A deal to sell the Harrisburg incinerator, the focal point of the debt crisis in Pennsylvania's capital, is imminent, the city's state-appointed receiver said Wednesday.
William Lynch, speaking before a financial recovery committee at Harrisburg City Hall, said all parties involved in the proposed sale to the Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority have come to a consensus.
Bond financing overruns to retrofit the trash burner, four miles outside downtown, saddled Harrisburg with about $345 million of debt that it cannot pay.
"All the stakeholders involved in the sale of the incinerator are in agreement," said Lynch. "While they realize this may be an imperfect situation for each of them everyone understands a cooperative solution is most certainly in everyone's best interests."
Lynch and Mayor Linda Thompson scheduled a press conference for later in the morning.
The Lancaster agency, which operates in a county adjacent to Harrisburg's Dauphin, was selected as the sole bidder last year.
Assured Guaranty Municipal Corp., Dauphin County, CIT, JEM Group and Covanta all have financial claims that must be resolved before Lancaster can purchase the incinerator, according to Lynch.
"We are still engaged in ongoing negotiations, but we are very close to having a modification to the court-confirmed recovery plan that we can take before Commonwealth Court," said Lynch.
Lynch said the agreed-upon solution will involve the sale of the incinerator, lease of parking assets and several other actions that the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania must approve. The court must approve any modification to the recovery plan.
"Perhaps most important to the residents of Harrisburg and Dauphin County, the sale will permanently absolve the city of Harrisburg, and the Harrisburg Authority, from any future liability related to the incinerator," Lynch said. "That is a critical step in helping the city move forward toward long-term recovery."
The plan, according to Lynch, will also stabilize the city's budget through 2016 and include a public-private partnership for the city's parking assets. The parking P3 deal, said Lynch, "may very well become a national model."
Lynch said his intent is to file the plan with the Commonwealth Court in late August and unveil it to the public then. Closing could occur late this year but negotiations will determine a final timeline. Lynch would not elaborate further.
Last week, the Lancaster agency's board authorized chief executive James Warner to apply for an $8 million state grant that would cover half the $16 million in improvements the authority has said it would make at the Harrisburg incinerator.
“The fact that all of the parties are committed to hard work and compromise should give us all hope that Harrisburg can avoid the bleak fate that is now facing Detroit,” said Democratic mayoral candidate Eric Papenfuse, invoking the Midwest city that filed for bankruptcy protection last week.
Former Harrisburg City Council attorney Mark Schwartz, however, was critical. "It's been a rigged deal with the governor [Tom Corbett] as a party from the beginning, even before the creation of a receiver. It's all in the Lancaster Authority's minutes," he said.