Florida town pays for turnpike interchange with Visa card

| Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Think your Visa bill is outrageous? Imagine getting a monthly statement for $24 million.

That’s what officials in Port St. Lucie, FL, are paying for a turnpike interchange and bridge. While the amount isn’t unusual for such a project, the difference is that the town is paying for it with plastic.

Cheryl Shanaberger, deputy budget director for the town, told “Land Line Now” that, while the cards they are using do bear the Visa logo, they are not exactly the same as traditional credit cards.

“It’s really not a credit card system,” she said. “It’s really a government card – a procurement card that’s been around since 1980.”

Shanaberger said the cards are part of a program created by the federal government to help speed the payment process to contractors. The city can designate the cards only for use with certain items and with certain vendors. And there is no interest charged on the cards. 

Shanaberger said using the cards helps the city get projects done faster and cheaper than they would through standard payment procedures.

“Because of the procedures and processes that we have to go through, sometimes it can be 60 days before a contractor gets paid,” she said. “Because of that, when you have a big project like you have with road building, the contractors that are bidding on that factor in a cost that the citizens are going to pay because of the delay on getting their money.”

The cards help the contractors out as well, Shanaberger added.

“By using the card, the contractors actually get their money and can operate off that money before the job is done,” she said. “So by using this process we get a lower bid price.”

The Palm Beach Post reported that the turnpike interchange will be built in phases, meaning that the city wouldn’t rack up a single, $24 million charge on one card. Rather, the payments will be doled out in smaller sums, for different items and different vendors as needed.

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