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home : latest news : latest news September 14, 2014

3/21/2014 6:01:00 AM
Kingman Council atones for garbage can billing mistake
Woman paid double for service for seven years
DOUG MCMURDO/Miner Sandra Burns listens to the City Council discuss her appeal at Tuesday’s meeting. Burns unknowingly paid for two garbage containers for more than seven years when she used only one.

Sandra Burns listens to the City Council discuss her appeal at Tuesday’s meeting. Burns unknowingly paid for two garbage containers for more than seven years when she used only one.

Doug McMurdo
Miner Staff Reporter

KINGMAN - For nearly eight years, Kingman resident Sandra Burns unwittingly paid for two garbage containers when she only had one.

A chance conversation with a neighbor, presumably about the cost of the city's garbage service, alerted her to the problem. On Jan. 15, Burns advised the city of her issue.

Staff confirmed she had been a customer since July 2006, and that she had been billed all that time for two containers.

She was refunded $712, but that money only went back three years thanks to two regulations, one from the state regarding records retention requirements and provisions in the city's Municipal Utilities Commission bylaws regarding how long utility bills must be kept on file. In both cases, the limit is three years.

Burns, however, appealed to the City Council, arguing she should receive a refund dating back to 2006.

Finance Director Coral Loyd advised the City Council that the city is not permitted to pay back Burns due to the state and local rules.

The Municipal Utilities Commission in a 6-1 vote Feb. 27 denied her appeal, but nonetheless requested the City Council find a way to pay back all she is owed.

City Attorney Carl Cooper told Mayor Janet Watson and Council members that the rules were in place for a reason, and that "people need to be aware of what their bills cost."

He said the rules keep municipalities from having to store a huge volume of documents and it also limits the city's exposure to liability.

Burns told the Council that her bills do not state how many containers are being paid for, a fact Loyd confirmed.

Cooper also told Councilwoman Jen Miles that the city couldn't give Burns free garbage service in the future because that would be considered a gift.

"We can't give services away, yet we're charging for services we didn't perform," said Councilman Richard Anderson.

"I feel I should be reimbursed," said Burns.

Watson and four other members agreed, finding that Burns has lived at the home since July 2006, and that she used one container but paid for two.

Loyd will calculate the amount remaining that Burns is owed once she researches the rates that have been in effect since Burns became a customer.

KRMC (Journal)-46742

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Reader Comments

Posted: Monday, March 24, 2014
Article comment by: Amaryllis Smith

Time for the city to get a new attorney, honestly Cooper, what is Your problem, you cause more problems than you ever solve as far as the city's tax payers' dollars.

Posted: Monday, March 24, 2014
Article comment by: Statute of Limitations

The IRS states that you only have to keep your files three years. But there is NO statute of limitations on tax evasion. One has nothing to do with the other. Ask Al Capone, who died in prison for tax evasion. If I burn my mortgage, do I not still have a mortgage? Paperwork has nothing to do with liability. But if the city attorney knew his stuff he wouldn't be working in Kingman.

Posted: Monday, March 24, 2014
Article comment by: It was her money

It shows those who voted to give her HER money back made the right decision. Cocran and Carver always vote together, and usually not very intellegently,

Posted: Sunday, March 23, 2014
Article comment by: Billing Errors

From what I see here the law states that municipalities do not have to keep records more than three years to reduce paperwork retention. Does the law state anywhere that municipalities are not liable for billing errors? If there is any way at all to prove a billing error the customer must be compensated.

Posted: Friday, March 21, 2014
Article comment by: Vincent Vega

FRANK HARRIS.....don't worry about picking on the City Attorney.....check the City of Kingman web site - jobs section.....LOL

Posted: Friday, March 21, 2014
Article comment by: Sense and More Senselessness

Don' t worry Sandra - the non-refundable amount will be used as partial payment for the Wine and Bluegrass event! Gotta LOVE Kingman.......
I wonder how many other residents are being fleeced by this old corporate scam?

Posted: Friday, March 21, 2014
Article comment by: sounds, garbage make MR.C.

How many more are out there just like this one? Ah the sweet "smell" of garbage in garbage out....

Posted: Friday, March 21, 2014
Article comment by: Frank Harris

No Carl, our knowledgeable city attorney, the city is responsible for correctly billing its customers. I hate to pick on our attorney but why didn't he advise the council on some legal solutions. Good for Jen trying to come up with a reasonable solution. How about naming Ms Burns Honorable Citizen of Kingman with the reward being that amount. And to make it all legal the Honorable Citizen Award would have to be an ongoing award. Or some other way of seeing Ms Burns is fairly treated yet is not in violation of the law. Some city attorney. Some council.

And the argument that the regulations prevent the city from keep huge volumes of documents. Thumb drives - okay.

Now for the kicker - exactly how do we know if we too are paying for more than what we are getting? Note: The city charges $19.78 per month for one container.

Posted: Friday, March 21, 2014
Article comment by: Check your bill

I looked at a friends bill and he was being charged for 2 cans, when brought to the attention of the dept. they corrected the error. These type of mistakes really make you wonder..anyone out there not being charged for a can..doubt it.

Posted: Friday, March 21, 2014
Article comment by: Wait a Second

My neighbors and I share a container. Yet we pay for one each. What's up with that?

Posted: Friday, March 21, 2014
Article comment by: Desert Rat

This is clearly an example of the two-for-one special gone wrong.

Posted: Friday, March 21, 2014
Article comment by: Vincent Vega

Rest assured Mrs. Burns......the money the city owes you (A TAX PAYING RESIDENT) was very well spent........... at Stetson Winery OUTSIDE THE CITY LIMITS THAT PAYS NO CITY TAXES !!!!!

Posted: Friday, March 21, 2014
Article comment by: Toss 'Em Out

I can understand a need for records retention laws and policies, and it sounds here in this article that the City is balking at paying Ms. Burns based on those retention laws --- not on what might actually be proven that she paid. Did she keep her copy of her bills since 2006? Some of us do. Even if she did keep a copy, would the City be able to determine from her copy whether she was being billed for two receptacles? I think it's time for the law to be changed for incidents like this wherein the City makes an error that the average citizen cannot detect and is harmed by it.
ps - When the City changed out my very large receptacle for a much smaller one without notice to me one day, years ago, I didn't see my bill go down. That action was odd (and inconvenient) to me, because they left my neighbor (and some others) with his large one although his yard was half the size of mine, and with less vegetation. When I requested to have my receptacle back, the department head said I would have to pay to get it back. That sure didn't sound like justice to me then either.

Posted: Friday, March 21, 2014
Article comment by: john g

the good old girls and boys say thank you Sandra for your over payment it has help us on the overtime bill for the trash workers !

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