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Burlington City Council Ponders Using Burlington Telecom Proceeds To Purchase Sidewalk Plows

Burlington City Hall
Burlington City Hall

The Burlington City Council has authorized the purchase of four new sidewalk plows.  The funds had originally been slated to come from proceeds from the sale of Burlington Telecom, but instead will be taken from the city’s Unassigned Fund Balance.
In March the city of Burlington sold its interest in Burlington Telecom to Champlain Broadband and expects to receive more than $6.4 million from the sale.  The Department of Public Works submitted a formal request for approval to order eight new sidewalk snowplows at a cost of $1,075,000 to replace part of its aging fleet.  DPW estimated that the city would spend $206,000 in parts and labor to maintain the existing fleet of 12 tractors, and response to storms this winter could be delayed.

The low bid was forwarded to the city council for consideration along with a request that proceeds from the sale of Burlington Telecom be the funding source.
On Monday city councilors considered and amended the resolution.  Ward 6 Democrat Karen Paul moved to reduce the number of vehicles and therefore the total cost and adjust the funding source to the Unassigned Fund Balance.  Paul added that the resolution was crafted by the Board of Finance and the amendments alleviate concerns regarding funding.  “To crystallize it we are going to be taking if approved $570,000 from the Unassigned Fund Balance as opposed to where it was originally going to come from which was double that amount $1,075,000. It would have come from the proceeds from the proceeds of the sale of Burlington Telecom. So in other words instead of eight plows we’re talking about four.”
City Council President Kurt Wright:  “Okay and the other four will be decided at a future date?”
Paul:  “Yes.”

During his State of the City address on April 1st , Mayor Miro Weinberger called on the council to use the nearly $7 million from the sale of Burlington Telecom to eliminate the property tax increase planned for next year and: “To replace our nearly obsolete fleet of sidewalk plows. Many of our plows are so old and worn that they were in the shop instead of on the streets 50 percent of the time during this past tough winter slowing our ability to respond to major storms.”

Ward 1 Independent Sharon Foley Bushor appreciated that the mayor was willing to listen and compromise.  “I am happy that we are able to deal with the emergent issue of the sidewalk plows. And I’m also happy that we will continue the conversation about how, what we, how we are going to deal with the proceeds from the sale of Burlington Telecom. It is unfortunate that the timeline for the purchase of these plows was August 1st and yet we had not had a opportunity really to have an in depth conversation about how we would spend the proceeds from Burlington Telecom.”

Mayor Weinberger says the compromise is an important step in the right direction that will minimize public frustration during storms.  “Even though this is the night that we began to talk about the BT funds and how they will be used I think the kind of challenge in figuring this out is illustrating some of the challenges we’re going to have in the next budget year. We’re coming to the end of those Sustainable Infrastructure Bonds and if we are not going to consider using BT funds for capital items I think we’re going to have a real challenge and that is part of why we think it is not prudent to go beyond the four vehicles here.”

The resolution as amended passed unanimously.
Audio from the Burlington City Council meeting is courtesy of Channel 17 Town Meeting Television.

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