The Chesapeake & Potomac TelephoneCo. will close its public office at 725 13th St. NW on Wednesday for renovations that will improve the office's efficiency in processing payments, keeping it closed until Aug. 1.

Customers either can send in checks or money orders through the U.S. mail, pay their bills through a bank that accepts utility payments or use a night deposit box located at the public office. Security personnel will be on hand to assist elderly and disabled customers who wish to make payments through the box, said C&P spokesman Mike Houghton. Payments will be picked up every hour and processed at another location in the building during regular business hours. Payments at the night deposit box may be made only by check or money order -- not in cash, Houghton said. Area banks where utility payments can be made are listed in the front of the D.C. white pages directory, he said.

Renovations being made at the office include putting in a faster, more efficient payment system, expanding the number of teller positions, and increasing the number of "greeter" telephones that may be used by customers to reach a customer service representative. "These and other changes are being done to improve service and help reduce the amount of time a customer spends waiting for assistance when paying their bill in person at the public office," Houghton said.

We're doing the renovation because it's really needed, and although some customers may experience a slight inconvenience, we're convinced that the end result will be well worth the effort," Houghton added.

Consumer activist and neighborhood advisory commissioner Mark Plotkin derided the telephone company for providing no alternate site. Many people using the public office pay in cash because they have no checking accounts, he said.

"This is absolutely outrageous, the most cavalier attitude," Plotkin said. "People really use that office, and they are the least fortunate people. It is another way of isolating a market they don't want," he said. "C&P knows the people who use that office are the least politically organized or vocal, and there was no alternative site listed."

"I don't think we are isolating any people, and we apologize for the inconvenience," said C&P's Houghton. "But those people who prefer to pay in cash can continue to do so. . . . These alternatives are designated banks."

C&P employes will be on hand from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. to tell customers who are not aware of the renovation plan how they may pay. A night security guard also will be at the public office after hours.