Municipality sells Bruce Telecom to Eastlink
By Liz Dadson
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Kincardine council has sold Bruce Telecom to Eastlink for $26.5-million.
Mayor Larry Kraemer made the announcement at the council meeting last night (Jan. 22).
A motion to proceed with the sale was approved, 7-1. In the recorded vote, those in favour were Kraemer, deputy mayor Anne Eadie, and councillors Ron Coristine, Maureen Couture, Kenneth Craig, Jacqueline Faubert and Candy Hewitt; voting against, was councillor Randy Roppel.
The same 7-1 vote saw the required bylaw passed to approve the sale.
Kraemer said the sale to Bragg Communications Inc., operating as Eastlink, came after much research, consideration and a comprehensive competitive-purchaser research process.
"The Municipality of Kincardine takes its commitment to its taxpayers, customers, residents and businesses, seriously," said Kraemer. "We want to deliver the best services at the lowest cost."
To do this, he said, it's important to look at new ways to do business, deliver services, and find all opportunities to maximize the return on the community's investment in Bruce Telecom.
"Given the advances and competition in the industry, it no longer made sense for the municipality to operate a telecom company," said Kraemer. "Therefore, we made the decision to sell the assets and operations of Bruce Telecom to Eastlink, a family-owned Canadian business with the strength and reputation to best serve our community."
Kraemer said that back in the summer, a budget plan was put forward for keeping Bruce Telecom viable, and it would have required millions of dollars.
"Council was uncomfortable with spending such a large amount to expand the business, long-term," he said. "It was a hard decision for council. Nobody wants to do this but it's the decision that serves the best interests of our citizens. We struggled with this decision for a long time."
Kraemer said council hired a qualified consultant who identified the opportunities and threats of operating Bruce Telecom. "At the end of the day, council felt that given the technological advances and competition in telecommunications, a specialized organization could do a better job and operate this business more effectively."
He said all the jobs at Bruce Telecom are secure and Eastlink will be offering employment opportunities. Currently, there are about 80 people working at Bruce Telecom, he said.
Kincardine will move ahead to have the sale approved by Industry Canada, said Kraemer, and the deal should be final within 60-90 days.
Roppel, the lone voice against the deal, said, "It's a sad day for the Municipality of Kincardine and a sad day for the people of Bruce Township."
In a press release, handed out at the end of the meeting, Lee Bragg, chief executive officer of Eastlink, states, "We are proud to deliver industry-leading video entertainment and communications services across eight provinces, including this area with successful operations in Saugeen Shores, including Port Elgin, Paisley and other communities.
"We have a proven history of successfully integrating telecommunications acquisition, such as Bruce Telecom. We look forward to serving residential and business customers of all sizes by leveraging our world-class fibre network and our industry experience. We will work very hard to ensure a smooth transition for both employees and customers."
The existing collective agreements with the Canadian Union of Public Employees will be honoured by Eastlink, states the press release.
Eastlink is one of Canada's best-managed companies at the platinum level, with operations in Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, Quebec, Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia, via sister companies Coast Cable and Delta Cable, as well as Bermuda.
The sale of Bruce Telecom ends over a century of local ownership of the telephone and telecommunications business.
Originally the Bruce Municipal Telephone System (BMTS), it began with a small public gathering held in the Village of Underwood Feb. 19, 1910.
A handful of hardy Bruce Township petitioners braved what was perhaps a typically blustery and cold Bruce County winterís day to gather there to lobby the municipality for the establishment of a telephone company.
This insightful group of pioneers worked diligently to see its vision to link farm families in Underwood and Tiverton together through a magneto telephone system, consisting of wooden poles, iron wire, crank telephones and dry cell batteries.
The group could not possibly have imagined the technological wonders that would see the delivery of voice, video and data over a complex network of silicon chips, high-frequency radio waves and hair-like strands of glass, and the company that would come to be known as Bruce Telecom.
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Wednesday, January 22, 2014