County: wrong residents credited for backflow charging error

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SARASOTA COUNTY - Residents billed by the county for backflow preventer inspections that were never done were recently promised refunds.  Unfortunately the flowing back of that money has not gone well.

$2.50 is what Sarasota County residents were paying extra each month for backflow device inspections. But many of those inspections were never done.

The county is issuing refunds to more than 10,000 residents, totaling more than half a million dollars.

"They had been charging and they didn't give me the service," said Minnel Giangucco.  She is one of many Sarasota County residents billed for the inspections that were never done. The county agreed to refund those charges, but there was a problem.

"A citizen called and said they have not gotten a credit and they should have. That’s when staff started looking and realized the names were different," said Sarasota County Administrator Randall Reid.

The county sent 3,400 people refunds that were not owed one.

"There had been credits and refunds issued to the wrong group of people who were likely not illegible for those," said Reid.

But, not only did the county refund some of the wrong group, they also found out that due a system glitch the list of customers deserving refunds were incomplete. "There were a number of addresses that were dropped when we did a software transfers a year ago," said Reid.

Reid says for whatever reason their database excluded residents that actually lived in the county, and that data base wasn't matching up with the system used to bill customers for utilities services. It’s a mix-up that has baffled residents and county officials.

"I have asked that we be audited with the clerk, Karen Rushing, and also we're looking at a management reviews of how the system works -- particularly focusing on the technology," said Ried.

In the meantime, people like Giangucco says they are ready for the county to get everything sorted out. "I hope that everything is corrected now and that they will service this."

County officials says the audit can take anywhere from weeks to months.