Sale of Pa. capital's incinerator gets council OK

State recovery plan, sale of incinerator that nearly bankrupted Pa. capital gets council's OK

Associated Press

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) -- The sale of a municipal trash incinerator that dragged Pennsylvania's financially troubled capital to the brink of bankruptcy has the approval of Harrisburg's City Council, leaving just a couple more steps before the deal can close later this year.

The 6-1 vote Monday night to approve the sale of the incinerator to the Lancaster Solid Waste Management Authority is a key part of a larger deal brokered by a state-appointed financial custodian to relieve Harrisburg of approximately $350 million in debt attributed to the 40-year-old incinerator.

"I think City Council showed significant political backbone and significant leadership," William Lynch, the state's financial custodian, said after the vote. "This plan will not fix the city, but will give (future leaders) tools to do so."

Elements of the wider plan — including allowing a state agency to take over the city's parking lots and garages, the extension of an increased earned income tax and an increase in parking fees — also were approved Monday night by City Council.

The incinerator deal is valued at between $126 million and $132 million and is expected to close in early November.

The only City Council member to vote against it complained that city residents, many of whom live at or beneath the federal poverty level, will continue to pay among the nation's highest waste-disposal rates while residents of the rest of the county pay less than half that rate.

"The time (for the sale of the incinerator) has come, but leaves much of the burden on residents," Councilwoman Sandra Reid said.

The entire recovery plan goes before a Commonwealth Court judge for approval on Thursday.

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