With only a ruling by the Vermont Public Utility Commission left to finalize the sale of Burlington Telecom, a half dozen Burlington residents, calling themselves the ‘B.T. Intervenors,’ say it’s not yet a done deal.
The commission’s decision on the sale to Schurz Communications could come next month. But B.T Intervenors member Dean Corren said it would be illegal unless taxpayers recoup the $17 million the city spent to bail out Burlington Telecom 10 years ago.
Corren estimates the city owes each taxpayer $1,500.
“Six of us decided to intervene on a very simple issue — that the law requires taxpayers not be held to pay for this,” he said. “We decided to challenge.”
There are other issues at stake as well, said Intervenor Sandy Baird.
“It really is important for Burlington citizens to know that when they lost this to Schurz, they lost any guarantees at this moment that public access would be continued, or that free speech would be honored by Schurz,” she said. “So there’s a lot of reasons to stop this sale and we’re doing the best we can to do that.”
James Dumont, a lawyer for the Intervenors, says legal fees to fight the sale could reach $20,000. He’s asking Burlington residents interested in keeping Burlington Telecom in local hands to donate $30 to help with those costs.
Meanwhile, Corren said whatever decision the PUC reaches on the sale will likely be appealed, setting up a potential showdown before the Vermont Supreme Court.
City Councilor Joan Shannon, D-South District, said an appeal would depend on the details of the commission’s ruling.
“I don’t think it would be as simple as yes or no,” she said. “I think that they would be saying this is what we don’t like about that deal, and we’d have to cross that bridge when we come to it.”