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Kaysville ballot question on building fiber network headed to narrow defeat

By Tim Vandenack, Standard-Examiner - | Nov 11, 2020

KAYSVILLE — A ballot proposal to bond up to $22 million in Kaysville to build a fiber network in the city to augment high-speed internet accessibility appears headed to a narrow defeat.

That doesn’t necessarily mean the issue is dead, though.

“I don’t think it’s the end,” said Andre Lortz, a member of the Kaysville City Council and a proponent of the ballot effort, which calls for issuance of up to $22 million in bonds to cover the cost of the network.

Even Josh Sundloff, a foe of the proposal, suspects the issue could come back if the ballot question ends up going down in defeat. “My guess is it’s not done,” he said.

According to the latest tally of results from voting that culminated Nov. 3, votes against bonding for the project numbered 8,712, 50.8% of the total, while the votes for the proposal totaled 8,438, 49.2%. Around 3,000 ballots across Davis County have yet to be counted, according to Brian McKenzie, chief deputy clerk in the Davis County Clerk-Auditor’s Office, meaning the final results will probably vary. But only an unspecified fraction of the uncounted ballots come from Kaysville, and as new totals have been tallied since last week, the margin of defeat, while narrow, has gradually widened.

Proponents of the ballot question — underscoring the increasing importance of web access to everyday life — say internet access is limited in Kaysville. The proposed network would cover the entire city, create a wider range of options for customers and cut internet costs for users, they’ve maintained. Foes, though, have expressed concern that taxpayers would have to cover the cost of the system if it didn’t generate sufficient numbers of users. They’ve also maintained that the technology to be used could become obsolete over the term of bonding, up to 30 years.

Though the votes favoring the question were trailing, Lortz wasn’t quite ready to concede and counseled patience as election officials tally the final ballots. Vote totals are to be canvassed next Tuesday, when they become official. At any rate, both he and Sundloff expressed surprise at how close the vote is.

“I think it’s surprised everybody that it’s as close as it is,” Lortz said.

Sundloff suspects opposition stems from a streak of fiscal conservatism among Kaysville residents. When faced with things like such a bond proposal, they “default to that hesitant nature of going into debt,” he said.

If the measure is defeated, Lortz said possible options for proponents would be putting the question to voters again on a future ballot or working with existing providers to see if they can somehow augment internet service options in Kaysville. Whatever the case, such questions would be the focus of future deliberation, presuming the foes stay in the lead.

The new network, proponents say, would improve high-speed internet access and, by creating new competition for the existing players, result in a dip in prices for consumers. Though the city would own the system, private internet service providers would tap into it to supply customers with service.

Fees that users of the system pay would cover bond costs. But, if needed, the bonding would be backed by sales and franchise taxes coming into Kaysville, a sore point for foes.

The Utah Taxpayers Association had joined the campaign against the measure, sending out mailers to the public and distributing “Vote No on Kaysville Fiber” yard signs. Proponents question whether the group properly disclosed its expenses in connection with the effort, but a taxpayers association rep said the group followed all the pertinent election rules. A rep from the Utah Lieutenant Governor’s Office, which oversees such matters, wasn’t immediately available for comment.


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