Voters in Mooresville and Davidson are being asked to approve the sale of the towns' money-losing cable and internet system, Continuum, on Tuesday's ballot. Davidson voters also will decide on a bond offering to pay for public facilities.
In March, the two Lake Norman area towns announced a deal to sell Continuum for $80 million to a private company, TDS Broadband of Wisconsin, which operates cable and telecommunications networks in 30 states.
Davidson and Mooresville bought the system in 2007 after the former operator went bankrupt. But after spending $92.5 million to buy and upgrade it, it grew more slowly than projected and debt payments were a drag on the towns' budgets. It's costing Davidson $1 million a year and Mooresville about $2.5 million.
"It was a money suck," Davidson Mayor Rusty Knox said. "We lost a combined $41 million over the last 12 1/2 years," Davidson Mayor Rusty Knox said.
In recent years, the system has begun to show an operating profit, reducing the towns' subsidies. But, said Knox, "No matter how much profit it turns, we would never catch up on the loss. And then you've got to factor in the next big what-if, the next great technological jump," which could cost more money.
The towns still have about $60 million in debt. If voters approve the measure and the sale goes through by early next year, the towns will pay off the debt and pocket what's left. Davidson will net about $4 million, according to Knox, and the rest goes to Mooresville.
Davidson plans to put that money and the $1 million annual savings toward town projects. Also on the ballot is a proposed $14 million bond offering, which would pay for public facilities: converting Town Hall into a police and fire headquarters and renovating the former Davidson IB Middle School as the new Town Hall.
If voters approve the sale of Continuum, the bond would not require a tax increase. Without the sale, it would mean a 2 cent tax increase.
Continuum has more than 17,000 home and business customers in Mooresville, Davidson, Cornelius and Huntersville. After the towns bought it, they named it MI-Connection, but rebranded in 2017 to Continuum.
TDS has said it plans to keep all of the system's 70 employees.
More information on the Continuum sale on the Town of Mooresville website, townofmooresvillenc.com/continuum
Town of Davidson Public Facilities bond referendum site, www.townofdavidson.org/1081/Public-Facilities