Dowagiac City Council approves installation of new payment station

DOWAGIAC — A new way for residents to take care of city business is coming to Dowagiac.

Monday evening, the Dowagiac City Council approved the installation of a pneumatic tube system for an exterior, drive-up payment station. The station will be located near the back door of City Hall and will be similar to tube systems used by bank tellers.

“As the city continues to work toward safe accessibility services provided historically in the lobby of City Hall during this time of safe distancing, it is clear that operational modifications need to continue,” City Manager Kevin Anderson wrote in a memo to the city council. “While many customers have transitioned to use of the dropbox and online to service their needs, it is becoming clear that convenient access to city services can be greatly enhanced if a drive-up system similar to a bank with a pneumatic tube and video monitor is installed.”

Anderson said the station would allow residents to have “nearly face-to-face” interactions with city employees through the video and audio system, even if they cannot enter the City Hall building.

“This is a good investment that we are excited about,” he said. “I think it will be a really good addition.”

Though the idea for the pneumatic tube station was initially conceived as a way to allow patrons to conduct city business while social distancing, Anderson said the station would serve residents long after the COVID-19 pandemic is over. It would allow those with difficulty walking, have in the children car, or do not want to be outside while it is raining or snowing to access city services without leaving their vehicle. 

“We wanted to make sure people feel safe at this particular time, but this can help people in the long haul,” Anderson said.

The total cost of the installation, which will be completed by Informa Business Systems Inc., of Flushing, Michigan, will be $16,900. Anderson expects the station to be installed in four to five weeks.

In other business:

• The council approved a Black Lives Matter rally to take place Saturday, June 20. Marchers will meet at Walter Ward Park at 11 a.m. and march to the James E. Snow Building downtown, where speakers will present at noon.

• The council approved the purchase of a replacement truck and plow for the Department of Public Services. The replacement truck cost $30,239. Council also approved the purchase of a snowplow for the truck not to exceed $7,650.

Monday’s meeting was hosted via Zoom video conference due to continued social distancing guidelines in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With much of the state beginning to open, Anderson said he hopes to once again host in-person council meetings by the end of June or beginning of July, once further instruction is passed down by the state government.

Though city council meetings may begin to be hosted in person, Anderson said the city is still working to determine how and when it would reopen city hall to the public. As the building’s lobby is small and narrow, Anderson said it would be challenging to allow many people in while maintaining 6 feet of social distance between patrons.

Though City Hall remains closed to the public, Anderson said residents are still able to conduct business over the phone and online, using the city’s website.

“We have worked very hard to improve our online presence,” Anderson said. “We are able to provide most of our services online.”