A room full of angry West Bountiful residents crammed into the city council room Tuesday night, some threatening to secede from the city and others threatening to impeach the council members.
The residents wanted the city council to rescind the decision it made two weeks ago to implement a franchise tax - the city's first tax increase in more than 10 years. Despite a rally by Mayor Jerry Thompson to rescind the July 5th decision, and despite the angry complaints of those present, the council again voted 3-2 to impose the tax on residents' utilities."We feel like we were totally ignored," said former West Bountiful mayor Arch Widdison, who helped spearhead the gathering of residents at the meeting. He said he planned to look into the legal implications that may force the council to change its mind. But he was not optimistic.
"I'm not sure there's anything we can do now," he said.
"What kind of representative council do we have?" yelled out one resident after the vote.
After the meeting, several citizens were discussing legal actions against the councilmen and impeachment. "They just won't listen to us," said one resident.
During the meeting, resident Don Curtis warned the council that a citizen's group consisting of residents living south of Fourth North was gathering funds to hire an attorney so they can secede from West Bountiful into Woods Cross.
"We have a number of elderly people living on fixed incomes, and this franchise tax hits people who can least afford it just as it hits everyone else," he said. "Woods Cross would welcome us!"
Curtis told the Deseret News he and others are serious about seceding and are investigating legal options.
"That's their decision. I think they'll live to regret it," said councilman Lynn Kenison, who proposed the franchise tax.
"You put a franchise tax in this city and any commercial development ceases to exist," said another resident, Craig Hammond. "I wouldn't bring my business here."
Other residents expressed concern that Phillips Petroleum Co. may move its meters to Woods Cross to prevent it from paying any franchise tax.
"Will we have to pay even more taxes to make up for that?" asked one resident.
"You're for this hook, line and sinker and you're trying to pull us all in, too," said another resident to Kenison.
"We have cut and we have cut until there's no more we can cut," replied Kenison. "We're not proposing increased services. We're proposing ensuring that there are specific funds to cover our needs."
Several residents told the council they should get rid of the franchise tax because it's obvious by the meeting that the entire city is against it. Others, however, felt the representation was inaccurate.
"I got a different story when I went out and talked to the people," said councilman Claude Vaughn, who voted for the tax along with Kenison and Bruce Talbot. He said he went door-to-door to about 65 houses, and while no one liked the idea of a franchise tax, most understood it was necessary.
"I think the meeting tonight was very loaded," he said.
"Frankly, if the people were that upset, they would have been over there by the hundreds," Kenison told the Deseret News. Other issues have brought out much larger crowds to council meetings in the past, he said.
Both Kenison and Vaughn said it was very apparent the mayor was playing on the emotions of the crowd to try and persuade the council to rescind its decision.
"He's very upset that we won't agree with him and his projections," Kenison said.
Thompson said although he thinks the council has made a "dumb decision," he will set up the budget with the franchise tax and will no longer fight the decision.
"My duties are to follow the city council even though I'm strongly opposed to this," he said.