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City To Publicize Names Of Potential Burlington Telecom Buyers

Keep BT Local is a co-op and one of three potential bidders in the sale of Burlington Telecom.
Liam Elder-Connors
Keep BT Local is a co-op and one of four potential bidders in the sale of Burlington Telecom. The city plans to release the names of the other three bidders on Wednesday.

The four potential buyers of Burlington Telecom will be revealed next week, according to a statement from Burlington City Council president Jane Knodell.

So far, the process of selecting a buyer for Burlington Telecom has taken place mostly in executive session with a few public updates this summer.

According to minutes from a City Council meeting on July 31, Mayor Miro Weinberger said the city initially received eight letters of intent to buy Burlington Telecom. None of them were from large telecom giants, including Comcast.

Non-disclosure agreements were signed by the city so bidders could include proprietary information in their letters of intent, said Weinberger, according to the minutes from the July 31 meeting.

In a timeline from the city, the deadline for final letters of intent from the four remaining bidders are due on Monday. The City Council will review them in executive session before publicly releasing the names of the bidders and their letters of intent on Wednesday.

At that point, there will be a public comment period until October 2, which is when the City Council plans to vote on which final two bids to consider. The city hopes to vote on a final buyer for Burlington Telecom on October 16.

According to minutes from a city council meeting on August 7, David Provost, chair of the Burlington  Telecom Advisory Board, said two of the current proposals are cash offers and one is from a private equity investor with “valuable local relationships.”

The fourth bidder, and the only one that is public, is Keep BT Local, a group that hopes to run the company as a co-op. However, Seven Days reportsthat recent comments from the Burlington Telecom Advisory Board signal that Keep BT Local might not make it to the final round for consideration.

The sale of Burlington Telecom would mark the beginning of a new chapter for the local utility company that’s had a rocky past. In 2009, the public learned that the city quietly took $16.9 million dollars from its general fund to support Burlington Telecom — and in 2011, CitiBank sued Burlington for $33.5 million after the utility couldn’t make payments under its lease agreement.

Burlington reached a $10.5 million settlement with CitiBank in 2014. The settlement set a timeline for the city to sell Burlington Telecom. Under that timeline, the quicker the city makes the sale, the more money it can recoup.

Burlington is hoping to have a buyer in place before January 2018, the first deadline in the timeline set by the settlement.

Liam is Vermont Public’s public safety reporter, focusing on law enforcement, courts and the prison system.
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