December 11, 2009
Steve Oberbeck

Ignoring the pleas of dozens of residents Thursday who asked to be let out of their contracts with the Utopia system, the Brigham City Council approved the issuance of a $3.7 million bond to fund the build-out of the fiber-optic system in the city.

The bond will be issued through a special assessment area set up by the city for Utopia’s benefit. The revenue to pay the bonds will be generated by the approximately 1,600 city residents who agreed to pay $6,000 each over the next 20 years, or approximately $22 a month, to hook up their homes so they could access the network.

“We are doing this for all of Brigham City,” Mayor Lou Ann Christiansen said.

Still, about 70 city residents presented the City Council with a petition asking that they be let out of the contracts they signed because they were never told that in signing they were agreeing to place liens on their homes.

“I feel like an idiot that I signed the contract without reading it,” said longtime Brigham City resident Jack R. Johnson. “I not only didn’t read the contract but I never got a copy of it. The salesman said I would get that when I got my payment book.”

Councilwoman Ruth Jensen asked the council to hold off on approving the bond until the city could conduct a public hearing on the issue.

She was the lone vote against issuing the bond.

Utopia is a consortium of 11 Utah cities that have pledged millions to back bonds for the development of a fiber-optic network in their communities.

Utopia Chief Executive Todd Marriott said the network hopes to use similar special assessment areas in all the member cities to fund its continued development.

Councilman Reese Jensen said Brigham City has passed the point of no return with Utopia. “We need to try to make lemonade out of lemons,” he said.

Brigham City has pledged about $17 million in sales tax revenue over the next 30 years to back bonds issued earlier by Utopia. Although that sales tax pledge has yet to be called, Utopia has notified the city that it soon will do so.