Burlington's attorney told lawmakers Thursday the city is in a difficult situation now that it has failed to pay a lender $386,000 in interest.
"We're hopeful we'll be able to negotiate, and I don't want to suggest anything to the contrary," Ken Schatz said, "but clearly we're at their mercy."
Schatz said there may be investors willing to partner with the city in operating Burlington Telecom, and it plans to put out a request for proposals soon. But the Senate Economic Development Committee asked if there was something the Legislature could do to help BT survive, such as by letting the citizens vote on whether it can use taxpayer money.
"We think taxpayers should have the ability to make a decision," Schatz said. "If general obligation bonds are authorized, it's only if the taxpayers vote to authorize them."
Schatz argued municipalities should be involved in telecommunications. That could offer choice and competitive pricing and can be a tool for economic development. But the lawyer for the state Public Service Department, Geoffrey Commons, said telecommunications is a competitive and high-cost industry with financial risk.
"The department believes the protection of taxpayers in this area is appropriate," Commons said. "In fact, the situation BT finds itself in is really a poster child for the reasons why protection of taxpayers is appropriate."
Commons said Burlington went through $17 million of taxpayer money-- money he says is unlikely to come back.
"One way to provide protection of taxpayers is to give them an opportunity to vote," he said, "and to let city officials know whether they're willing to be on the hook for this money."
Still, Commons said that wouldn't necessarily prevent such debt from accumulating.
"A concern the department does have is municipalities getting in over their heads even with voter approval," he said.
Friday, May 24 2013 11:30 PM EDT2013-05-25 03:30:10 GMT
A hole in the road closed one of the routes into Canada Friday.State Police say Route 5 in Derby Line is closed near Caswell Avenue because of a hole in the pavement just a couple of feet over the lineMore >>
A hole in the road closed one of the routes into Canada Friday.More >>
Friday, May 24 2013 7:17 PM EDT2013-05-24 23:17:06 GMT
It was a storm that left residents with more damage than they could have ever imagined. "The basement has about 13 inches of water," said Bob Genter of Underhill. And preparing for the aftermath of theMore >>
Flash floods left destruction across the region. And the rain is not over. Heavy downpours left some people trapped in their neighborhoods as emergency crews work to try to clear the roads.More >>
Friday, May 24 2013 7:54 PM EDT2013-05-24 23:54:18 GMT
Vermont State Police say the following roads have been closed due to flooding:UNDERHILL: VERMONT ROUTE 15, CILLEYHILL POKER HILL ROAD NORTH UNDERHILL STATION ROAD PAIGE ROAD DAUDLIN ROAD BROWNS TRACE,More >>
Friday, May 24 2013 7:20 PM EDT2013-05-24 23:20:50 GMT
As the cleanup gets underway from Thursday night's flash flooding, the focus shifts now to the broader impacts of rising rivers from around the region. All the rain so far and more to come is running intoMore >>
All the rain is running into larger streams and rivers that are moving rapidly toward flood stage.More >>
Friday, May 24 2013 12:44 PM EDT2013-05-24 16:44:50 GMT
Heavy rains have caused more flooding problems around our region, and the situation could get worse as the rain continues to fall over the holiday weekend. So far, the impact has mainly been seen in roadMore >>
Heavy rains have caused more flooding problems around our region, and the situation could get worse as the rain continues to fall over the holiday weekend.More >>
Friday, May 24 2013 9:51 AM EDT2013-05-24 13:51:55 GMT
Over the river and throught the woods isn't just the way to grandma's house, its the way a lot of people are having to travel just to make it to their front door. Dormant brooks and sleepy streams turnedMore >>
Strong rains Thursday flooded roads in Essex.More >>
Friday, May 24 2013 7:25 PM EDT2013-05-24 23:25:14 GMT
A rainy Vermont City Marathon forecast isn't slowing down runners or organizers. "Well, we're going to make some liquid sunshine out of all of this rain. That's the only choice we've got right now," saidMore >>
The countdown is on to this weekend's Vermont City Marathon and final preps are underway. Those finishing touches are coming in the rain, but organizers say the weather isn't slowing things down.More >>
Friday, May 24 2013 7:35 PM EDT2013-05-24 23:35:15 GMT
The bad weather has forced the postponement of the annual Memorial Day parade in Essex. The parade is held annually on the Saturday morning of the holiday weekend. But after all the rain and flooding damageMore >>
The bad weather has forced the postponement of the annual Memorial Day parade in Essex.More >>