MetroCast is sold

$1.4B deal made with Atlantic Broadband


BELMONT — A Quincy, Massachusetts-based communications company announced yesterday its purchase of MetroCast’s entire cable system from parent company Harron Communications in a deal valued at $1.4 billion.

Atlantic Broadband, whose parent company is Cogeco Communications, previously purchased MetroCast’s Connecticut system. Atlantic’s chief executive officer, Richard Shea, said, “After our highly successful acquisition and integration of the MetroCast Connecticut system almost two years ago, we understand first-hand the sizable residential and business growth potential that we can expect with the remaining MetroCast systems. We have a proven integration plan and a track record of successfully migrating our platforms and service offerings.”

Shea continued, “These well-maintained systems deliver attractive demographics which make them ideal for our suite of residential video, internet and telephony services as well as our business services. We look forward to welcoming MetroCast customers and employees to Atlantic Broadband.”

MetroCast spokesman Andy Walton said that, until the sale goes through, the company will continue to serve the communities where it has customers.

“No immediate changes are planned by MetroCast that will affect our customers, and the transition should be seamless for our customers,” he said.

“Cogeco Communications and Atlantic Broadband are great companies and strong operators with a long history of providing telecommunications services,” he said. “We are pleased that MetroCast’s systems will be in such good and capable hands and that Cogeco/ABB has committed to hire system employees who are working for MetroCast at time of closing.

“We’re also proud of MetroCast’s accomplishments: Cogeco/ABB are getting state-of-the-art networks and a talented team of professionals that is committed to the highest level of customer satisfaction.

“While the announcement of the acquisition was made today (Tuesday), the closing of the transaction is subject to obtaining regulatory approvals along with other customary closing conditions. This is expected to occur in early January, 2018. In the meantime, MetroCast will continue to provide our communities with advanced video, internet and phone services, backed with strong customer service and technical support.”

The sale is being financed through bank debt and an equity investment by Caisse de dépot et placement du Québec (CDPQ).

MetroCast, with local offices in Belmont, provides service to business and residential customers in New Hampshire, Maine, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia, with about 120,000 high-speed internet, 76,000 video, and 37,000 telephony customers, according to Cogeco’s press release about the purchase.

“The acquisition of the MetroCast cable systems allows Atlantic Broadband to increase its presence in the growing and lucrative U.S. cable market,” said Cogeco CEO Louis Audet. “The MetroCast systems are a strong, strategic fit for Atlantic Broadband. With this acquisition, we are increasing our customer base in attractive markets adjacent to the ones we currently serve. Under the guidance of Atlantic Broadband’s best-in-class management team, we are in a unique position to grow our customer base, revenues, and profits.”

Atlantic Broadband is the ninth-largest cable operator in the United States, based on the number of television service customers. The acquisition will increase Atlantic Broadband’s mix of video, broadband, and telephony customers from about 602,000 to 835,000, Cogeco said.

CDPQ will contribute about $315 million for a 21 percent equity stake in Atlantic Broadband’s holding company. The balance of the purchase price and transaction costs will be financed through two banks.


