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March 6, 2013

Breakdown delays tax bill mailings

NEW CASTLE — About 4,000 Lawrence County property tax bills have not yet been mailed out apparently because of a machinery breakdown.

Lawrence County Treasurer Richard Rapone said he learned that late Tuesday afternoon from the company the county had hired to print and mail the tax statements.

This is the second year D&H Marketing Concepts has handled the county’s statements under a contract.

The county is paying D&H about $9,000 for its services, and another $21,000 for postage costs.

Rapone said he was disappointed to learn of a problem when his office received about 160 phone calls from people who have not yet received their tax bills.

He said many of them are owners of multiple properties.

The statements were to have been mailed out by last Friday, which begins the period for people to pay their taxes at a discount.

Rapone said that after receiving some calls Tuesday, he contacted D&H and was told three or four computer files have not yet been processed because of a machinery breakdown.

He was told company employees were hand-stuffing the bills into the envelopes, he said.

The taxpayers must have 60 days to pay their taxes at discount, Rapone said. Thus, he will now have to go to the commissioners to request an extension of the discount and regular-pay periods.

“I’m very disappointed,” he said. “We’re paying for a service that was not rendered professionally.”

He said he was particularly disappointed the company owner did not inform him of the machinery problem or that the bills were going out later than planned.

Jim Harding of Edinburg is one of the residents who complained. He went to the commissioners meeting Tuesday, asking why he had received the tax statement for the property where he lives, but not for three other properties he owns.

Commissioner Dan Vogler told him he should direct his questions to the treasurer’s office.

He said he had gone asked there and was told he should be getting his statement within a couple of weeks.

“The tax bills should have been mailed out the first week in February,” Harding said.

Rapone said D&H was selected to mail the tax bills because it is a local company and he knew it had done tax mailings for some of the local municipalities. The work was not put out for bids because it is considered a professional service, he said.

“I wanted to keep the business local,” he explained, “and they did a good job for us last year.”

An attempt Tuesday afternoon to contact Joe DeGruttola, the owner and spokesman for D&H, was unsuccessful.

(Email: dwachter@ncnewsonline.com)

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