Council votes against reinvesting in Burlington Telecom

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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) The Burlington City Council voted Tuesday against reinvesting in the former city-owned telecom business now known as Champlain Broadband.

The vote was 8-3 against investing $2.4 million of the $5 million the city had left from selling Burlington Telecom to Schurz Communications last year. Councilors Wright, Bushor and Pine were the three who voted for the measure. Adam Roof, I-Ward 8, recused himself from the vote.

After being forced to unload Burlington Telecom to get out from under $17 million debt, the city had a chance to invest in the now privately owned Champlain Broadband.

Council members had been split over the issue. Those in favor, including former council member Jane Knodell, say the city's investment would continue to grow as the company does.

"By year five, the projected distribution to the city is over $300,000 a year. That, by year five, is 12.5 rate of return," Knodell said last week.

Councilor Max Tracy, P-Ward 2, was among those who were wary of getting involved again.

"I'm not convinced that it's the right decision to reinvest in the new entity, Champlain Broadband, to secure a board seat. I think that we need to be very careful about engaging in speculative investments considering what's gone on here," he said.

Tracy says spending that money on a private company is a decision that should be made by the voters and that he would rather see that windfall on quality of life issues.