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August 10, 2010

Burlington Telecom's General Manager Resigns

Bt_logo The general manager of the struggling Burlington Telecom is resigning to take a new job out of state, the city announced today.

Chris Burns, who has worked for Burlington Telecom since its inception in 2002, assumed the role of general manager in November  2007.

Burns told Seven Days he's heading west to work as the general manager of operations for a larger, private telecommunications firm. He declined to say what firm.

Day-to-day management of BT will now fall to Dorman & Fawcett, the firm hired earlier this year at the behest of the Burlington Telecom Blue Ribbon Commission to renegotiate BT's long-term debt with CitiCapital and restructure the municipal telecom.

Terry Dorman recently won a brief reprieve from CitiCapital — BT will not have to make another payment on its $33.5 million lease until the end of September. BT missed interest payments in February and May, and was likely to miss a much larger payment in August.

In addition, Gary Evans, the chief executive officer of Hiawatha Broadband Communications in Minnesota, will take a greater role in deciding BT's future. Hiawatha was one of the firms that provided a strategic analysis to the Blue Ribbon Commission  examining BT's strengths, weaknesses and potential strategic partners. Evans has been working with Dorman & Fawcett since May on developing some of those long-term strategic plans.

Burns started with BT its project manager, overseeing BT’s phased buildout – from initially serving the school department and city offices to establishing a municipally-run, fiber-to-the-home network for residences and business.

“I appreciate the opportunity I’ve had to work at Burlington Telecom and for the City of Burlington,” said Mr. Burns in a statement.  “I highly value my time with the city as BT grew from just a concept to one of the few municipal fiber-to-the-home networks in the country. I now look forward to a new opportunity.”

Mayor Bob Kiss thanked Burns for his service.

“He’s been at BT from the beginning, with a strong commitment to building and expanding a triple play state-of-the-art fiber network serving the city’s residents and businesses," said Kiss. "He’s guided BT through a difficult time while it continues to provide excellent services at a good value to its customers. BT will maintain its high level of service as it transitions to new management.”

Mr. Burns’ last day will be August 27.

In recent months, BT has lost more customers than it's gained. Burns has chalked it up to the annual exodus of college students, although this year's drop appears to be lasting longer, and going deeper, than last year.

Also, Moody's has downgraded the city's bond rating three times this year as a result of BT's inability to repay $17 million to Burlington's "cash pool" or city checking account.

The best piece of news to come out of BT in years.

One has to wonder if Mr. Burns exodus is because he willingly provided subscriber numbers to those who asked, thus provoking the mayor who continues to simply chalk up the spiraling subscriber numbers to churn, and not facing the reality of the numbers..
Burns down, two to go, Leopold and Kiss.

Downward spiraling numbers would have been a better choice of words. I apologize and correct myself. Something the Mayor has a problem doing concerning himself.

"with a strong commitment to building and expanding a triple play state-of-the-art fiber network"

I think Kiss actually thinks that "triple play" is a technical term. Every once in a while he slips and makes it glaringly obvious that he doesn't understand anything at all about BT.

BTW I'd bet 100 bucks against a dime that Dorman & Fawcett are now seeking a buyer for BT - or their assets. Otherwise it makes no sense to just push the payment deadline a few weeks, they're not going to make that kind of scratch in that period of time. It would also explain Burns' departure; if he knows he's out of a job come the end of September, what's the point of sticking around.

I urge all to question the Mayor anytime he speaks about BT.
I have often, and proved him wrong on many of the comments he makes. He now as taken the defensive, offensively by saying I always speak negatively about BT. Again he is wrong. I do not speak negatively about BT, but certainly speak negatively about the Mayors ability to lead us through this crisis him and the CAO hid from us to begin with. I may speak negatively about the Mayor but not BT.
I again urge the Mayor and CAO to resign, and also urge the council not to act on any issue that the Mayor and CAO have any involvement with, thus shutting down the power of the Mayor.
Fighting the Mayor and CAO tooth and nail will not make for a pretty church St. scene, but maybe the time is coming for a massive church street protest(which seems to come with any given subject any given day) to highlight to the world the shortfalls of city hall leadership.

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