Kevin Jones

Kevin Jones handles equipment and medicine as the University Health Services stores clerk. He frequently reminisces about his past while working with equipment.
Photo Credit: Joshua Guerra | Daily Texan Staff

The R&B sounds of Barry White and Marvin Gaye echo from a desk in the medical supply room of the Student Services Building. Doctors file in and out to grab their lab coats. Vendors walk through to drop off new equipment. A Baltimore accent reverberates through the halls of the basement. Kevin Jones, a stores clerk at University Health Services, spends his days in the basement of the Student Services Building. Jones is responsible for organizing the medical equipment that keeps the place running.

“We’re the internal organs of UHS,” Jones said.

Prior to working at UT, Jones attended college in Germany and joined the army. He handled medical supplies and repaired parts for vehicles and weapons. The army stationed him in Texas in 1985. He settled in Austin, got a job at UT and worked as a member of the reserves until retiring from military work in 2005. He’s lived in Austin ever since. 

But Jones loves to travel. And when he can’t — whether he’s replacing batteries in equipment or marking expiration dates on medical products — Jones is always taking mental trips down memory lane. 

On Mondays, he’s in Maryland, touring the nation’s capital, exploring the Smithsonian or fishing with his dad. 

On Tuesdays, he’s in Tennessee, sitting at Memphis’ Blues City Café, eating soul food and listening to B.B. King. 

Then, on Wednesdays, he works his way down to Atlanta. He passes the day walking the streets where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. grew up. 

Thursdays come around, and he’s back in Texas, roaming around the Johnson Space Center in Houston. 

By Fridays, he’s back in Austin, ready to be lazy “like a house cat on the floor.” 

“That’s how I get through my work week,” Jones said. “I enjoy life because if you have eyes to see and ears to hear, you are blessed.” 

A program that could help alleviate monthly bill payment stress between roommates living off-campus is being introduced at campus area apartments.

SimpleBills is a company developed in 2008 by Baylor University students Colin Heller and Kevin Jones. It allows students to pay their utilities more easily by acting as a liaison between utility providers and students and combining all utility payments into one bill that is equally split between roommates. Each roommate in an apartment must agree to sign up for SimpleBills, which receives a service fee during each bill payment.

Sally Polk, communication studies junior and UT representative for SimpleBills, said the program is designed to allow roommates to maintain positive relationships without the stress of negotiating monthly bill payments.

“Collecting from roommates in order to pay bills on time can be stressful,” Polk said. “Usually, one person takes the household lead, pays all of the bills and then collects from the roommates. SimpleBills not only simplifies life by reducing the amount of time and thought that goes into paying bills, but it can help alleviate roommate stress and the loss of friendships.”

Polk said the company saw immediate success within months of its introduction, and only sees the idea becoming even bigger in coming months.

“It was known in Waco as BearBills and within eight months had over 2,000 people sign up,” Polk said. “Kevin and Colin saw the need for a simplified billing system that would alleviate stress among roommates and the loss of friendships.”

Angela Reyes, leasing agent for The Quarters student housing, said leasing agents often have to deal with roommate disputes over bills, and a program like SimpleBills would particularly help with potluck roommate situations.

“When people don’t know each other, that’s the biggest thing,” Reyes said. “We get that issue a lot. A program like this would alleviate a lot of pressure of students having to ask each other what happened with this or that bill.”

International students who don’t have the time or ability to set up utilities would especially benefit from a program like SimpleBills, Reyes said.

“We often get these international students who don’t have cars or can’t get to the electric company or what have you,” Reyes said. “This would make things way easier for them.”

Radio-Television-Film senior Katherine Doocy said she currently splits utilities with her roommate and is often frustrated by the amount of time taken to work out the details.

“Right now the utilities are under my name and the cable is under my roommate’s name,” Doocy said. “It’s kind of confusing because I have to give her a check and she gives me a check right back, when we could just subtract it from each other’s dues. It’s just kind of waste of time.”

Printed on Tuesday, April 10, 2012 as: Payment program could help avoid bill disputes