Gulf Power no longer accepts payments at their offices in Northwest Florida. I have never heard of a utility company refusing to accept payments at their business offices in any state in which I've lived.

[The company] can spin this decision, but the bottom line is that they are hurting the elderly and the poor. Per their chat representative, less than 10 percent of their customers paid their bills in the office.

They offer a variety of ways to pay one's bill, most of which cost money.

Those who mail their payment need to make sure it will arrive on time to be posted to their account so it isn't late. I'd recommend seven to 10 days. Gulf Power states they post all payments the day they are received.

Or you can call and give them all your checking information, which they will keep on file; or you can have "auto pay," which allows monthly access into your checking account to pay the bill.

[The company] had breaches at several of their kiosks, yet one is supposed to trust them with their checking account?

Gulf Power Communications Manager Jeff Rogers said, "So instead of people coming to us, having to make a special trip to Gulf Power, we're coming to them. They'll be able to pay at Winn-Dixie, Walmart, Walgreen's, Publix, through Western Union and through CheckFree Pay." (Source: http://weartv.com/news/local/gulf-power-closes-payment-kiosks)

What Mr. Rogers failed to say in his statement is that this "convenience" will cost an extra $18 per year, which might be the difference in a senior's prescription or not.

If one would like to use a debit or credit card, Gulf Power has contracted with a third party that charges a $2.25 service fee. These payment methods hurt people on fixed incomes or those [who] live paycheck to paycheck. If one pays this fee every month, it would cost $28 per year, the cost of several gallons of milk.

For those who pay through their banks, the bank sends an electronic transfer.

All others must either trust Gulf Power with total access to their checking account, send their payments seven days before they are due, or pay a monthly fee.

People like my niece — who is divorced with four children, and lives paycheck to paycheck — don't have extra money. They are barely scraping by.

Shame on Gulf Power for adding extra charges to those most vulnerable, the poor and the elderly. Why make it so difficult to pay one's power bill? There must be a better solution.

Janice Lynn Crose, a former accountant, lives in Crestview with her husband, Jim; her two rescue collies, Shane and Jasmine; and two cats, Kathryn and Prince Valiant.