burlington telecom

Thoughts on Burlington Telecom Crisis

Burlington Telecom

I believe that Burlington Telecom’s current financial situation is a concern for the City of Burlington’s economic health.  The city already has so much on it’s plate, I don’t think that it needs the extra burden of trying to keep a risky upstart afloat in an extremely competitive industry such as telecommunications.
 
As the telecommunications industry seems to be an ever-changing one with many players crossing into each other’s markets (increasing competition from other phone, traditional cable, satellite tv, wireless phone, and even internet companies).  How can a small local firm be expected to continue making the huge investments needed to keep up and why is it necessary to the city’s future?
 
There are two options I can see that would be fair to everyone involved…
 
1. Burlington Telecom should repay the loan back to the city of Burlington.  Burlington Telecom could then issue bonds to the public market and then use the money to both pay of the loan and continue their work.  Then, Burlington Telecom could be spun off to become a completely private entity… perhaps even allow the current users of Burlington Telecom to take stakes in it to possibly become a COOP like City Market.
 
2. Alternatively, if Burlington Telecom must stay as part of the city government, they should meet their obligations as they agreed to.  They should repay the loan, seek financing outside the city government and continue to build out within Burlington first. If they succeed there, then they could be given permission to expand their services beyond Burlington.  If Burlington taxpayers or city employees/elected officials time are going to be used for the benefit of Burlington Telecom, then ALL residents of Burlington that are paying taxes to the benefit of BT should have access to BT’s services before residents of other towns do.  It’s only fair.
 
Either solution should require the risk to be shifted from the city government to outside private interests and most likely should involve an increase in the service rates that customers pay to allow Burlington Telecom to have some chance of being sustainable.

Burlington Mayor Bob Kiss Speaks to the BBA

Mayor Bob Kiss - Burlington, VermontHeavenly and I attended the regular monthly Burlington Business Association (BBA) meeting this morning where Bob Kiss, Burlington’s new mayor, was the guest speaker and main event. Following is my account of his speech and Q/A…

Kiss stated that the best thing city can do is provide good and efficient services such as public works, police, fire, electricity (low rates), neighborhood schools (which contribute to good education), public transportation and telecommunications (through Burlington Telecom). These services must be provided efficiently. Our challenges as a city are in childcare and healthcare. While Burlington cannot do it alone, the city needs to be more aggressive towards coming up with a solution for the healthcare crisis.

Kiss’s major goal is more social equity in Burlington — to lesson the gap between the rich and the poor.

Burlington budgeting problems are going to be his major initial focus. He believes the local option sales tax will help and he will look for alternative ways to increase the tax revenue for the city, other than the property tax. Kiss is confident that the state will approve Burlington’s request for the local option sales tax. Kiss stated that the local option sales tax is capped at 1%… it’s not open-ended.

Kiss stated that he’s not looking to change much of the current city staff – he wants to work with the existing staff to make positive changes.

Q/A:

Preferred method of communication?
By email, he just got his new email address: [email protected]. You may also contact him by phone: 802-865-7272, City Hall: 149 Church Street
Burlington, VT 05401 Web: http://www.ci.burlington.vt.us/mayor/

Recently the city published a report that suggested capping the budget increases as 3%/year and reducing city staff to 2000 levels. Do you support this?
The city should strive for these goals. City employee benefits are major factor with the budget. The city needs more taxing and funding sources to meet needs.

Affordable housing?
Currently the city is short 21,000 rental and 12,000 home purchase opportunities. Burlington has made great progress towards affordable housing. Kiss hopes for more help from the state government for Burlington Community Land Trust to create more housing. Kiss also wants the zoning rewrite to allow more density throughout the city so more units can be built.

Business in Burlington?
Burlington needs more space for business. Again, Burlington’s zoning needs to allow more density so more businesses can open and expand. The city needs to continue to help grow small (micro) businesses.

Potholes?
The city’s infrastructure is critical for people and businesses locating in Burlington. Kiss stated if he could fill every hole tomorrow he would.

Why do you think you could be mayor?
What do you bring to the table? Kiss cited his 25 years in human services and 12 years managing a larger non-profit as providing him good experience which should translate well in managing the city of Burligton.

Burlington Telecom – what are the long term goals and how will it be financed?
Burlington Telecom is financed by a $20 million bond and the hope is that the revenue will be enough to meet the payments. However, the city is not responsible for the bonds, but Burlington Telecom will be part of the city government. Burlington Telecom will provide cable, phone and internet services to Burlington residents.

What are your thoughts on Northern Lights on Cherry Street and the State Mental Hospital locating at Fletcher Allen?
Northern Lights is a proposed half-way house for released female offenders. Kiss stressed his support for the project as he believes it’s our duty to provide capacity for offenders to be reintroduced into society in order for them to be successful. However, both projects need to be well run and fully funded. Kiss is pleased that the Burlington Housing Authority is a partner in this… this speaks very well of Burlington. Kiss also stated that the U.S. in general is failing in corrections in that far too many released offenders return to prison within a year for repeat offenses. There needs to be more support for them after being released so they are successful and not likely to re-offend.

Your thoughts on the Moran Plant and the Waterfront?
Kiss appreciates how inclusive our waterfront is and wants to keep it inclusive. Kiss wants the opportunity for everyone to use the waterfront and he is very happy with the success so far.

Business plan for city?
Kiss wants to think fresh about Burlington and he will open up discussion with the Burlington businesses regarding his plan.

End of Q/A

Please feel free to post your comments.

Ward 4 and 7 NPA Schedule

Wards 4 & 7 Joint Neighborhood Planning Assembly
Wednesday, March 15, 2006, 7 p.m.
Lyman C. Hunt Middle School Learning Center

7:00 * 7:10 Introductions, Announcements, and Agenda Review

7:10 * 7:20 Burlington Fire Department – A representative will share a workbook and talk about emergency preparedness.

7:20 * 7:50 Burlington Telecom – Richard Donnelly will talk about when New North End residents can expect to see Telecom service expand to their neighborhoods.

7:50 * 8:35 Neighborhood Development Block GrantIta Meno from CEDO will facilitate the process where the NPA approves grants onto the allocation committee. Grant applicants will come to advocate for their neighborhood improvement projects.

8:35 * 8:50 Speak Out / Von Turkovich Project Discussion

8:50 Wrap-up

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