By Brianna Steffensen
Payson City Council reiterated its earlier decision to adopt the Utah Telecommunication Open Infrastructure Agency with a final 3-2 vote Wednesday, July 7.
UTOPIA is a public fiber-optics network that delivers high-speed cable and Internet access to homes and businesses in its member cities.
UTOPIA gave council members a June 25 deadline to decide whether to adopt the agreement. In a June 16 meeting, the council voted against UTOPIA but reversed that decision in a June 23 emergency meeting. However, Councilman Brent Burdick said the June 23 meeting was illegal because he did not receive 24-hour notice.
“In my opinion, it was not an illegal meeting,” City Attorney David Tuckett said. He said the city violated only a portion of the Sunshine Law, which states city councils must give prior written notice about public meetings.
Because Burdick said the meeting was illegal, the Council voted again for the resolution.
Councilman Burtis Bills began with a 20-minute presentation describing the benefits of UTOPIA.
“UTOPIA will attract good, quality businesses to our town,” Bills said.
Councilwoman Colleen Jacobson agreed with Bills.
“Currently we”ve lost businesses for not having this [a fiber-optic network],” she said.
Councilman Brad Daley said he knows of certain companies that have taken their business elsewhere because the business was too big for Payson”s resources to handle.
Jacobson and Daley agreed that UTOPIA will allow many people to work from their homes and strengthen Payson”s economy.
“I urge you to be proactive,” Jacobson told the council.
However, Councilman Larry Skinner opposed funding the fiber-optic network.
“I don”t believe it is right or wise to use taxpayers” dollars to fund something that private industries should be funding,” he said. “I really believe this project has little chance of being successful.”
Skinner said other projects deserve the city”s attention and money before starting a project like UTOPIA.
Burdick, who also opposed UTOPIA, apologized to the council for demanding a repeat of the vote but made it clear that his standpoint had not changed as he voted against the resolution.
“I do not apologize for standing up for the taxpayers,” Burdick said.
Eleven cities, including Orem and Lindon, have pledged payment for the network. Payson is required to pledge $259,000 in municipal tax revenues annually for up to 20 years to guarantee payment for 40 percent of the network”s building costs.
“This is one of the hardest decisions I”ve even come close to making,” Bills said. “It will change the course of Payson.”