BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) Burlington Telecom is for sale but the potential buyers are a mystery.
The public utility got itself into financial trouble, borrowing $17 million from taxpayers without permission and then not paying it back. Then, as part of a settlement in a $33 million lawsuit with creditors, the city agreed to sell Burlington Telecom. But to whom?
City officials have heard complaints from the public about efforts to sell Burlington Telecom taking place behind closed doors. Wednesday, they took steps to increase their accountability.
"I think it's a really important. The community has been asking to know more information," said Jim Holway of Burlington.
Holway will get what he and other residents have been asking for-- details about the plans to sell Burlington Telecom.
"It has been difficult to not know anything about the other bidders," Holway said.
As of Wednesday, the Burlington City Council and the mayor's office say they will be more transparent.
"We will open the process up, the public will know who the bidders are, they will. There will be a specific timeline and we will know when and what is going to happen," said Kurt Wright, R-Burlington City Council.
The City Council was bound by nondisclosure agreements from the bidders. That prevented the city from naming them. Now, for the first time, their identities will be revealed. There are four finalists. The City Council wants the process to be transparent, so they are going to take public input to whittle down the four bidders to two.
"This is the end of a very long story of putting Burlington Telecom back on strong feet and knowing who will own it, who will operate it and how will the city continue to benefit," said Jane Knodell, P-Burlington City Council president.
Holway says he is not a customer of Burlington Telecom but hopes to be, especially if the new owner is committed to the Queen City.
"The philosophy of local utility here has been about shaping it specific to us," Holway said.
But in the end, having this process open for the first time has this resident happy
"I think that this is a good step forward," Holway said.
The Burlington City Council says they will announce the identities of those four finalists next week. The buyer should be announced by Oct. 16.