Hearings set to approve controversial Burlington Telecom sale

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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) Vermont regulators are set to begin three days of hearings Wednesday on the sale of Burlington Telecom.

Since the Burlington City Council approved the sale of Burlington Telecom to Schurz Communications late last year for $30.8 million, some people are not giving up their fight.

"We are intervening to ask that the $16.9 million be addressed as part of the transfer, so taxpayers get their money back as part of this transition,” said Solveig Overby, who is against the sale of Burlington Telecom and is one of six people pushing back on the sale.

The public utility got itself into financial trouble after the 2009 revelation that it borrowed $17 million from taxpayers without permission and didn't pay it back. Overby says she wants to see the city reimburse the taxpayers.

"The facts are that the Vermont statutes and the Burlington city charter clearly say that taxpayers cannot be on the hook for any of the loss or investment in Burlington Telecom," Overby said.

"The city has been very clear-- no, this is a totally legal and positive transaction for the citizens of Burlington," said Eileen Blackwood, the city attorney for Burlington.

Blackwood would not comment on whether Burlington taxpayers can get their money back, but she says the city is hopeful the sale will move forward.

"The city is not concerned. We believe that we have put forward a good partner and we are very hopeful that the utility commission will hear all of the testimony tomorrow," Blackwood said.

She says the city currently operates Burlington Telecom and believes the transition to Schurz Communications will be good for the city.

But some people in Burlington, like Overby, say they don't see how the sale could be approved the way it's structured.

"The $16.9 million was not accounted for, that's what we need the public utility commission rule on," Overby said.

The Vermont Public Utilities Commission has ruled Overby's group of citizens will have a seat at the table as three days of hearings to approve the sale begin Wednesday in Montpelier.