Kaysville City Council Votes To Create Fiber Utility Department, Postpones Vote On Fee
Sep 19, 2019, 11:46 PM | Updated: Jul 16, 2023, 3:41 pm
KAYSVILLE, Utah – Kaysville City Council members modified their original plan because of public input but ultimately approved the creation of a fiber utility department in a meeting that turned into an hourslong heated debate on Thursday.
Council members also agreed to postpone a vote on a fiber utility fee to a later date.
“Is this right for Kaysville? Does Kaysville really need this?” Jason Sanders asked. He’s part of the Coalition for Responsible Kaysville Fiber, a new group formed in response to a city plan to approve a $26 million bond that would allow the city to create and run its own fiber-optic network.
“It’s a tax,” Sanders said. “The city is selling it as a critical utility or an essential utility but…it’s not electricity. It’s not like water.”
Others agreed with Sanders.
“Let the people speak!” several residents shouted at the end of what was supposed to be a half-hour long public comment period. Kaysville City Council members and Mayor Katie Witt ultimately consented to allow people to comment for an additional half-hour.
“We’re looking at this as something all of us use for our day to day lives. Nearly all of us,” said council member Michelle Barber.
The plan had been in the works for more than a year during which time she said the city held open houses and conducted surveys to gather public input.
“I support the initiative and the work that’s been done,” one man said. Supporters of the plan pointed to rising internet costs, evolving technology and the ever-increasing demand to have a good connection to the internet.
But supporters were clearly the minority among those who spoke at Thursday’s meeting.
“You are assuming you know what is best for all of Kaysville City,” a woman told the mayor and council.
“I am happy with what I’ve got,” said another resident, speaking of her current internet provider.
Others simply said they would choose not to use the service and refuse to pay a fee.
“It’s not a decision that we’d ever make lightly because it’s a huge impact on our city,” Barber said.
Near the end of Thursday’s meeting, city leaders introduced a modified plan that would give people the choice to opt out of the service and not pay a dime. The more people who opt out, the more the utility fee will likely be for those who choose to have the service. But Barber said it will “still be a better value at home and it will retain the principle that people are looking for.”
“We’ve heard you,” Barber said. “We understand that and we want to offer that to our residents. We want to give them a choice.”
Sanders agreed that city leaders have been listening to their concerns and he saw the option to opt out without paying a fee as a big win for opponents. But he and others were still disappointed that the city ultimately approved building a fiber utility department.
“We don’t really consider it a mandatory, essential or critical infrastructure item,” he said.