Council Update: November 4th 2019

Council Update 11/4/19:

Monday’s meeting focused on two major issues: 1. Amtrak service to Burlington being restored and a second rail track being placed on the Burlington waterfront 2. How to use the proceeds from the sale of Burlington Telecom.

On the issue of Amtrak coming to Burlington, and the proposal of Vermont Rail Systems (VRS) to place a second track between Maple and King St., there are a lot of outstanding questions and complications. The Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission conducted a study looking at 5 possible locations in Burlington for a second track for servicing and storing of Amtrak stations (and possibly for other uses — something that also needs to be clarified). Out of those 5 locations, they identified the waterfront between College and Maple as the preferred location. One major question I have is, could Amtrak instead be overnighted and serviced in St. Albans at their existing facilities? If so, what would it take to make that happen? I’m curious about this and many other aspects of this discussion. VTrans wants to make a decision by the end of the year, and they have asked the City of Burlington to weigh in. On November 19th at 6pm at the Police Dept., VTrans will come to the Transportation, Energy, and Utilities Commission, which I sit on, to answer questions and hear from the public and from our committee. Please join for that if you’re interested — hopefully we can get more clarity then.

Despite these complications, and the need for us to navigate a complex political situation that goes well beyond City Council, I remain incredibly excited by the possibility of having an Amtrak stop in Burlington by 2022!

On the issue of Burlington Telecom (BT): in 2017, the City sold BT to Schurz Communications, who took over the company this March. Schurz presented on Monday about the state of the telecom (now known as Champlain Broadband) and their plans for the future. The City has the option of investing a portion of the sale proceeds into the company in exchange for a stake in the company and a seat on the Board of Directors. We have to make that decision by March. In the meantime, the approval of the sale of BT is under appeal in the Vermont Supreme Court, and we should be hearing a decision on that in the coming months. Regardless of whether or not we reinvest in Champlain Broadband, we’ll have additional proceeds from the sale that we need to choose how to use. I’ll continue to push for a public, transparent, community-driven decision-making process around how to use that money.

Please send me your thoughts and input on these topics and on anything else! I’ll also be posting again soon about two important meetings taking place next week!

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