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Heber City • Rushing to quell a firestorm of angry rate payers, the part-time board of the Heber Light & Power Co. voted unanimously Wednesday to rescind a benefit of $1,687 per month.
Nonetheless, board members got an earful from residents who called their actions "unethical," "self-serving" and "arrogant," among other things.
The board members also were asked to return any of the money they have received and were told they ought to resign.
The six-member board is made up of officials from Wasatch County municipal governments. The utility is locally owned and operated by Wasatch County taxpayers.
The board approved the benefits package in November, but made it retroactive to July 1, 2011.
Resident Robert Wren demanded that the board provide an explanation of how board members' compensation went from $466 per month to over $2,000 per month. The $1,687 increase was part of a health benefit, but board members could elect to take the benefit in cash. They typically meet once a month.
"I have received no answers," Wren said. "And I think that's really inappropriate."
Wren co-hosts a Heber Valley radio show with Paul Royal called "Impact." They spurred a petition drive to get the benefits rescinded. Wren said Wednesday they had collected over 860 signatures.
The board refused to answer any questions about the issue Wednesday. But Heber Mayor Dave Phillips, who chairs the board, said all of the questions from disgruntled rate payers would be answered in a document the board would post with Heber Valley's newspaper, The Wasatch Wave.
Wren asked Phillips if he planned on returning the money.
Phillips responded: "That's a personal question."
Wren went on to castigate the board for not holding a public discussion of the benefits increase before the vote.
It came to light only after board member and Wasatch County Councilman Mike Kohler came out against the increase in an op-ed piece in The Wasatch Wave.
Former board member Alan McDonald told the board it violated its own bylaws when it granted itself the benefits package.
Resident Larry Knight told board members that with the exception of Kohler, they should all resign. Further, he said, they should all resign the respective elected positions in the municipalities they serve.
In an interview, resident Tracy Taylor said the issue won't be resolved until all the questions are answered and the money is returned.
"I'm so disappointed with their arrogance," she said. "You cannot stonewall people like that."
Taking it back
The part-time board members of the Heber Light & Power Co. had voted themselves a monthly $1,687 health benefit, and rescinded the move without answering residents' questions about it.