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Petitioners oppose sale of Groton cable firm

By Greg Smith

Publication: The Day

Published December 06. 2012 4:00AM
City residents want council vote repealed

Groton - Frustrated by a perceived lack of transparency, a group of city residents have signed a petition in opposition to the proposed sale of Thames Valley Communications.

The petition was submitted to the city clerk on Wednesday and calls for a repeal of a Nov. 19 vote by the City Council that initially approved sale of the municipally owned cable and Internet provider, a subsidiary of Groton Utilities, for $150,000.

A final vote on the sale to CTP Investors LLC, a private investment management firm specializing in building broadband, cable and wireless businesses, is scheduled for Dec. 17.

City resident Michael Boucher said he gathered 37 signatures from neighbors in opposition to the sale.

"The general response is, people want to know what's going on," Boucher said. "There is a lack of accountability. We want some answers."

Boucher was one of several people to question the City Council about TVC finances at a recent council meeting. He said there are too many unanswered questions surrounding TVC's $27.5 million debt and the more than $2 million in annual losses.

The company has been losing money since it started business in 2004. Debt payments, absorbed by Groton Utilities, will continue for the next 14 years.

"How could it go on for so long without anyone knowing?" Boucher asked.

While more than $34 million of borrowed money for capital investment in the company was approved by residents at public meetings, many residents said losses were hidden.

City Mayor Marian Galbraith said at a recent public informational meeting that the losses were not covered up but also not advertised. She has said the city hired an investment adviser and spent more than 18 months trying to find a buyer since the city could no longer afford to subsidize TVC's operating expenses. Meeting minutes show discussions about the company and the search for a buyer were held behind closed doors.

CTP made the only offer on the company and had expressed interest in investing in the company and continuing services, Galbraith said. Galbraith has said liquidation and partnerships were also considered, but the sale was the fastest solution to keeping the company viable. About 23 people are employed by TVC.

Reached Wednesday, Galbraith said she was aware of the petition but had not had an opportunity to discuss the matter with the City Council. She said she continues to research answers to questions raised at the recent council meeting.

In a letter submitted to the council Monday, resident Jay Dempsey called for resignations from the entire Groton Utilities Board of Directors and Utilities Commission.

"They should all be replaced for hiding the losses from the tax payers," Dempsey said in his letter, emailed to The Day. "There are a host of people responsible for this mismanagement and deceptive environment that has ensued over the last several years, they must be replaced."

Dempsey has called for the city to publicly advertise the sale of TVC and for disclosure of financial records.

"There should be absolutely nothing to hide from the Groton City taxpayers," Dempsey said. "It is our money."

g.smith@theday.com

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