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Proposed recovery plan includes parking rate increase - abc27 WHTM

Proposed recovery plan includes parking rate increase

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) -

Pending approval by Commonwealth Court, Mayor Linda Thompson touted a deal that would pull Harrisburg out of debt on the road to recovery. But the deal does come with some "shared pain"—specifically parking rates.

"It has been a long, hard road with more twists and turns than a television soap opera," said Harrisburg Mayor Linda Thompson. She held a press conference Tuesday morning to announce Monday's filing of "Harrisburg Strong," the state-appointed Receiver's debt recovery plan to Commonwealth Court.

Thompson's soap opera analogy pointed out the city's path to get to this point. But the Young and the Restless remain over the deal when it comes to Harrisburg's Parking Authority.

Receiver William Lynch released his 350 page plan yesterday. The plan pointed the pending sale of the incinerator would only cover about $130 million or so of the $360 million debt attached to the failed trash burner.

So to cover the remaining holes, Lynch proposed a 40-year lease the parking system to the Pennsylvania Economic Development Financing Authority—a state run group.

While the plan would pay down most of the city's outstanding bills, people point to a part of the plan that hits their direct pockets—higher parking rates.

Currently, a quarter will grant you 10 to 15 minutes at one of the city's 1,200 parking meters. Lynch's plan would require 75 cents for 15 minutes. Rates would double for Harrisburg's 10 parking garages and five lots.

Jacob Carta travels to Harrisburg every day to work in the city. He said he currently pays eight dollars a day, $40 a week to park. He was not happy when he learned those rates may soon jump to $24 a day, $120 a week.

"You just got to stop at a place, run in to get something for 15 minutes and then pay 75 cents...I mean, parking shouldn't cost money! That's my opinion," he said.

Amy Schwenk and Megan Olszewski enjoyed a 'Cold Jar' outside Little Amps Coffee Shop at Second and State streets. When they park downtown they agree – that's a lot of quarters needed.

"To go from 25 cents to 75 cents is a little extreme," said Schwenk.

Mayor Thompson argued Lynch's plan would generate $1.5 million in revenue from meters, $500,000 from parking garages. Money that would help Harrisburg remain in the black, she said.

In order to do so, Thompson said, "Everyone must share the pain. Everyone."

Thompson noted she too would soon have to pay higher parking.

"Yes, it's hurtful to their pockets. I live in the city, I pay taxes too. I'll be shipped up next to the meters now that I'm not going to be mayor. So it's all a part of being a team player and helping get your city out of debt and moving forward."

Thompson pointed out most paid parking spaces in Harrisburg fall on out-of-town visitors. Many feel unless they are seeing some overall benefit, the higher parking rates seem only a punishment of sorts.

But Lynch's plan would set aside about $16 million to be used for economic development and road repairs. That is something Olszewski can support.

"[The rate hike is] very drastic," she said. "But I think overall if it can improve the roadways and different aspects to the city—it's worth it."

Commonwealth Court will hold a hearing on September 19 whether or not to approve the deal.

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