Groton City moves closer to closing cable TV deal

Groton - The city has signed a contract with the soon-to-be owners of Thames Valley Communications, clearing the way for a transfer of the municipally owned cable, phone and Internet business into private hands.

The agreement with CTP Investors was signed by Mayor Marian Galbraith and TVC President Paul Yatcko over the weekend. It is the first of several steps before a closing on the $550,000 deal.

CTP President Bill Pearson said he started meeting Monday with TVC employees as part of an overall examination of the company's day-to-day operations, its culture and employee benefit system.

The nearly two dozen TVC employees have spent the last month with few answers about their jobs before the controversial sale was finally approved.

Pearson, whose involvement with the city dates back to May, said some plans for TVC are already in place - things like capital investments to grow the company, upgrade service and keep the company competitive.

He said he is eager to get started running the company and expects the closing to happen "quickly." No date has been announced.

"We have been chomping at the bit - like a racehorse waiting at the gate," Pearson said. "TVC is here to stay. It's good now and it's going to get better. We'll be concentrating on our existing customers and attracting new customers."

He said any announcement about specific plans will come after the transfer of ownership.

The Groton Utilities Commission and Thames Valley Communications Board of Directors will meet today at 1 p.m. and 1:15 p.m. respectively. Votes are expected on the transfer of more than $27 million in debt from TVC to Groton Utilities, which will absorb the yearly debt payments for the next 14 years.

"There is an accounting process and a legal process required to make that happen," Yatcko said. "Essentially it's a way for GU to assume the debt away from TVC."

The city has offered CTP Investors free rent at the city municipal building for the first year and half of the second year before CTP must pay the full $34,000 annual rent at the city municipal building. Further details of the contract were not immediately available.

Yatcko and Galbraith shared their optimism about the future of the company.

"I'm happy it's moving forward," Galbraith said. "Their plans are very exciting - the types of things we would like to do but couldn't."

Plagued by debt and millions in annual losses since the company formed in 2004, Galbraith said the sale was the only way to relieve the town of the burden.

"I have to say I got a tear in my eye when I signed," Galbraith said. "It's been a very difficult transition. (The sale) doesn't mean we don't care about the company. But we're moving forward.

g.smith@theday.com

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