Stacy and Foxtail residents come to agreement on water bill

Several residents of the Foxtail Woods development came to the Stacy City Council last week asking for a break. They disputed responsibility of a common area city water bill.
When all was said and done, the council approved giving them a four-year repayment schedule to pay their portion of the bill.
The bill resulted when the residents had paid the developer in charge of the past homeowner’s association for the water, however, the developer in turn failed to pay the city and eventually the development and the association went into foreclosure with an outstanding irrigation water meter bill of $16,041.06.
The residents have since taken over the homeowners association from the foreclosing bank.
Spokesperson Larry Lattimore said, “The city had a contract with the developer and how could we control it that the association went bankrupt under (the developer).” The resident’s opinion was that the city should pursue the developer for payment. They aasked why it had taken four years to turn off the water.
“It’s strange it (the meter) was never read,”  Lattimore said. The residents maintained the water should have been shut off or residents should have been notified sooner.
Mayor Mark Utecht said the city just implemented a shut-off policy in the past year.
“This already feels a little confrontational,” Utecht said, adding, “Just tell us what you want.”
He said Stacy has offered to waive fees and penalties but the association refused.
The residents said they want the city to take responsibility for the outstanding water bill, saying they were told by the developer that the city never billed for the meter.
The residents maintain the water at the irrigation meter “is out of our control.”
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There was an association owner who collected money but didn’t pay the bills he was responsible for.
Utecht said the city had compromised on waiving the penalties and late fees.
The residents feel they have already paid for the water. It was their opinion that the prior homeowners association under the developer should be held responsible.
They said it seems some residents were billed for a time they didn’t live on their property.
Utecht explained that whoever owns the property is responsible for the bill. Under state law the water bill travels with a property, not the owner. The property owners who benefit from the service are liable for the service according to state law and the statute allows the city to go back six years. The residents could take the developer to conciliation court, he said.
Resident Brittany Best thought the city had a contract with the developer. She said the residents own the home but not the property as long as they are part of an association. She said she would feel responsible if she had control over turning the water on and off.
Utecht said there is no contract. “Your agent didn’t pay the city.”
The city maintains that account clerk Lynda Schmidt has billed properly from the point service began.
City Clerk Sharon Payne confirmed the waiver of late fees and penalties. The residents have a one-year period to pay.
Best countered that since they hadn’t been billed for four years, the city should allow four years to pay the bill.
One resident has received a bill of $1,800.
Utecht said this is an unusual situation and he is fine with waiving the interest and penalties but not the principal.
Best again said the city should collect from the developer because the residents had paid the developer.
Utecht looked at City Attorney Peter Grundhoefer and said the city will explore legal recourse and if it is determined that those residents indeed own the property, they are responsible for the bill.
Foreclosure doesn’t eliminate a debt, attorney Grundhoefer said, adding in a unique set of circumstances, the council could choose another course of action.
In the discussion Lattimore said the residents bought title insurance.
Grundhoefer verified that an outstanding water bill is a statutory lien against the property.
“I understand how these people got here, I get it, but, the money is a significant amount that is owed to the city,” the mayor said.
He supported a four-year repayment schedule for each property owner.
Councilor Jim Ness also supported the four-year repayment.
Grundhoefer said each individual owner should have to set up their own payment plan. There was consensus that this was acceptable and Utecht made a formal motion with language including “this is a unique circumstance.” The motion passed.
A deadline of Wednesday, Oct. 31 was established for residents to approach city hall to finalize payment arrangement.
Information from this discussion was to be mailed to the homeowners.

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