September 20, 2014
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Taxpayers keep their cool
Warwick Beacon photos
HOT STUFF: Taxpayers line up in the collector’s office to make their first quarterly payment that is due July 15. With the air conditioning having failed, fans have been installed.

Taxpayers have been known to get hot.

But the maintenance crews at City Hall are doing everything they can to keep them and the City Hall Annex cool.

Tax bills went into the mail late last month and, as the tradition, the first quarterly payment is due July 15. And with the city’s new system of mailing payments to Boston, so that they are rapidly deposited, there is no grace period for payments, according to City Treasurer and Acting Tax Collector David Olsen.

That message appears to have resounded with taxpayers, for they have been lined up at the collector’s office for the past week. But it’s been a less than comfortable experience for both those paying their taxes and those working in the building. The air conditioning is down and it doesn’t appear it will be fully operational for another week and possibly longer.

The blame is put on a squirrel.

According to interim Chief of Staff and City Planner William DePasquale, about 10 days ago, power to the Annex went down. The failure was traced to a transformer that was shorted out by a squirrel.

Apparently, the interruption triggered the failure of one of two condensers for the building’s air conditioning. It went from bad to worse when the remaining condenser failed.

DePasquale said the city sought to get the units running again, but finding parts was problematic. A reconditioned condenser was tried but it failed as well. He estimated the units to be 30 years old and having outlasted their expected lives.

But this was little consolation to people working or having to do business there. Fans were set up, and a system of ducts was rigged below the ceiling to circulate air. A dehumidifier was installed. It provided a bit of relief, but hardly enough. And there’s a persistent, annoying hum to the environment.

Employees brought in their own fans. Doors between offices were opened.

DePasquale said yesterday that the city is looking to temporarily install window units, which may require the removal of some windows. He said new condensers are on order.

Meanwhile, while uncomfortable, taxpayers are keeping their emotional cool. A survey of several waiting inside the building yesterday found some simply wanting to pay at the counter, rather than mailing their check. One couple wanted to ensure their mailing address was changed, and another believed his motorcycle had been over valued. Informed that the air conditioning was not working, a woman waiting in line volunteered, “Well, at least it’s better than out there.”

DePasquale had some advice for taxpayers planning to pay in person, “Dress accordingly.”

Asked if that meant swimming attire, he answered, “Be prepared … short of wearing bathing suits.”


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