One small victory...

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

One small victory...

...but when one is dealing with Southampton Town Hall, ya take'em where ya find'em!

My Southampton Town tax bill last month was bad horrendous enough... a curse upon your legacy forever, Patrick A. Heaney, Jr.... having rocketed upward 224% in just the past year, but the insult last Friday from the Southamp­ton Town Tax Receiver's office was too much!

This morning I sallied forth to 116 Hampton Road with a bone in my teeth and blood in my eye!

Having done some fancy footwork to marshal enough to cover my first half Town tax bill, I put the "check in the mail" and posted it from 11978 around 3:45pm on Thursday, the 10th of January... the final day it could be paid.

(Had I finished up a job an hour earlier, I would have presented the check and the stub at the counter of SCNB and saved myself the 41¢ stamp, but it was after 3:00 pm and I'm never quite sure how "banking hours" and dates of deposit are calculated anymore. The Post Office was, in my assessment, the better, more hassle-free choice!

I dropped it in the lobby's "Out of Town" out-going slot, returned home with that minor but important sense of satisfaction one gets from having met an obligation, and that evening slept the sleep of the just-but-unjustly over-taxed!)

Then came the envelope from "Vincent J. Gaudiello - Receiver of Taxes" last Friday, and my momentary appreciation for the new gal on the job, Theresa Kiernan, for using up the existing inventory of #10 window envelopes instead of throwing them all out and ordering new ones the way another Receiver of Taxes had done 30 years ago, quickly passed as I realized that the enclosure wasn't a receipt for my first half taxes, but a bill for additional funds... apparently penalties and interest be­cause someone there was asserting that my own envelope hadn't been post-marked timely.

I had to dope this out on my own since they weren't very specific about why this was happening, only that they wanted more blood from this stone! In support of their demand for more money, enclosed was a photocopy, pur­portedly of the face of the envelope in which I had sent my payment, showing that it had been franked on the afternoon of January 12th... at the Rio Grande District sub-station of San Antonio, Texas!

As my mail delivery last Friday came after 4:00 pm and Southampton Town Hall was already closed, the air was blue on East Main Street that evening and much of Saturday morning... and again Sunday afternoon and evening when I realized that Monday was an official holiday and that I would have to delay girding my loins and heading East to do battle with the forces of bureaucracy.

And as I gnashed my teeth in frustration over the weekend, I noticed that there was no return address on the copy of the envelope which had been enclosed... I always ink stamp or sticker a return address, but this one bore no such marking, and I began to wonder if that had even been my envelope which had untimely sent from Texas.

Marching into the Tax Receiver's offices late this morning... I especially timed it to avoid the workday traffic choking what we used to call "North Highway" so as to assure that I was reasonably calm of demeanor when I hit Hampton Road... I sought the official whose name was stamped on the yellow return envelope by which I was suppose to send back another check for the penalties and interest, and discovered it to be one Kerry H. Furler, Senior Tax Cashier.

In calm and measured tones I explained the situation from my point of view, and she described her office's position, and explained that the photocopy of the envelope had to have been mine because of the procedure she, Kerry H. Furler, Senior Tax Cashier, undertook on all delinquently post-marked envelopes.

But just at that moment before we reached the seemingly pre-ordained impasse where she dug herself in and I started thinking about how I was going to be able to recreate, from a ground floor office, Richard Widmark's most infamous motion picture moment... in 1947's Kiss of Death he pushes a woman in a wheelchair down a flight of stairs... a dis­cern­able light bulb went off over her head, and she excused herself to consult with someone higher up the chain.

Less than five minutes later she was back with the desired but not confidently anticipated news that I was off the hook for the additional money, and that whatever might have hap­pened, the Southampton Town Receiver of Taxes was not going to penalize me.

I returned Westward with a sense of both accomplishment and relief that it hadn't gotten ugly, and wonderment that I'd run across that all-too-rare lower-to-middle level bureaucratic functionary who displayed some intelligence and flexibility. Thank you, Ms. Furler.

My first stop back in Westhampton Beach was the inner sanctum of 11978 where Post Mistress Jean Fuentes heard my story, looked at the copy of the Texas-franked envelope, actually read the addressee's bar code without benefit of a scanner... I was impressed... and told me she would "look into it," but she didn't know "what could be done."

On the way home I nodded appreciatively in the direction of Ms. Furler, grateful that she had known what could be done, and did it without making me jump through hoops.

But as I said at the beginning of this, ya takes your wins, large or small, wherever ya find'em!


1. Clamqueen said...

Glad to see your back to hitting the keyboard. You've been missed!

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