PENSACOLA — To help streamline its operations, Gulf Power will no longer accept in-person payments at its offices after Dec. 29.

The company’s offices include those in Fort Walton Beach, Niceville, Crestview, Milton and DeFuniak Springs.

As part of the streamlining of its operations, Gulf Power recently laid off some employees in its Fort Walton Beach office and other offices in Northwest Florida.

Gulf Power spokesman Jeff Rogers said Monday said a total of less than 50 employees were laid off.

"Just like any company, we are working on becoming more efficient and streamlined while looking forward to the future and listening to our customers," Rogers said. "Customers have been asking us for more options on how to pay. Part of that listening to them was closing our payment offices, so instead of customers coming to us, we’re going out to them."

He said Gulf Power has partnered with Western Union and CheckFreePay to offer more than 200 authorized payment locations in Northwest Florida. They include Publix, Walgreens, Piggly Wiggly, Winn-Dixie, Dodge’s stores, Regions Bank, Coastal Bank & Trust, Walmart and Kmart. Customers who pay their power bill at one of the payment locations are charged a $1.50 service fee.

At the start of this year, about 15 percent of customers’ payments were made in-person at Gulf Power’s offices, but by October, that rate had fallen to 10 percent, and it continues dropping, Rogers said.

More customers have been paying their bills online or at the payment locations at the various businesses, he said. Customers can text GULFPAY to 40500 to find the nearest payment location.

"No decisions have been made on closing any offices," Rogers said.

Gulf Power serves about half a million people and employs more than 1,300 people in Northwest Florida, according to company information.