Take It or Leave It: LCSWMA’s Jim Warner Bristles at Tough Questions From Harrisburg City Council

Posted by By at 13 September, at 18 : 30 PM Print

Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority (LCSWMA) CEO Jim Warner faced tough questions at Harrisburg city council meeting Thursday night.

The council meeting was held to consider the city receiver’s plan to sell the Harrisburg incinerator to the Lancaster authority.

At the end of the long meeting the only thing that remained certain was that Warner was not used to being questioned, or having his decisions seconded guessed.

Council’s job was made all the more difficult because the incredibly complicated Harrisburg bailout plan was unveiled to the public and council a few weeks before, on August 26.

Warner was not only questioned about the long history of environmental problems at the incinerator.

Council members peppered Warner with concerns about the many complicated financial aspects of the plan.

The deal demands, for example, that the city of Harrisburg guarantee that at least 35,000 tons of garbage a year will be delivered to LCSWMA, or the City of Harrisburg must pay a “short fall” fee to the Lancaster authority.

Councilwoman Sandra Reid expressed concern about what would happened if the city didn’t meet that quota, and whether such a quota was at odds with recycling or “green economy” initiatives. Every ton of garbage that is recycled is one less ton that can be incinerated.

Warner said he did not care, that the city would have to pay up as stipulated if the garbage didn’t materialize.

Councilman Bruce Weber expressed concern that city residents must pay a tipping fee of $190 a ton. Warner said Harrisburg’s tipping fee would be as much as nine times as high as tipping fees paid by out-of-state residents.

“Can’t you work with us?” Weber asked.

No, Warner said. The deal on the table could not be negotiated. Warner himself had set the terms of the deal, he said, and there could be no negotiations.

It was a take it or leave it deal, he repeatedly told council.

At one point a council member asked Warner “to give us something.” Perhaps a free dumping day at the incinerator? Warner was asked.

Warner again said no, that free dumping days produced too much traffic at the facility.

Council members seemed upset that information simply was not at hand to make intelligent decisions.

Concerned citizens reminded council that dioxin and other carcinogens had long been produced at the site.

Warner said water samples taken off site “by the Dairy Queen” on Cameron Street below the plant showed elevated counts of chlorides, which was of no concern to him.

Warner repeatedly said he felt no need to clean anything up. He said Tom Corbett’s Department of Environmental Protection would not require LCSWMA to clean up the site in any substantial way.

Instead, Warner said, his take-it-or-leave-it deal included his demands to dump even more ash on the site.

By the end of the long meeting, Warner seemed chagrinned that he had to submit to even the most basic and reasonable of questions by the public and council.

Council was reminded that public records show that Warner, Dauphin County commissioners, and bond insurer AGM had been privately working on the plan with the governor’s office and the receiver for more than two years, while concerned citizens and council had only been given scant weeks to intelligently respond.

The meeting was long and dealt with many complicated issues. I’ll try to touch on some of these issues in future reports.

Photo by Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority

This post was written by:
- who has written 21 posts for Rock The Capital
Bill Keisling is the author of more than a dozen books. He's editor of yardbird.com. He's a lifelong resident of central Pennsylvania. In the 1990s, he played a small part in fighting the proposed burning of infectious medical waste at the Harrisburg incinerator. - Email Bill Keisling

Dauphin County Watch Energy & Environment Featured Haste Makes Waste Pennsylvania Issues Political

Related Posts