Several things have recently happened in the City of Harrisburg. Here’s a recap of a few of the highlights:

Covanta versus the City of Harrisburg

On Monday, Covanta, the company that operates the Incinerator, met the Receiver of the City of Harrisburg in court and agreed on “an agreement in principle.”

Harrisburg Dauphin County Tom Mealy Bruce Foreman

That is, they agreed to stop pushing to be paid the $1.9 million dollars the city owes them on a 2007 roughly $25 million loan Covanta lent the Harrisburg Authority to finish the retrofit after the botched Barlow job.

Covanta’s push was pushing the city right into bankruptcy court just as Receiver William Lynch and his team are getting close to the deal that is expected to solve the capital city’s massive debt issue. In a statement to the Court on June 7, 2013 Lynch submitted:

By way of this statement, I am indicating that I am presently engaged in negotiations
with all major creditors for the City of Harrisburg. Further, I declare that allowing
Covanta to move forward with its case against the City of Harrisburg could impede my
efforts to reach a comprehensive negotiated resolution of the City’s financial problems
between my office and all the other major creditors of the City of Harrisburg.

In other words, if Covanta wouldn’t back off and be patient, everything done could unravel.

What’s done? It seems like “agreements in principle” are collecting on the table in talks with the city’s creditors. Recently the police union consented to contract terms there by being the first domino of three union pieces to nicely fall giving momentum to solution. The mayor creditors—the bond insurer AGM and Dauphin County—have said to be more amenable than ever before.

All of this leads to the sale of the Incinerator, the leasing of the city’s parking system, and the creation of an operating authority that will take over ownership and management of the water and sewage systems from the city.

The ideal end will be no more so called “incinerator debt, no stranded debt, no structural debt, and a balanced city budget along with smooth administrative management in the future.

This is the goal, and it really is only a matter of months until we know if it’s hit or miss.

Covanta’s “agreement in principle,” though, is definitely an indication of the target squarely in the scope.

Harrisburg School Budget passed

During a Special Meeting of the Board of Directors on Wednesday, the 2013/2014 Budget of  $141,766,611 was unanimously approved.

It comes with a 3.5% property tax increase and was developed with 5% cuts to all employee earnings.

Right before the vote, School Director James Thompson thanked the unions for their cooperation and praised the overall budget process, “It was a smooth budgeting process compared to last year which was chaotic.” Yes, this year there was not the dramatic talk of cuts to kindergarten, band, and extracurricular activities. This year there was no mass media and public confusion about what was going on.

There was really only one public point of widespread panic and that’s when there was talk that the budget would have to include a 9.7% tax hike. But when the School Board passed the Chief Recovery Officer’s Plan on May 17th and secured a $4 million transitional loan from the state, that went away.

The threat is and has been for awhile that if the district doesn’t make recovery happen, there will be no district. Superintendent Sybil Knight Burney said, “Each one of us [in the Administration] will do what we have to do to keep our district.”

Also at the meeting of the Harrisburg School Board of Directors….

The Board unanimously voted to pass a resolution agreeing to a Keystone Opportunity Zone (KOZ) application the Harrisburg Regional Chamber of Commerce/CREDC is making to the state. Before the October 1, 2013 deadline, all three municipal taxing bodies must pass resolutions in support of the KOZ. With the school district done, it’s onto Dauphin County and the City of Harrisburg.

Chamber/CREDC President David Black made a June 20th presentation to school directors and declared that the county is on board as well as the mayor. It’s just a matter of City Council taking action on the resolution.

“[We need to] make it more attractive for a developer to come in and do something with it,” Black said of the buildings proposed for KOZ, including William Penn, Hamilton School, and parcels on Cameron Street between State and Herr Streets.

He also said that there is new state legislation that requires tax-exempt properties to make payments in lieu of taxes. “Dauphin County will submit notices,” he informed the school directors.

Harrisburg Director of Parks, Recreation, & Enrichment announces a run for Lieutenant Governor

During her formal announcement in the PA Capitol Rotunda on Monday, Alton asked her crowd of supporters, “Some may ask Why you? Why now? The real question is why not me?”

That crowd included some familiar City of Harrisburg faces such as Mayor Linda Thompson, School Board President Jennifer Smallwood, and former City Councilor Gloria Martin Roberts who is listed as the spokesperson for Alton’s campaign.

Currently, Alton is the Director of the City of Harrisburg’s Department of Parks, Recreation, and Enrichment, a position she said she’ll keep as she campaigns for the 2014 election. Alton is also the Senior Pastor at Kingdom Embassy Church.


In order to qualify for the Democratic nomination for Lieutenant Governor she seeks, she’ll have to collect  1,000 signatures including at least 100 from each of at least 5 counties.

In her speech, she said she wants to be a “change agent” and “a leader who is able to use their influence to make a difference for those who feel they have no representation on the Hill.” Although she as never run for elected office before, Alton cites her time as a department director in the city for giving her insight of people’s needs.

Administratively, though, Alton’s performance has raised some eyebrows at the city. Currently the Harrisburg Audit Committee is reviewing issues of unaccounted for funds from last year’s Department of Parks, Recreation, and Enrichment activities.


Also happened:

illustration by Ammon Perry. Photo is homepage of Kingdom Embassy website, linked.