Harrisburg, Pa. is launching a planning initiative and economic development initiative as it scurries to finalize its financial recovery plan.

Mayor Linda Thompson said the planning process should take about 18 months and will produce a plan and a housing strategy. The updates to both are part of the Harrisburg Strong financial recovery plan for the city, which the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania approved last month.

State-appointed receiver William Lynch and Thompson are scheduled to provide an update Friday in a State of the City address. Highlights to the recovery plan are the sale of the city incinerator to the Lancaster Solid Waste Management Authority and a leasing of up to 40 years of city parking assets.

The Commonwealth Court on Sept. 19 approved Lynch's recovery plan, enabling the receiver's team to work on closing loose ends to a plan for erasing $600 million of crippling debt in Pennsylvania's capital city, including about $363 million related to incinerator retrofit bond financing overruns.

Lynch and his top advisors — lead attorney Mark Kaufman from McKenna, Long & Aldridge LLP and financial advisor Steven Goldfield from Public Resources Advisory Group, want to sell bonds related to the transactions while interest rates remain low.

The city, meanwhile, has hired community development firm Mullin & Lonergan Associates Inc. to work on the planning project. The Harrisburg Regional Chamber will help on economic development components.
Earlier this year, the city established a steering committee, which has met twice with Mullin & Lonergan staff.

According to Thompson, the plan will address elements with far-reaching effects on Harrisburg's future, including land use, housing, infrastructure and community facilities, with planning committees organized to include education, economic development, transportation and public safety.

At the capitol, two Harrisburg-area lawmakers are filing legislation to permanently guarantee $5 million in state funding for the city's fire department, which matches the city's annual cost of providing services at the capitol complex.

Sen. Rob Teplitz, D-Susquehanna Township, and Rep. Patty Kim, D-Harrisburg, said this week that the annual $5 million from the state for the next three years under the Harrisburg Strong plan isn't enough.

"We can't be forced to annually lobby our colleagues in the legislature for fire funds that are rightfully owed to the city," said Kim, a former Harrisburg councilwoman. 

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