Rural/Metro begins Q.C. refund process - East Valley Tribune: News

Rural/Metro begins Q.C. refund process

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Posted: Tuesday, January 26, 2010 4:33 pm | Updated: 3:51 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

The wait is over for Queen Creek residents who overpaid for Rural/Metro fire subscription services and expected refunds when the town started its own fire department.

Sanders announces Rural/Metro refund deal

The wait is over for Queen Creek residents who overpaid for Rural/Metro fire subscription services and expected refunds when the town started its own fire department.

Sanders announces Rural/Metro refund deal

Residents who had time left on contracts that were no longer needed when the Queen Creek Fire Department opened in January 2008 will get a share of more than $87,000. Town Manager John Kross hopes letters will go out to residents owed that money in the next 30 days.

Under an agreement that Rural/Metro Corp. and the town are still finalizing, the money will go into an escrow account and distributed by a third party, Kross said.

The town and company are still trying to determine exactly how many customers are entitled to refunds, Kross said.

Mayor Art Sanders, who announced the agreement in his annual state of the town address last week, said he was glad a resolution had been reached.

"It's like now I can rest," Sanders said. "It's just been something that has been nagging at me since we started our own fire department."

Queen Creek residents had individually contracted with Rural/Metro for fire service for many years before the town announced it would start a municipal fire department in October 2007.

Before the town's fire department opened, Rural/Metro representatives said in interviews and told Queen Creek officials that residents subscribing to their service would get prorated refunds when Queen Creek took over.

But once the department began operating, the company changed its stance and said it was under "no obligation to provide refunds to the customers in question," according to Tribune articles written at the time.

That changed again when new leadership took over the company about a year ago, Kross said.

"We're obviously very pleased (Regional President Bryan) Gibson was able to assist in this particular matter relatively quickly since he came on board," Kross said.

Rural/Metro spokesman Josh Weiss said in a prepared statement that the company looked forward to a positive relationship with the town going forward.

"As a result of the changeover, some citizens within the town alleged to have suffered financial losses and asked their town representatives to work with Rural/Metro to resolve the issue," Weiss said. "Rather than dispute the validity of the claims, Rural/Metro has agreed to settle this matter quickly and amicably."

Kross said there were about 6,500 homes in Queen Creek when the town's fire department opened and about 36 to 38 percent of homeowners subscribed to fire service at that time.

That would be about 2,400 households. However, not all accounts are owed money, since subscriptions started at different times throughout the year and some would have expired before January 2008, Kross said.

Kross had also estimated residents were owed closer to $238,000 in refunds in 2008. However, he said a follow-up analysis from Rural/Metro showed the figure was actually around $87,000, which Queen Creek agrees is accurate.

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