The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania will hold a public hearing on receiver David Unkovic’s financial recovery plan for capital city Harrisburg on March 1.
The hearing is scheduled at start at 10:30 a.m. in Courtroom 3001 at the Judicial Center, 601 Commonwealth Ave., Harrisburg.
Unkovic last week released a 200-page report that calls for the city, which is mired in $310 million of incinerator-related bond debt, to sell or lease the incinerator and parking garages. Additionally, he called for the city to hire a chief operating officer at a salary of $110,000, a position that’s been vacant for two years. Unkovic must sign off on the selection.
Also last week, Unkovic issued a request for qualifications for groups interested in purchasing the incinerator, water and sewer systems, and parking garages. Unkovic wants to close on any transactions by June 15, which he admitted in an interview is an ambitious timetable.
“Time is of the essence in this process,” Unkovic said in his RFQ statement. “Interested parties should be prepared to respond to subsequent communications on an accelerated schedule.”
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett nominated Unkovic, the former chief counsel at the Department of Community and Economic Development, as receiver in November after the City Council rejected three times a workout plan under the state’s Act 47 program for distressed communities.
Lacking the asset sales, Unkovic could file for bankruptcy protection on behalf of the city on July 1, when a state law restricting a Chapter 9 filing by Harrisburg because of its ties to Act 47 expires.
David Fiorenza, a professor at the Villanova School of Business and the former chief financial officer of Radnor Township, Pa., said Unkovic is putting the city on the right track.
“I do respect him. I’ve known him throughout my career and what he’s doing is good,” said Fiorenza, who sees problems for Harrisburg beyond the headline-grabbing incinerator debt.
“The stadium is still an albatross,” Fiorenza said, citing the city’s $656,000 debt service to Metro Bank Park, on City Island in the Susquehanna River. It is home to minor league baseball’s Harrisburg Senators.
Workout specialist Bill Brandt, president and chief executive of consulting firm Development Specialists Inc. and chairman of the Illinois Finance Authority, said Harrisburg could use some outside-the-box solutions such as a city sales tax and monetizing solutions other than asset sales. “All we come up with are the same old bromides,” he said.
The state law that restricted Harrisburg’s bankruptcy filing prohibits a commuter tax.