Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, has come to a “tentative” agreement to rid itself of a 41-year-old public works project long-deemed the prime culprit in its fiscal pain.
A state-appointed receiver called a sale of the Harrisburg Resource Recovery Facility (HRRF) to the Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority (LCSWMA) “imminent”.
William Lynch, installed last year to manage the insolvent capital of the ‘Keystone State,’ said he wanted to get $130 million in exchange for the solid waste incinerator.
In addition, the deal with the LCSWMA for the incinerator would absolve Harrisburg of the $345 million debt accrued via HRRF.
Lynch, a retired major general in the US Air Force (USAF), noted the legal process to hand over HRRF to Lancaster County could drag on. He also sought to talk down the sale.
“There is no intention of fixing Harrisburg now and forever [by selling the incinerator],” he said. But Linda Thompson praised the looming deal. “Accept the gift we are giving,” Thompson, outgoing mayor of Harrisburg, urged the city in a press conference.
Opened in 1972, HRRF is considered the first waste-to-energy (WTE) facility in the US. But the expense of maintaining and upgrading the incinerator pushed Harrisburg into bond debt.
By 2011, with the city $310 million in debt because of HRRF, Harrisburg entertained leasing or selling the project as well as privatising its parking. EQT Infrastructure Partners and LambdaStar Infrastructure Partners offered $140 million to lease the incinerator in a public-private partnership (PPP; P3), but Harrisburg demurred.
By year-end, Harrisburg became the first capital city to file for ‘Chapter 9’ protection, but a court threw out the would-be bankruptcy and put the municipality under state control.
Lynch began negotiating a deal for the incinerator with the LCSWMA, a quasi-public entity, last year.
“We [finally] agreed to stop negotiating against each other,” he said.