City Council signs off on Burlington Telecom deal

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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) After months of unexpected twists and turns, the Burlington City Council has approved the contract for the city to sell Burlington Telecom after a vote of 10-2.

"I think this is as close as we’re going to get to it staying what BT is now," said Kurt Wright, R-Burlington City Council.

Indiana-based Schurz Communications was revealed as a finalist to buy Burlington Telecom in September. They were eliminated from contention, then offered a joint bid with ZRF. That bid was chosen in late November.

"There are many people who are feeling unsatisfied, but I do think we sort of have to take the long view and recognize this as the success that it is, and not a failure," said Chip Mason, D-Burlington City Council.

Some councilors were hoping for a unanimous decision, but Ali Dieng and Max Tracy voted no on the contract, a decision some members of the public hoped for.

"I'm very disappointed in this outcome," said Burlington resident David Lansky.

"The vision that was had, that we could still have, is being given away before our very eyes," said meeting attendee Dean Corren.

Paco Defrancis hoped for a unanimous decision as well but was pleased with the outcome.

"I think this is a great sales agreement. I'm really hoping the City Council can move forward with finalizing the sales agreement," said Defrancis.

Key points in the contract included keeping net neutrality, allowing Burlington Telecom employees to keep their jobs, investing money into the city's telecom plan and future programs, as well as freezing the rates for five years.

"I don't think anybody wanted to be here tonight in this position. Nobody wanted to sell Burlington Telecom. I certainly didn't want to sell it, but we don't have a choice," said David Hartnett, I-Burlington City Council.

"I feel really great tonight," City Council President Jane Knodell said. "I think this is just a, it's a win for BT, it's a win for the people of Burlington."

So what's next? Schurz and the city will go to Montpelier, where they anticipate the Public Utility Commission will award the company a certificate of public good. That will allow Schurz to operate Burlington Telecom. Knodell fully expects the state to award the certificate, but the final deal may not be put in place for about six months.

Neither the mayor nor the mayoral candidates attended Wednesday night’s meeting, although Mayor Miro Weinberger did join in by phone.