Citizens pay up for gas

On Tuesday, a week after Homer property owners were to have paid the first installment on their Homer Natural Gas Special Assessment bill, city officials were still tallying how many people had paid the assessment in full, had paid the first installment, had received deferments and had failed to pay anything. 

Homer City Manager Katie Koester said she will have a report ready by today to include in the Homer City Council’s Sept. 14 meeting packet.

In an initial analysis, though, Koester said participation has been strong and most people have paid their assessments in full or paid the first annual payment.

“We’ve got a fairly upstanding citizenry, and that’s always been a nice thing,” she said.

Payments were due on or before 5 p.m. Sept. 1. Property owners could pay the entire principal of $3,265.77 or an annual payment of $405.27 per assessment. The annual payment includes 4 percent interest. Some property owners have already applied for and received deferments.

Under a resolution passed June 15, Resolution 15-047(S)(A), the penalty for not meeting that deadline can be stiff. The resolution says that if payment is not received when due, “The entire outstanding principal amount of the assessment shall be in default and shall be immediately due and payable.” 

It also sets a penalty of 10 percent of the principal, or $326.57.

The principal and penalty shall draw interest at the rate of 10.5 percent per year until paid. If the property owner defaults, the city also can file a civil action for a foreclosure of the assessment lien.

Koester said that with payments now due, that opens up the question of if there should be a grace period for people who fail to make payments, an issue that she will discuss with the council. Koester said she will send the council and Mayor Beth Wythe a memorandum to talk about a possible grace period as well as what kind of outreach to do with people who haven’t paid.

“It might be as simple as, let’s contact those people, give them one last chance, or it may be more involved than that,” she said. 

Koester said she doesn’t want to put people into this penalty structure.

“The idea is to get people to pay,” she said.

What if someone missed the payment deadline?

“My advice would be to make that payment as quickly as possible,” Koester said. “Although the council has not authorized a grace period, we could work with the borrower.”

The council meets at 6 p.m. Monday in the Cowles Council Chambers, Homer City Hall.

Michael Armstrong can be reached at michael.armstrong@homernews.com.

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