News

Harrisburg leaders tout debt deal; give few details

Written by Craig Layne | Jul 24, 2013 12:25 PM
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Photo by Craig Layne/witf

Harrisburg Receiver William Lynch (left) and Mayor Linda Thompson (right) during a news conference.

(Harrisburg) -- The capital's leaders are touting a deal they say will eliminate the struggling city's debts and put it on the path to financial stability, but the public will have to wait a few weeks to learn the details of the arrangement.

The facts and figures surrounding the agreement will likely be released next month when the deal is presented in Commonwealth Court.

Mayor Linda Thompson says it will leave a lasting imprint on the city from her one-term administration.

"I said all along, I want it to be my legacy, and it will be," Thompson told reporters at a Wednesday news conference announcing the deal. "It's something to be proud of."

Thompson says the arrangement could serve as a model for other cities struggling with debt.

Her tenure has seen a state takeover of Harrisburg, a battle over whether or not the city should file for bankruptcy protection and an increase in taxes and fees for city residents.

State-appointed receiver William Lynch says the plan to resolve about $600 million in total debt will still take some discussions with creditors.

"We have agreed that we will not let those disagreements get to the point where anybody pulls the plug and says that's it, I'm out of here," Lynch explained. "We are going to work together, no matter what it takes."

The Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority is in line to buy the trash incinerator at the heart of Harrisburg's debt woes.

Lynch says the deal that also includes leasing the city's parking garages could be wrapped up by late fall.

Eric Papenfuse beat Thompson and two other candidates in the primary to capture the Democratic nomination in Harrisburg's mayoral race.

In a news release, he called the agreement "a very good sign that all parties are willing to work together to resolve their differences."

"We are hopeful that they fully understand the importance of working for the good of the people of Harrisburg and for the future of our great city,” Papenfuse said in the release.

Harrisburg City Councilman Brad Koplinski praised the announcement.  He released this statement via email: 

"For the last many years, I have said that I wanted to see a global solution with shared pain by all parties. This is an important step in achieving that goal and I appreciate the parties coming together to get there.  With that said, it is important that we don't lose sight that the system that put us into this mess is broken and we must continue to demand that the various law enforcement agencies investigate how Harrisburg got here and take steps to insure that this cannot happen again anywhere in the Commonwealth. Those that got rich from getting Harrisburg into this situation should pay their fair share to take the burden off the taxpayers of Harrisburg." 

This story has been updated.

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