Morning Must Reads: Water Privatization in Harrisburg and a Taxpayer Financed Hotel in Pittsburgh?

The Harrisburg Patriot News reports this morning that there are several firms interested in buying Harrisburg's water and sewer system.

If you are a Harrisburg water and sewer customer, perhaps now would be a good time to read up on the impact of water and sewer privatization schemes. From the good people at In The Public Interest:

At the local level in the US, many communities are struggling financially to maintain and modernize public water systems, so they can be lured into selling the systems to private companies. The result, however, often is worse service at a higher cost. In city after city, residents have seen their water rates skyrocket while facing flooding or water contamination caused by neglected maintenance, diminished customer service, and other problems. The nonprofit consumer organization Food & Water Watch has found that, across the US, private utilities charge the typical household 33% more for water and 63% more for sewer services than public utilities.

Schools in Pittsburgh are shedding staff, the transit agency is hemorrhaging jobs and cutting services — and still a developer looking to build a hotel in one of the healthiest real estate markets in the country wants tax money to finance their private development. Chutzpah!

The city's Urban Redevelopment Authority is advancing plans for $7.5 million in tax increment financing to help support a proposed $76.6 million office and hotel tower Downtown.

On Thursday, URA board members will consider hiring Reed Smith LLP at a cost up to $25,000 to serve as tax increment finance counsel. The URA also will decide whether to pay up to $9,000 to Fourth Economy for an economic impact analysis.

The proposed TIF would be used to help fund a 325-space parking garage that is part of the Gardens at Market Square, a 17-story high-rise to be built on Forbes Avenue between Wood Street and Market Square.

About $750,000 of the TIF would be used to fund a $1.5 million reconstruction of Wood Street between Third and Fourth Avenues. The rest would go for the garage. Wood Street work includes new sidewalks, street lights, landscaping and utility lines.

Washington County developer Millcraft Industries plans 95,000 square feet of office space, a 175-room Hilton Garden Inn, and 23,000 square feet of "destination" retail space at the Gardens.

Finally this morning, The Philadelphia Inquirer reports on allegations of racial and anti-union bias at an area casino.

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