CENTERVILLE - In the end, they simply couldn't stomach the utility fees.
The Centerville City Council voted 4-1 not to move forward with Milestone Two of the proposed Macquarie-UTOPIA deal. They join Lindon, Payson and Murray in saying no to the utility fee model proposed by Macquarie, though the council did seem interested in further discussions with the Australian company if a new proposal was put forward.
"We're open for other options right now," said Centerville City Council member John Higginson. "We just don't support the fees."
Though some of the council initially argued to move ahead in order to obtain more information, even those members expressed their dislike of the utility fee model. Centerville City Mayor Paul Cutler expressed his dislike outright, and emphasized that Centerville was not among the cities that pushed for the offer.
"It was solicited by other, larger cities on the board," he said. "This was out of our control, and we were forced to react to it."
Tami Fillmore, the lone council member who voted to move ahead with the proposal, seemed concerned that the city would be shutting the door on opportunities if they opted out now.
"We're inextricably tied to these other (UTOPIA) cities," she said, explaining why the city couldn't pursue a partnership on its own. "We need to keep a seat at the table, and make sure we have real options going forward so we can look at all the possible consequences."
Though the citizen's advisory committee made the same decision at last week's meeting, their report was highly skeptical of the utility fee model. They emphasized that they only recommended continuing to give the council more time to look other alternatives.
The council members agreed that other alternatives were a priority, and some suggested that the city take the money that would have been their Milestone Two fee and use it to conduct their own research.
"We're in a position of discovery," said council member Larry Wright. "We need more information."
That lack of information seemed to influence the council member's reluctance to continue with the proposal. Council members discussed plans previously put forth by UTOPIA, and Cutler was asked to clarify earlier comments he'd made about his regret over previously voting yes.
"My regret is the financial decision," he said. "Not enough provisions were made if something went wrong. However, that being said, the decision has been made. We have to decide what to do now."
Even with the "no" vote, that decision still has to be made by the city. Cutler hinted at a potential offer from a company called First Digital that may release details to the public in July, while other council members thought that Macquarie might come back with another offer if enough cities opted out of the utility fee deal.
"My gut feeling is that other proposals will be made," said Wright. "Our goal is to make sure that UTOPIA doesn't go dark."
If none of those proposals come through, however, the John Higginson said that increasing taxes was preferable to the utility fee model.
"I've had residents come to me and say that they'd rather we go to them and say that we need them to help rather than impose a utility fee," he said.
Council member Ken Averett did warn those in attendance that, no matter what happened, UTOPIA was a problem that needed to be solved.
"The overreaching of government has already happened, so we can stop that talk right now," he said. "The problem at hand is that we have a company a half billion dollars in debt that we need to do something about. To do nothing costs money as well."