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Groton cable sale vote is Monday

By Greg Smith

Publication: The Day

Published December 16. 2012 4:00AM
After millions in losses, city seeking to unload company for $150,000

Groton - The Mayor and City Council on Monday are expected to vote on the sale of Thames Valley Communications, a municipally owned cable and Internet service launched in 2004.

City Mayor Marian Galbraith announced in November that after 18 months of searching for options to halt mounting financial losses, the city had negotiated general terms of an agreement to sell the company to CTP Investors LLC, a private investment management firm.

The $150,000 offer from CTP was the only offer to buy the entire company, Galbraith said.

Galbraith has said the sale is not only a way to relieve the city of yearly losses from operating costs - $10.6 million since 2009 - but also to allow continued service for customers and employment for nearly two dozen people working at TVC. Delay in transfer of ownership could endanger the offer, she said at a recent informational meeting. The city does not have the money to spend on technological improvements that would be needed to keep the company competitive in the future, she said.

TVC was launched in 2004 as a subsidiary of Groton Utilities. Taxpayers have authorized a total of $34.5 million in borrowing by the city since its inception. The company has averaged more than $2 million in losses per year since 2004, according to information offered by the city. The losses led to a downgrade in the city's bond rating earlier this year.

The city has yet to pay back $27.5 million of that debt, which is expected to be paid through the Groton Utilities budget for the next 14 years. The city has not released estimates of the yearly costs associated with the bonded money.

Several residents have asked the council to postpone the sale to allow time for a better offer. One group submitted a petition last month to halt the sale. The petition however, was rejected on technical grounds.

City officials have released few details about TVC finances, citing "trade secrets." A special closed-door meeting was held Thursday between the City Council and Groton Utilities Commission for discussion of "contract negotiations." It was unclear if the meeting was related to Monday's vote.

g.smith@theday.com

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IF YOU GO

What: Mayor and City Council meeting

When: 7:30 p.m. Monday

Where: Municipal Building

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