CITY HALL — These days you can pay for just about any city service with a credit card, but while it may be convenient, there’s a hidden cost attached.

Processing payments made with plastic is expected to cost City Hall $3.35 million over the next five years, under the terms of a contract with TransFirst Health and Government Services the City Council is expected to approve tonight.

The contract comes after City Hall has greatly increased the number of credit card payments it receives in recent years. Since it began accepting credit car payments at parking structures in 2008, for example, card payments are up 750 percent to 30,000 per month, according to a City Hall report.

The contract for credit card services is part of a $9.6 million spending package the council is expected to approve tonight.

The other big ticket item on the agenda is $3.47 million to examine the feasibility and estimate costs of capping the I-10 freeway between Fourth Street and Ocean Avenue. The proposed project is described in detail in a Daily Press article from Jan. 16, “City Hall to take first step on freeway capping plan.”

While credit card payments to City Hall may be becoming more popular, City Hall still receives 60 percent of utility payments the old fashioned way. The council tonight is scheduled to approve a $132,000 contract with the RT Lawrence Corp. to process payments dropped off in City Hall’s lockboxes.

City Hall is also planning to analyze its Big Blue Bus service with an eye toward making bus lines more efficient for commuters once the future Expo light rail line opens in Santa Monica in 2015. The contract to study the bus service with Transportation Management and Design is for $699,000.

The council is also slated to approve $248,000 to upgrade and maintain software used to track workers’ compensation and liability claims during the next five years. City Hall said the upgrade is needed because of new federal reporting requirements that the old software system wasn’t equipped to deal with.

In order to comply with federal standards for housing programs such as Section 8, the council is being asked to approve $218,000 to screen applicants for eligibility. The three-year contract is with the firm Program Compliance Solutions.

Also included on the agenda is $238,000 for artwork in two city-owned parking structures. Parking Structure 7 on Fourth Street will be getting a sculpture that comprises 300 polished stainless steel spheres by artists Benjamin Ball and Gaston Nogues. Structure 8 on Second Street will be getting a photographic tile mural by Anne Marie Karlsen. The artists were selected last year by the Santa Monica Arts Commission.

The council is expected to award a $270,000 contract to Atkinson-Baker for court reporting, transcriptions and video conferencing services for the next four years.

The council is also expected to approve $117,500 for messenger and legal support services for five years in a proposed contract with Santa Monica Express.

Also on the agenda is a $76,000 contract extension with General Environmental Management for hazardous waste transportation and a $500,000 contract with Alltech Protective Services for security at the Annenberg Community Beach House during the next three and a half years.

Cash coming in

City Hall is slated to receive $9.7 million in grants from the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority for five projects the agency’s board approved in September.

The grants require $6.26 million in matching funds from City Hall, which will come from non-general fund sources and will be allocated in future fiscal year budgets.

The projects that received the grants include a bike network link to the Exposition Light Rail and a pedestrian promenade on Colorado Avenue between Fourth Street and Ocean Avenue. There is also funding to help replace 10 40-foot diesel buses with alternative fuel vehicles.

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