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Call to investigate Groton cable TV company comes up short

By Deborah Straszheim

Publication: The Day

Published July 02. 2013 4:00AM   Updated July 02. 2013 11:38AM

Groton - Groton City Councilor Jay Dempsey asked Monday for an independent investigation into whether anything "improper" was done regarding the failed cable venture Thames Valley Communications, but his colleagues refused to support it.

No motion was made to discuss an investigation. Councilors instead voted 4-2, with Councilors Dempsey and Keith Hedrick voting against, to reappoint Paul Duarte to the Groton Utilities Commission. Editor's note: This clarifies an earlier version of this paragraph.

Duarte, a former deputy mayor and city councilor, was the first utilities commissioner to have his reappointment come before the council since the city was forced to sell Thames Valley.

Hedrick said his concern was not that commissioners did something wrong but whether they have the right "skill set" to serve.

Groton borrowed $34.5 million to build the cable network, a private subsidiary of Groton Utilities, to give residents a choice and ultimately turn a profit. Then the economy soured, Comcast fought to keep its customers, and AT&T said it would move in. The small cable company lost millions, and the council was essentially forced to sell it. The city sold Thames Valley for $550,000 in January.

Dempsey said an investigation into the cable venture was the only way he, the council and the taxpayers would know the truth about what happened.

His colleagues disagreed.

Mayor Marian Galbraith said she took exception to the premise that anything was improper. She said Duarte shared the burden of finding a solution.

"It would be foolhardy of us to not appoint someone who not only knows the utility but also has not done anything wrong," she said.

Councilor Andrew Ilvento said everyone knows what happened, the facts were given and "we need to move on at some point."

Duarte said last week he expected some complaining, but added that people don't understand that when you spend millions to build a cable network, you're in debt while you build the business.

d.straszheim@theday.com

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