Saturday, November 07, 2009

City should be more careful in doling out “citations”

In Friday’s mail I received a yellow invoice from the city for a sanitation violation at my rental property. The infraction: Recycling items sitting outside of the recycling cart. The charge was $25 and there was a $10 administrative fee attached to it making the total charge $35.00.

Curious about the infraction, I made a call to City Hall. The city staff person (Vicki) was very nice and explained that a blue bag of recyclable items had been placed outside of the blue bin while on the curb waiting for pick-up. She offered to send me a picture, which she did by email.

Imagine my surprise when I looked at the photo and saw a picture, not of my property, but the house next door! I called her back and explained this was not my property and she said the guys (I assume those on the truck) wrote down my house number. The problem with this is there was some carelessness on the part of “the guys” because, as could clearly be seen in the photo, the house number is straight ahead of the blue cart and other trash cans. All they had to do was look up and, voila, there is the house number for that property. And there was no accidental transposing of any numbers, as one of my friends suggested to me, because the numbers aren’t that similar. But, all’s well that ends well. I was told to disregard the bill and the city is going to send me written confirmation that the bill was sent in error and to disregard it. I also assume the correct property owner will be billed for his or her tenants’ recycling snafu. But this incident moves me to offer the following suggestions.

(1) I realize everyone is human and mistakes happen. I also don’t think the city was being “sinister” in any way by sending out a notice and corresponding bill - though a warning notice at this still very early stage of the new recycling process might be more taxpayer-friendly. They were also very polite and helpful in getting the problem quickly corrected. But I would implore the city staff or whoever is writing down addresses of those properties not in compliance to exercise better care so as to not mistakenly charge another property owner in the future;

(2) When sending out violation notices and bills for same, the city should automatically include a photo with the bill. Otherwise someone might pay for something that should have been someone else’s responsibility; and,

(3) If the city doesn’t automatically send out a photo, I would highly recommend that anyone receiving a bill from the city for some kind of infraction or ordinance violation, call the department who sent out the notice and ask them to supply you with a photo. Otherwise you, too, may end up paying for someone else’s mistake.

Finally, to Vicki in the sanitation department, I thanked you on the phone, but want to publicly thank you again for getting this handled so quickly.


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