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Audit: Problems still plague money-losing UTOPIA network

State examiners say network still losing millions; agency says new plan in place to move forward.



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Daw had spoken to Orem mayor James Evans on Wednesday about the report but acknowledged that as a legislator there isn’t much he can do right now.

"I would like to see a lot more oversight," he said. "They are clearly wasting a bunch of taxpayer money and we need to get that under control."

At a glance

UTOPIA cities and what they’ll pay in 2013

The 11 Utah municipalities that have pledged a portion of their sales tax revenue to back UTOPIA’s bonds are expected to pay nearly $13 million next year to help keep the fiber-optic system afloat.

City2013 Pledge

Midvale $778,700

Brigham City $430,039

Centerville $427,697

Layton $2,146,598

Lindon $395,126

Murray $1,580,908

Orem $2,801,924

Payson $259,920

Perry $105,494

Tremonton $324,459

West Valley City $3,593,091

Total $12,844,956

Source: UTOPIA, Office of Legislative Auditor General

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Although Marriott asserts that plans and procedures are in place that will allow UTOPIA to fulfill is promises, state auditors point out that such assurances have been made before.

"Our concern is that UTOPIA has created ambitious plans in the past but its performance has consistently fallen short. Each time, outside consultants have been asked to examine the agency’s new business plan, and each time the consultants have certified that the plan is achievable and financially sound," the report said.

It added that because of poor execution by UTOPIA, its business partners, or both, performance has fallen short of expectations.

Despite the criticisms, UTOPIA chairman Kane Loader, who also is Midvale’s city manager, contends that positive changes have been made and the agency is turning things around.

Since 2007, the project’s original contractor has been let go, and the management team has changed. The network has launched competitive pricing for customers, and records show that the average revenue per customer is meeting projections. Loader and Marriot expect that by 2015 UTOPIA will begin to break even.

"All of the things pointed out in the report have already been acknowledged by UTOPIA and acknowledged for several years by the cities," Loader said. "That’s the only thing brought out in the report. But it doesn’t talk about the things we are doing to make this a success. I think we’re on the right track."

steve@sltrib.com


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vince@sltrib.com



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