MARTINEZ -- Contra Costa County's website for property tax payments crashed Tuesday, the last day to avoid late penalties for payments of taxes that were due Nov. 1.

The site went down around 1 p.m. and briefly came up again before crashing again at 2 p.m., said county Treasurer and Tax Collector Russell Watts. It wasn't fixed until 4:45 p.m., 15 minutes before the deadline, so Watts extended the filing deadline until 11:59 p.m.

The crash sent many online payers scrambling to pay their bills by phone, overloading the agency's interactive voice response system and often treating callers to busy signals. "Once the system is back up and running, we will keep it open until a minute before midnight," Watts said. The interactive voice response system, which never went down, will remain open until just before midnight as well, he said.

Watts noted that there is a disclaimer on the online payment page of the county Treasurer-Tax Collector website, at cctax.us, that reads:

"Attention: The Treasurer-Tax Collector's Office does not guarantee uninterrupted availability of its website. The taxpayer is responsible for his/her delinquent fees and penalties resulting from such

unavailability."

Contact Tom Lochner at 510-262-2760 or tlochner@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow him at twitter.com/tomlochner