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BT co-op advocates continue to organize, raise money - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

BT co-op advocates continue to organize, raise money

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

City-owned Burlington Telecom owes taxpayers millions and is tied up in a multimillion dollar lawsuit with it's former leaseholder CitiCapital, but that baggage isn't clouding the vision of some 400 residents who hope to buy out the company.

"I really do think that this momentum is starting to gain and the rock really is starting to roll down the hill," said Alan Matson, a BT customer and founding member of "Keep BT Local,"  a local group aiming to raise $10-million and to buy and expand Burlington Telecom. Just this week the group officially became a cooperative, a title they hope will get city officials to take them seriously. "When you have a need to have an extremely loyal customer base, there's no better business model than a cooperative," Matson said.

The group is gaining momentum.  It is set to establish bylaws and elect a board of directors next week.  But not all the pieces are  falling nicely into place. So far it's goals for fundraising have fallen far shorter than expected and though they have 400 members, they had hoped to already have 1,000. "It's a tough one," admitted Matson. "I'm not going to stand here and say we've got it all lined up."

And there's still the matter of the lawsuit.  Until that's resolved, the group can't really do anything.  Still, Matson is optimistic. "Assuming all those kind of come into place, we need to be there and be a company that can make a legitimate offer," Matson said.

Burlington officials have been careful not to comment on future plans for BT until the lawsuit is settled.  But Matson still hopes that if the co-op can raise $5-million from donations and another $5-million in a loan from a bank or an investor, it will be enough to be taken seriously.

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