Zachary city officials may offer installment plans to residents who are behind on their utility bills amid the health and economic crises caused by the novel coronavirus.

In its first gathering at City Hall since in-person meetings were suspended in March, the council voted Tuesday to direct City Attorney John Hopewell to draft a resolution creating the program. The city already has granted some residents extensions on paying their bills.

Many details need to be worked out — including eligibility for the program, how long it should run and how many installments late payments can be divided into.

Mayor David Amrhein advised council members to think things through carefully as they consider setting up the program.

“Do you create a bigger problem here by spreading it out?” he said, adding that giving people an opportunity to “kick the can down the road” could end up hurting them more than helping.

Councilman Hunter Landry made the motion to request the resolution, which will be voted on at a later meeting. “At the very least, I think that this would probably give some people a little more time to get back on their feet,” he said.

Tuesday's audience was limited to six people. Members of the public could attend if they needed to speak on an agenda item. All others were encouraged to watch the proceedings via Facebook livestream.

“This is the way the council meetings will be run until further notice,” Amrhein said.

In other business, the council:

  • Agreed to let the mayor appoint L.T. Dupré as assistant city attorney. He replaces Ricky McDavid, who resigned from the position earlier this year.
  • Accepted site plans for two businesses: a beauty salon at 4464 New Weis Road and a South Star Urgent Care facility at 5654 Main St. The council also agreed to rezone the Main Street property as commercial general; the existing commercial neighborhood classification would not allow the site to house a medical facility.
  • Approved a final plat for The Reserve, a gated 45-lot subdivision planned for land along Port Hudson-Pride Road.