Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse said Wednesday the state could move as soon as Thursday morning to begin the process of bringing the city out of receivership.
Gov. Tom Corbett (R) declared the city to be in a fiscal emergency in October 2011. In the time since, two receivers have worked to bring the city out of debt. That culminated with Maj. Gen. William Lynch’s creation of the Harrisburg Strong Plan last year.
“The receivership was so enormous, was so unprecedented in many respects, that it wasn’t something to be kept any longer than necessary,” said Papenfuse.
The Pa. Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED), through the Office of General Counsel, is expected to file paperwork in Commonwealth Court to begin the process. The governor would lift the fiscal emergency declaration. If the judge approves the proposal, a coordinator would be appointed within DCED to continue working with the city to implement the Strong Plan. Papenfuse said it’s possible the city could be out of receivership by late February or early March.
“And now, they’re handing the reins back to the local elected officials, and that’s the way it should be. And, I don’t think the receivership needed to continue any longer once we completed those transactions back in December,” said Papenfuse referring to deals that closed late last year restructuring roughly $600 million in local debt.
Papenfuse says he does not expect Gen. Lynch to continue to work with the city. However, Papenfuse pointed out the team that helped Lynch craft the Strong Plan will remain.
“I have nightmares still just thinking about all of the clashing and the difficult decisions. But, I’m pleasantly surprised that we are in this position. This is a good problem to have,” said state Rep. Patty Kim (D-103rd).
State Sen. Rob Teplitz (D-15th) added, “It needs to be a gradual transition. I don’t think we want to jeopardize any element of the Harrisburg Strong Plan.”
Harrisburg would remain under Act 47 and still be considered a distressed city.
“There’s still going to be oversight. There’s still some assurances the city’s going to be doing the right thing to move forward in the long term. But, I think this is actually great news for us,” said Dauphin County Commissioner Jeff Haste.