CENTERVILLE -- City council members approved an interlocal agreement with the Utah Infrastructure Agency at their Tuesday council meeting.
City officials said the agreement allowed them to "get a seat at the table" for proposed infrastructure construction of fiber optic open access telecommunications in Utah cities.
The UIA was created as a separate legal entity to help facilitate UTOPIA's five-year business plan for expanding the fiber optic network within its member cities. The group had asked cities already involved with UTOPIA to decide by Aug. 16 whether or not to join UIA so the board can proceed with a bond issue to finance construction of fiber optic infrastructure in member cities.
The council voted 4-1 to approve the resolution and agreement from UIA, but not without lengthy research and discussion with UIA over several items including the cities financial obligations, a relatively small voting influence with the UIA board, and a section of the plan that requires a sufficient number of future users (residents and businesses) before constructing the fiber optic infrastructure within a community.
Centerville has been involved with UTOPIA since 2004 and to date has spent nearly $250,000, repaying its share of a $180 million debt that UTOPIA cities had agreed to begin paying starting in January.
City council members were reticent to spend more with a UTOPIA-related entity without seeing some kind of return.
"I don't think it will work," said Councilman Ken Averett stating that he understood the obligation with UTOPIA, but wasn't willing to spend any more on an investment that so far, had yielded very little return.
Averett also pointed to the $2,500-$3,000 installation fee that residents would have to pay on top of the monthly bill for service providers to run the fiber optic line to their premises, citing that he didn't believe the average user "cares enough about the product to justify the cost."
UTOPIA CEO Todd Marriott spoke on behalf of UIA at the meeting and acknowledged that the city had spent money without much to show. Although the agreement would mean more investment from Centerville, he was confident that there would be a vastly different outcome.
"The business model is night and day," he said. "And as far as the average consumer is concerned, they will pay the same or less on their net bill."
After a lengthy discussion, most council members agreed that while not happy about UTOPIA's progress thus far, they were satisfied with a new business plan presented by UIA and voted 4-1 to join the agency.
West Valley, Orem, Layton, Midvale and Lindon have already joined the UIA and appointed a member to the UIA board, something Marriott encouraged saying the agency was looking for as much participation from member cities as possible. Being on the smaller end of the spectrum compared to other cities involved, Centerville wouldn't carry much clout in terms of its voting influence at board meetings.
Councilman Paul Cutler was nominated as Centerville's representative and will begin attending meetings with UIA officials and other city representatives.
UIA expects to know just how many cities will approve similar agreements by Aug. 16, and is expected to begin issuing bonds for construction finance.