New Brigham councilman a UTOPIA veteran

Friday , August 01, 2014 - 1:09 PM

By Tim Gurrister

BRIGHAM CITY — The newly appointed member of the city council is a former councilman from the days before UTOPIA was controversial.

Alden Farr, a financial adviser and former city employee, will be sworn in Thursday to fill the vacancy on the five-member council created with the July 2 resignation of Brian Rex.

Farr was chosen from a list of 14 who applied for the opening and were all interviewed by the council Monday night in a marathon session that stretched from 5 p.m. until near midnight.

After the interviews, the four council members each selected their top three candidates among the 14, narrowing the field down to the two with the highest number of votes. They were Farr and former Box Elder County Attorney Jon Bunderson. The position pays $6,357.66 a year, according to the city payroll office, the council seats considered salaried part-time employees.

Farr was a city councilman from 2004-2007 before the fiber-optic network UTOPIA became an issue that now has polarized the council. He was a planner in the city’s power department from 1993-98 before joining Raymond James Financial.

The 2004-7 council was the body that first voted to commit the city to membership in the municipally owned Internet access provider, Farr noted. The high-speed web service was not yet divisive, he said, and the vote was unanimous.

UTOPIA’s history, and future, has since become such a complex, hot-button topic, Farr said he really couldn’t comment without further study of the intricate $300 million bailout proposal for UTOPIA.

“I want to look out for the citizens’ best interests and go forward,” Farr said. “I’m gathering the research on what has become a very complicated issue. It’s going to be an interesting time.”

Rex’s short resignation letter simply listed time constraints from his work as an ATK engineer, plus family and church obligations as his reasons. His term to be filled runs through December 2015.

The council has recently split on the city’s continuing participation in UTOPIA. The network has been plagued by delays for years in providing service while the 11 Utah cities that own it continue to pay millions in UTOPIA bond payments, Brigham to the tune of $435,000 a year, and Layton $2 million.

The council voted 3-2 on June 19, which turned out to be Rex’s last, to buy into a global investor’s $300 million proposal to finish building UTOPIA. The pitch from the Australian financier Macquarie Capital requires an $18-20 monthly utility fee from all citizens, whether they subscribe to UTOPIA or not, but not until 2016 or later when Macquarie would complete the “buildout” of the network. The prospect of the fee was the major cause for five of the 11 UTOPIA towns to reject Macquarie’s plan last month. Perry, Tremonton and Brigham voted to accept Macquarie’s plan.

The Brigham council’s 3-2 vote, made twice, featured Rex, Tom Peterson and Councilman J.D. Bott voting with Macquarie, and Ruth Jensen and Mark Thompson voting against. The votes were the same on the motion to bail on Macquarie and the subsequent motion to accept the second phase of four in Macquarie’s plan. Votes on the next two phases will come this fall.

Contact reporter Tim Gurrister at 801-625-4238, Follow him on Twitter at @tgurrister

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