PAYSON — Payson will be part of UTOPIA.

The Payson City Council voted 3-2 to join the Utah Telecommunication Open Infrastructure Agency, a proposed fiber optic system that, if built according to plans, will deliver sophisticated telecommunications to small towns and major metropolitan cities across Utah.

Payson council members Colleen Jacobsen, Brad Daley and Bertis Bills voted to stay with the project and pledge city sales taxes to it. Brent Burdick and Larry Skinner opposed it.

"We need to be visionary," Jacobsen said. "The potential for cash flow at the end is huge."

A string of cities will provide provide backing for the fiber-optic network, which will allow private companies to retail the communication services, including high speed Internet, television and telephone services.

Qwest provides telephone services to Payson and Comcast offers cable television.

But there isn't a company in the area that provides the services UTOPIA promises, said Paul Recanzon, the city's information technology director.

However, Payson must commit a reserve of nearly $260,000 in sales tax revenues for some 20 years just in case the system fails to meet expected revenues.

Burdick said the city would be better off if it took a more conservative approach and used its sales tax revenues to pay down current debts.

The city shouldn't be involved in a project that private enterprise can handle, he said.

"How much business are we missing to not have (the network)?" Bills asked.

The city can decide in the future to pull out of the agency if officials don't like evolving financial scenarios.

City leaders could have opted to stay in without committing any revenues, but that would have put them at the end of the line when the system is built without any say on the financing.

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