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Heber City • Dozens of angry Wasatch County residents blasted the part-time board of Heber Light & Power Co. on Wednesday evening for voting themselves a so-called health benefit of $1,687 a month.

The six-member board, comprising officials from Wasatch County municipal governments, approved the benefit package in November but made it retroactive to July 1, 2011. Board members could take cash rather than the health benefit, according to the plan. Before approving the increase, the board members, who meet once a month, received $466 per month.

In June, before voting for the benefits package, the board approved a rate increase to power customers of 4.25 percent.

Speaker after speaker at the board's regularly scheduled meeting Wednesday called into question the ethics and honesty of its members.

"This increase, acquisition of money, flies in the face of what's fair and equitable," said Ken Probst of Charleston. "It's a blatant abuse."

Wasatch County resident David Kennamer told the board their compensation "constitutes something close to public theft."

And LeNell Heywood, of Heber City, said, "It just smells wrong."

The unhappy residents turned rowdy when Midway Mayor Connie Tatton, acting as board chairman, said she would not answer questions or publicly debate the issue. The matter will be remanded back to the company's personnel committee for review, she said.

In a statement released last week, the board said the vote on the benefits came after a "comprehensive review" and determination of "the board's eligibility to receive the company's health benefits plan."

When Tatton announced that board chairman Heber City Mayor David Phillips could not attend Wednesday's meeting, the audience of approximately 65 people groaned and booed.

The only positive note sounded during the meeting came in the form of a standing ovation for County Councilman Mike Kohler, who also sits on the power board. The compensation increase only became public when he penned an op-ed piece criticizing it in Heber City's newspaper, The Wasatch Wave. He did not vote for health benefit.

Bob Wren, who co-hosts a morning radio show called "Impact" on 1340 AM in Heber City, delivered a petition with 380 names asking the board to rescind the increase.

"I call on you to return all the money you've already received." Wren said the sum was well over $10,000 per board member.

Midway resident Mary McClusky was visibly miffed when she addressed the board.

"Today, we're getting no answers," she said. "If you can justify this, then tell us."

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