Senate will probe Harrisburg blow-up

Complaining that "the laws designed to protect taxpayers from undue debt failed" Harrisburg taxpayers, the PA Senate Local Government Committee plans hearings Aug. 29 to review last January's scathing forensic report on the failure of the Harrisburg Authority's $300 million garbage incinerator renovation, state Sen. John H. Eichelberger Jr., R-30, said in a statement today.

Is this step toward reform for real? The plan for hearings comes six monhs after the audit landed with a muffled thud -- but less than one day after reporter Chris Pabst at CBS TV 21 reported, citing unnamed sources, that federal investigators and a grand jury are probing the cozy political-contractor public-finance axis that helped nearly bankrupt the capital city.

The incinerator's financial failure has driven the state capital city into receivership under a state law, supported by Gov. Corbett, that has left city government fighting creditors and the state receiver's office over control of city assets. Eichelbarger says he wants to know if state law needs to be changed -- or just enforced.

The city's former receiver, Main Line lawyer David Unkovic, has called for state and federal probes of the way local officials and contractors blew past legal protections and warning signals to fund and re-fund the dubious project. Eichelberger has not yet posted a list of who will testify. "This may be the first of multiple hearings on the subject," he promised.