published Monday, October 14th, 2013

First Tennessee Bank installs ATMs in Hamilton County Courthouse

The Hamilton County Courthouse.
The Hamilton County Courthouse.
Photo by Jake Daniels /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Constitutional officers who collect fees in the Hamilton County Courthouse say new public ATMs installed in the building won’t drastically change the way they do business. But residents will see a bit more convenience.

Commissioners in September passed a resolution allowing First Tennessee Bank to operate ATMs at the courthouse and the joint city-county court building on Cherry Street, and they were installed last week, according to Gail Roppo, the county’s purchasing director.

The money machines were a great deal for the government.

First Tennessee Bank will pay the county $200 a month per machine to rent the space for the two ATMs, and there’s room in the three-year contract to add more in other county buildings.

Residents who need cash at the courthouse can use the machines for cash. And as long as they are First Tennessee customers, they won’t have to pay extra.

There is a $3 transaction fee for noncustomers.

County Clerk Bill Knowles said the ATMs might be handy, but not likely for his clients. Knowles’ office already accepts credit cards, also for a $3 fee. And payments to his office are typically over daily ATM withdrawal limits, he said.

“When people come in with us, like to title a car, and they owe sales tax, sometimes they owe a couple hundred dollars,” Knowles said. “That goes over the limit on ATMs most of the time.”

When Knowles’ office first started accepting plastic, banks didn’t charge for processing. But turmoil in the banking sector over the last several years changed that, he said.

Most of Knowles’ cash business happens at the branch office on Bonny Oaks.

“We do 60 to 65 percent of our motor vehicle business at our branch office,” Knowles said.

But Clerk & Master Lee Akers said the machines might save taxpayer’s money.

If residents use the ATMs instead of swiping to pay court fees in his office, he won’t have to pay processing fees to banks and credit card companies.

“Why should taxpayers have to subsidize somebody else for wanting to use a credit card?” Akers said. “I hope this is an issue that’s being resolved with the ATMs. We’ll just have to see how it works.”

Contact staff writer Louie Brogdon at lbrogdon@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6481.

about Louie Brogdon...

Louie Brogdon began reporting with the Chattanooga Times Free Press in February 2013. Before he came to the Scenic City, Louie lived on St. Simons Island, Ga. and covered crime, courts, environment and government at the Brunswick News, a 17,000-circulation daily on the Georgia coast. While there, he was awarded for investigative reporting on police discipline and other law enforcement issues by the Georgia Press Association. For the Times Free Press, Louie covers Hamilton County ...

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