County commissioners call for separate votes on money requests

LACONIA — Belknap County Commissioners have written a letter to the Belknap County Delegation asking the delegation to hold separate votes on three different supplemental appropriation requests.
The most recent request is for a a $135,000 supplemental appropriation to meet an increase in the amount of money the county is being billed by the state to pay its share of the cost of private nursing home care for county residents.
The county had budgeted $6.207 million for the Health and Human Services budget line but was billed $6.343 million by the state's Department of Health and Human Services.
By statute, a supplemental appropriation request requires the delegation to hold a public hearing before it votes on the request. The delegation has not yet set a date for the hearing.
The other supplemental appropriation requests are for $136,500 to hire four corrections officers that are seen as essential by Belknap County Corrections Superintendent Keith Gray to opening the new Community Corrections Center and $93,000 for the Sheriff's Department, which has recently cut two part-time positions and says it is hard-pressed to meet it's responsibilities in the area of court security, prisoner transport and hand delivery of court documents to individuals.
The Corrections Department and Sheriff's Department requests were bundled together in a $229,500 supplemental appropriation request that was rejected by a 7-7 tie vote of the delegation on May 22.
Commissioners have been pressing the delegation without success to reconsider that vote.
They renewed their appeal when they met with the delegation's executive committee Monday morning for a quarterly budget review. Commission Chairman Dave DeVoy (R-Sanbornton) said that the commission would ask for three separate votes on the supplemental requests.
He said that without the funding for the additional correctional officers the county would not be able to open the the $8 million, 72-bed community corrections center. He said that unless the center opens as planned the county will have to transfer some of the prisoners to another facility.
DeVoy said that applications for $650,000 in federal grants for programs at the new corrections center have said that the county will abandon the attic and gymnasum areas in the old jail and that those grants are in jepardy unless that happens.
“The women have to be out of the gym by Aug. 15 or we won't be able to start work on renovating the existing jail,” said DeVoy. “We have a problem and a decision will have to be made in the month of July for us to continue.”
When asked by Rep. Peter Spanos (R-Laconia) if it would be possible to open the center by hiring two full-time and two part-time corrections officers Gary said it wouldn't work because he needs all four in order to cover each of the three daily shifts.
Executive Committee Chairman Mike Sylvia (R-Belmont) said that the language being used by those opposed to the budget changes made by the delegation were inaccurate as there were no cuts made from last year's totals. “A cut is not a cut if you're getting an increase,” he said
DeVoy said “You gave us $300,000 more than the previous year,” and has previously noted that the county's obligations rose by nearly a million dollars this year due to increases it had no control over.
He has been critical of the action of last year's delegation in reducing the amount to be raised by taxes by $605,000 to provide a tax cut when the delegation had been told that there were increases coming in this year's budget for the Corrections Department.
Commissioner Glen Waring (R-Gilmanton) said that projected surplus of $167,613 for this year's budget was unlikely to materialize, pointing out that it included $491,500 in grant money which might not materialize, creating a deficit of $323,887.
The budget adopted by the delegation also contained $290,810 in revenues which will not materialize as HB 413, which would have funded some of the retirement system costs for county workers, was not included in the state budget.
When Waring last week suggested that county commissioners transfer funds from the $466,000 grants line in the corrections department budget to pay for hiring four corrections department officers the idea was rejected by his fellow commissioners.
Commissioner Hunter Taylor (R-Alton) said that he couldn't support the idea. “It's like the Abear-Vadney budget and uses money that doesn't exist. You can't spend money that isn't there.”

City Council OKs $67.5M budget; police contract still to be settled

Ambulance contract also not set; spending on parks is increased


LACONIA — A blueprint for expenditures in the new fiscal year has won City Council approval, but a few funding questions remain, including the ultimate cost of a new contract for police officers and potential unanticipated expenses involving the Colonial Theatre refurbishment.

The City Council on Monday night passed a $67.5 million appropriation for the city, the county and the school district for the fiscal year that began July 1. The municipal portion of that is about $25 million.

Property taxes will go up 1.3 percent, or a $56 yearly hike for a $200,000 home.

One bit of spending still to be finalized is the cost of a new union contract for police officers. Council members rejected an initial proposed contract and negotiations are continuing on a new pact. The reason for the rejection was not clear as bargaining requirements preclude council members from talking publicly about labor contracts before they are approved.

City Manager Scott Myers said there will be adequate money in the new budget to cover police costs.

“We've got a bucket of money toward collective bargaining,” Myers said. “What we try to do for personnel costs, wages and benefits is to have an appropriate amount of money there to cover us if there is a contract or if there is not a contract.”

Another financial question involves the Colonial Theatre refurbishment. There is a chance the city could be asked to take a greater role in funding that project.

The City Council is to take up that subject next month.

“We're targeting the first meeting in August for that so stay tuned,” Myers said.

Also still to be finalized is a new ambulance service contract with LRGHealthcare. Myers has said he is confident the new contract can be handled within the Fire Department's new budget.

The overall budget approved by the City Council on Monday was very similar to one Myers proposed in April.

A few changes came in the form of spending on parks. This new spending included $40,000 to study erosion at city beaches, $35,000 for a new fence at Opechee Park, $25,000 for park basketball court improvements and $20,000 for a paved pathways through Opechee Park, connecting the Middle School campus with North Main Street.