The city of Waupaca is asking the companies that are interested in buying Waupaca Online to submit formal proposals.
“We will need to have at least two serious buyers to know if we are getting a good price,” City Administrator Henry Veleker told the Common Council during a Dec. 20 Committee of the Whole meeting.
The meeting was held prior to the council’s regular monthly meeting. The purpose was to update the council on the progress of seeking a buyer for the utility.
The council voted in October to seek a buyer for its high-speed, wireless Internet service. That decision came after the utility lost more than 50 customers in 12 months.
It was about nine years ago that the city established Waupaca Online, and the city continues to maintain the service while a sale is evaulated.
Veleker told the council that approximately four companies are expected to submit proposals.
The council’s October vote called for another discussion about Waupaca Online to be held in January if a buyer was not found by the end of this year.
In a Dec. 16 memo to the council, Veleker said, “One firm has met with staff and toured our facilities. A second firm was scheduled this week but canceled due to the illness of one of their team members. With the holidays fast approaching, it will be dificult perhaps to get all site visits done this month.”
Veleker planned to write letters to the four companies that have expressed an interest in Waupaca Online, telling them proposals are due by the end of January and that they should call the city to schedule site visits.
With the city continuing to operate the utility during the sales process, several changes were recently made.
“What we have learned the last couple weeks,” Veleker told the council, “is it’s important to not lose any customers.”
It is the customers that potential buyers value.
The city rebranded Waupaca Online with a new logo and sent Christmas cards to its customers. Brochures have been given to Country Welcome for distribution to those who recently moved to the area.
“We’re trying to do some of the little things,” Veleker said.
He said they want to keep the transaction as simple as possible and asked the council how potential buyers should be evaluated.
Alderman Dave Shambeau, who is in the real estate business, said, “It’s been my experience that you can make yourself crazy wondering what someone is going to offer. I think you get an offer in hand and then you look at it. There’s a thousand variables here. If someone makes an offer, they will expect a counter offer.”
When Veleker later asked if the city should evaluate such things as customer service, Shambeau said, “I don’t think it’s for me to decide what kind of services they have.”
Veleker said many of Waupaca Online’s customers live outside the city, asking Shambeau if he cares about those customers.
Shambeau said that in the city, there are many Internet options, with more now becoming available outside of the city through cellphones.
He said rural Waupaca Online customers should not be at the expense of the city.
Veleker then told him he was being “myopic,” before adding, “Maybe I’m over-analyzing, but how do you get an apples to apples comparison?”
Shambeau said, “I would tell everyone there is a drop-end date for offers. Compare them. You could make multi counter offers. Don’t put a lot of parameters on their businesses, and tell them how to run it.”