, and people of eastern Ontario and western Quebec.

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