Schurz Communications Gets State OK to Buy Burlington Telecom | Off Message

Schurz Communications Gets State OK to Buy Burlington Telecom


A state regulatory board has green-lighted the sale of Burlington Telecom to Schurz Communications.

The Vermont Public Utility Commission issued its decision on Tuesday afternoon, granting a certificate of public good to the Indiana-based telecommunications company, which operates locally under the business name Champlain Broadband.

Schurz "has the technical expertise, financial resources, and management experience to assume ownership of the Burlington Telecom assets and to operate the telecommunications and cable television systems," the commission wrote in its 51-page decision.

Representatives from Schurz did not immediately return requests for comment.

The commission's approval could mark the end of a decade-long saga around the fate of Burlington Telecom that began in 2009, when then-mayor Bob Kiss diverted $16.9 million in taxpayer dollars to keep the struggling telecom afloat.

Blue Water, a holding company owned by Lake Champlain ferry mogul Trey Pecor, bought BT in 2014. While the city continued to manage the company, the sale agreement required officials to find a permanent owner to take over the enterprise.

In November 2017, the Burlington City Council voted to sell BT to Schurz after a contentious, months-long sales process. Schurz ultimately agreed to pay Blue Water $30.8 million for the telecom. The city has the option to purchase up to a 33 percent share of BT.

Schurz filed its application with the PUC about a year ago. In an interview last month, Leigh Picchetti, a Schurz spokesperson, said the company had hoped to start running the operation by March 1.

Tuesday's ruling also shot down an argument made by a group of citizen intervenors who said that the $16.9 million should be returned to the taxpayers.

The commission wrote in its decision that it "does not have the enforcement authority to require the City to reimburse its taxpayers." Under the current sales deal, the city will recoup $6.3 million.

But the group could still appeal to the Vermont Supreme Court. Solveig Overby, one of the intervenors, told Seven Days she had not yet read the decision or decided whether the group would appeal.

In a statement, Mayor Miro Weinberger hailed the decision as "excellent news that confirms the validity of the course that we have charted as a City, and helps turn what had been a great risk to the City into an enduring success."

Read the full decision below:

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