No refund for trash customer

January 8, 2019

KANKAKEE — Kankakee resident Rebecca Winquest only needs trash service for one house. And from now on, that’s all she will pay for.

That may seem normal for most people, but Winquest said she has spent years trying to persuade the city to let her only pay for the service she needs. Instead, she has paid for two houses because the city deemed her home a duplex.

Her last rental permit expired in 2012, and she hasn’t used her house as a duplex since some time before that, she said.

When she got nowhere with the city, Winquest enlisted the aid of Ald. Tyler Tall Sr., D-5. He mentioned her situation at least once during City Council meetings and then got a meeting with Mayor Chasity Wells-Armstrong and other officials about Winquest’s situation.

The mayor told the Daily Journal in December she was having the city look into the issue. The city assigned the task to consultant Mike Hoffman.

In a letter to Winquest dated Dec. 19, Hoffman said property in the 100 block of North Seventh Avenue was zoned single-family residential, but her house was a duplex, a non-conforming use because it was built before zoning regulations.

In his letter, Hoffman told Winquest that her property was now considered a single-family home and that she would be billed for trash service for one home “going forward.”

Winquest was happy the city was changing course going forward, but was frustrated she would get no compensation for services she was billed for but did not receive for years.

Winquest said she would work to get her money back.

“I’m not going to let them get away with it. If I owed the city money, they would ride me until I paid it. So why can’t I get paid back?” he said.

Tall said Winquest can appeal the city’s decision to the City Council’s environmental services utility committee. He said he was unaware the city decided Winquest’s case until she informed him.

“This isn’t a just decision if there is no restitution,” he said. “We understand there is a mistake. Everyone gets restitution when something is done wrong.”

Wells-Armstrong didn’t return a message for comment.

Winquest pays $67 for garbage service every month. That pays for two trash and two recycling bins, although she only gets one of each. Because the city declined to change her bills, she paid an extra $33.50 monthly for service she said was unnecessary.

Her Social Security amounts to $768 per month, which totals $9,200 per year, according to Social Security documents. The unnecessary trash service payments amount to $402 annually, about 4.3 percent of her income.

She said after paying all her major bills each month, she has about $70 left for other spending.

Previously, the city required Winquest to make changes to utilities to ensure the home cannot be used as a duplex — a process the city calls “deconverting.”

Doing the utility work, Winquest said, would have cost thousands of dollars, money she doesn’t have.

The city has a contract with Phoenix-based Republic Services to handle trash service in town. Aqua Illinois, which provides the city’s water service, takes care of billing for trash, water and sewer service. But it’s the city that sets the parameters for how residents are billed for garbage pickup.

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