WATERTOWN — A Watertown man who’s losing his High Street home to back taxes might be able to keep it.
Mayor Joseph M. Butler has instructed city staff to see what the city can do to help Thomas Chiarelly keep his home at 302 High St.
Mr. Chiarelly was unable to pay $4,445.51 in back taxes on the June 28 deadline, even though he offered to pay them in a payment plan.
He’s been urging city officials to change that policy. He was notified that the city is willing to help him.
“How many people do they have come in and want to pay their taxes?” he said. “I want to pay my taxes.”
Mayor Butler suggested earlier this week that the city see whether Mr. Chiarelly could buy back his home.
“I’d be willing to see if he would make an offer and he’d be able to keep his home,” the mayor said.
Mr. Chiarelly has the money now to pay the $4,445 and any additional taxes and interest he owes. He’ll need to send a letter to the city to offer to purchase the house back for the whatever final amount he owes.
City officials also plan to look at changing the policy and allow property owners to pay in installments.
Two days before the deadline, Mr. Chiarelly approached City Comptroller James E. Mills about paying in installments, but the City Charter doesn’t allow for back taxes to be paid in installments.
Mr. Chiarelly also attended a July 2 City Council meeting in which he threatened to sue the city, claiming what they were doing was unconstitutional.
He had two years to pay the back taxes in full, but that deadline came and passed on June 25 and the city ended up with the house. During the past two years, the city sent out reminders every so often about his need to pay the back taxes.
Mr. Mills said he was filing a deed on Wednesday for the city to take over ownership of the property. But Mayor Butler said it was still possible to get the house back through a private sale.
“It looks like it’s going to work out,” Mr. Chiarelly said.
He’s lived in the High Street property for 33 years and didn’t want lose it.
He said he came on hard times after losing his job as a cleaner with the Watertown City School District. He injured his back working construction and then was denied disability.
Now taking early retirement at age 62, he and his wife Linda live on $1,800 a month.
“I’ve always wanted to pay my taxes,” he said, adding that every time he thought he was getting through his financial problems something else happened.
The issue over the city not having a payment plan perplexed him because Jefferson County offers that option, he said.
Besides the High Street home, the city took 11 parcels and four other houses at 506 Binsse St., 603 Boyd St., 632 Factory St. and 512 Jefferson St.
The city’s codes enforcement office will see which, if any of the houses can be inhabitable and then sold at auction, Mr. Mills said.