Harrisburg, Pa., issued a request for proposals to privatize its trash collection as part of its financial recovery plan.
But as have many other developments related to the financial strife in Pennsylvania’s capital, Wednesday’s announcement evolved into a theater of the absurd.
Mayor Linda Thompson, revealing the RFP at a press conference in the City Hall atrium, took pot shots at a neighboring rural county. The comments went viral on the Internet.
“We’re not opening up our floodgates for, you know, some scumbag that comes from Perry County who got the money and pocketed it, and comes here and wants to dump it for free,” said Thompson.
Officials from the 45,000-population county, which lies west of Harrisburg’s Dauphin and across the Susquehanna River, were outraged.
“I think especially in a city with so many problems, and so many obvious problems throughout the community, you would be a little more humble and focus on the issues that are substantial,” said Duncannon Mayor Kraig Nace.
Several Perry officials demanded a public apology, which Thompson emailed Thursday morning.
The illegal dumping of bulk items by nonresidents has repeatedly frustrated Harrisburg officials. Equipment is outdated as well.
Proposals are due at 3 p.m. June 14, according to the RFP document. Harrisburg, with roughly $340 million of debt that it cannot pay largely because of bond financing overruns to an incinerator retrofit project, is under state receivership. Privatizing trash collection is part of the original recovery plan under the state’s sponsored Act 47 workout program for distressed communities.
The city wants to award the contract by July 12 and complete an implantation plan by July 26. It hopes the work to begin by Jan. 1.
Criteria will include financial stability, collection experience and the ability to implement new collection services that parallel Harrisburg’s “in comparable sized communities,” and integrating city personnel as contractor employees.
Harrisburg is also on the verge of closing the sale of the incinerator to the Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority, and intends to sell its sewer and wastewater systems, and parking garages.