$600 million in debt eliminated for Harrisburg

As far as historic moments go, this was low-key and rather boring. Receiver William Lynch, his secretary, and spokesperson Cory Angell walked across Commonwealth Ave. to file a notice of consummation with Commonwealth Court.

The weather was dreary, but Lynch and his team had smiles on their face. Lynch showed visible relief after he said the last second details took hours to complete. He even snapped a photo of “12 feet” worth of deal documents in his office.

Just after 1 p.m. Monday, Lynch took the court filing to be time stamped. When he came outside, there were no cheers from a crowd of residents longing for this day, there wasn't a gaggle of media rushing to get the first interview, rather Lynch in his military fashion gave credit to everyone around him.

When asked what message he would like to give to Harrisburg residents, he boldly stated,”We have driven a stake in the heart of the incinerator deal today,” he said “From today, the city will not be on the hook for any of that old incinerator debt.”

A fitting analogy to describe Harrisburg's toxic asset that sucked the city dry for years. The bulk of that $363 million now belongs to the Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority. Recently, they purchased the incinerator for $130 million on the bond market.

Standard Parking is now in charge of the Harrisburg Parking Authority after the purchased a $400 million lease over the next four decades. All-in-all, Lynch said roughly $600 million was moved via wire transfer Monday morning.

Mayor Linda Thompson called a press conference about an hour after the court filing and was elated to announce her administration's victory.

“Ladies and gentleman, we welcome you to a debt-free city…a debt-free city,” she said.

Thompson reflected over her administration and spoke about the “days of darkness” early on. The mayor said she never wavered when people told her receivership and recovery without bankruptcy couldn't be done. Thompson said the court filing today is proof she was right all along.

“The most important thing is that we got the city back to solvency,” she said. “And, I smile from ear-to-ear. You can take a chisel and try to chop it off my face and you won't be able to do it.”

Lynch said his duties will help the city transition its assets into its new owners. As for Thompson, she would not say what her next move is once she is out of office, which will take place January 2. Mayor-elect Eric Papenfuse will be sworn in that day. However, in the holiday spirit Thompson said she had a Christmas message for Papenfuse.

“I say to him, take this gift, and do well with it,” Thompson said.

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