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Pa. Senate committee to hold Harrisburg debt hearing

By , - Last modified: October 3, 2012 at 9:16 AM

The state Senate Local Government Committee will hold a hearing at 10 a.m. Thursday to examine the debt structure of Harrisburg's troubled incinerator.

The committee was set to look at the issue in August before lawmakers opted to delay to pursue additional material information identified in January's forensic audit.

Republican Sen. John Eichelberger of Blair County, the committee's chairman, has said the forensic examination raised numerous concerns about the role the debt of a municipal authority can play in the financial distress of a community.

The committee wants to find out whether the debt was due to a lack of compliance with current laws or whether changes are needed to better protect taxpayers, he said.

Wednesday's hearing could be the first of several on the capital city's incinerator debt, which is around $330 million.

In related news, the lone party negotiating with Harrisburg receiver and his team to buy the city's trash-burning plant — the Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority, or LCSWMA — said it hopes to have a deal worked out by the end of the year.

CEO Jim Warner said the parties have "pretty much" agreed to a valuation, but a power purchase agreement with the state Department of General Services to sell the commonwealth electricity remains outstanding. DGS manages commonwealth facilities.

Warner would not disclose the authority's offer. LCSWMA previously offered $124 million and $45 million before that. The former included contributions of $62 million over 20 years from Dauphin County, a backer of the city's incinerator debt.

"By selling (electricity) to DGS, we're able to give the highest price for the asset," Warner said, adding that LCSWMA plans to spend $16 million in facility improvements during the first four years and about $45 million over 20 years.

The pieces seem to be coming together, he said. However, he knows the sale of the incinerator is contingent on other aspects of the recovery plan, including the sale or lease of the city's parking garages.

The receiver has narrowed the list of potential negotiating parties to three. That list expects to be down to one in the coming weeks, said Cory Angell, an office spokesman.

"The wild card would seem to be AGM," Warner said, referring to bond insurer Assured Guaranty Municipal Corp. and possible debt concessions once asset agreements are in place.

Editor's note: This story was modified from a previous version to correct that the power purchase agreement is to sell electricity to the commonwealth.

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Jason Scott

Jason Scott

Jason Scott covers state government, real estate and construction, media and marketing, and Dauphin County. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at jscott@cpbj.com. Follow him on Twitter, @JScottJournal. Circle Jason Scott on .

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