Harrisburg City Council approved four of the mayor’s board appointments tonight but bucked his will on two other pieces of legislation, including one that would bring free evening parking to the city’s downtown business district.
The city’s legislative body appointed Garvey Pressley, Crystal Skotedis, Alisa Harris and Andrew Enders to serve on the board of Capital Region Water. Skotedis and Pressley are current board members. Enders and Harris are newcomers, replacing vice chair William Cluck and board director Daryl Walters.
CRW’s board approves all contracts, budgets and strategic plans for the city’s water/sewer authority. All of the board appointees were nominated by Mayor Eric Papenfuse and endorsed by current board chairman Marc Kurowski.
Council also confirmed the appointment of Shannon Gority, a former CRW executive director who stepped down last year, as a member of the city’s Zoning Hearing Board.
In other action, council sparred with the mayor over a resolution to hire a financial planner for the city, which would allow it to enter into negotiations with one of its creditors and potentially secure a lower interest rate on loan payments.
Papenfuse said that Ambac Insurance Corp., which the city agreed to pay $125 million over a 20-year period as part of its 2013 debt deal, has expressed interest in re-negotiating the terms of the city’s debt payments. Due to requirements under the federal Dodd-Frank financial reform bill, however, the city can’t enter those negotiations without a financial advisor.
Last year, the city issued an RFP and convened a selection committee to choose an advisor. The selection committee unanimously picked Fairmont Capital, which was recently restructured as Marathon Strategic Advisors LLC. The firm, based in New Jersey, is not yet incorporated in Pennsylvania.
Papenfuse explained that Marathon’s senior advisor was favorably recommended by Marita Kelley, the city’s Act 47 financial oversight coordinator. But Kelley’s word alone wasn’t enough for council members, who said tonight that they would not approve the contract with Marathon until they were able to consult two additional references.
Papenfuse warned council that delaying the vote would delay the negotiations with Ambac, which could, in turn, jeopardize favorable interest rates.
“Interest rates will continue to go up,” he said. “This is time sensitive, and to delay even a few more weeks could end up costing the city in the long run.”
Council members rejected the allegation that they were delaying a potential loan restructuring. They claimed that they were applying the same level of due diligence as they would for any city contract.
“We’ve been burned by consultants before,” said Councilwoman Shamaine Daniels.
Council also delayed voting on a deal that would eliminate parking enforcement in Harrisburg’s downtown business district from 5 to 7 p.m. The deal calls for Harrisburg, the Dauphin County commissioners and the Harrisburg Downtown Improvement District to pay a combined $270,000 a year to Park Harrisburg, the private company that manages Harrisburg’s parking assets.
The agreement originally called for a three-year term, but council proposed adopting it as a one-year trial period. Council President Wanda Williams recommended delaying the final vote until the county commissioners could discuss and agree to the single-year term.