Harrisburg, PA loses solvency and trust over incinerator

Michael Cooper wrote in the New York Times on 20 May 2010 about An Incinerator Becomes Harrisburg’s Money Pit:
HARRISBURG, Pa. — Officials here decided seven years ago to borrow $125 million to rebuild and expand the city’s enormous trash incinerator, which the federal government had shut down because of toxic air pollution.

But the incinerator burned through the money faster than the trash, leaving Harrisburg residents feeling like they were living through a sequel to the 1986 movie “The Money Pit.”

There were contractor troubles, delays, cost overruns and squabbles. The city borrowed tens of millions more, shoveling good money after bad into the job.

The Patriot-News Editorial Board wrote on 12 April 2010 about Harrisburg incinerator fiasco deserves an investigation to understand how it happened:
Over nearly a decade, officials at the Harrisburg Authority and City Hall made a series of decisions that sought to get the trash incinerator working and profitable, but which instead brought Pennsylvania’s capital to the brink of bankruptcy.

The 2003 deal that took on $125 million in debt to repair the incinerator neglected to include a performance bond.

Inexperienced firms were hired. Fees were paid for work poorly done. Loans were taken on disastrous terms.

Officials were aided, or rather misled, by the advice of numerous attorneys, bankers and engineers apparently far more interested in collecting handsome fees than they were in protecting the interests of taxpayers.

As a result, there is a deep distrust of the fundamental institutions that created this fiasco.

Something else sounds familiar about this situation:
While some of the seats have changed, many of the same people in government today had their fingerprints on these decisions.
It’s the same old boy network locally as approved Sterling Chemical, and the chair of the county commission at that time is now on the Industrial Authority. And the VLCIA has taken on what is reputed to be a $15 million bond issue.

How big is Harrisburg? 50,000 people, same as Valdosta. What is Harrisburg considering? Bankruptcy. Who profited anyway? Local developers.

What’s the moral?

All of the guarantees proved worthless.

All of the fail-safes failed.

What say we have the investigation now, before the fail-safes fail?