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Altoona moves to lease water authority

Updated: Friday, May 16 2014, 10:22 AM EDT

By: Jackalyn Kovac

ALTOONA, Pa. -- A city struggling financially to get out of the red announced a plan to turn things around.

City of Altoona council members voted unanimously to start the process to lease the Altoona Water Authority at Wednesday night's City Coucil meeting.

"Frankly I think the longterm lease of the water assets presents the best opportunity for us and provides us the most available cash that we can use to move the city forward," said coucilman Bruce Kelley.

Griffin Financial Group, a consultant group hired by the city, believes Altoona could get between $180-240 million through a lease, allowing the city to pay off debt and leave Act 47 status.

The leftover money could then be used to fund city pensions for first responders.

"Eliminating those costs alone will be a huge benefit to us and exiting Act 47 would improve the bond rating for the city, so should we ever need to borrow we could get a better rate. The impact is really significant for us," Kelley said.

Although the deal is still in its infancy, with the council only approving measures to inform the city and the water authority of their intentions, officials have a plan.

Mayor Matt Pacifico said he wants to have a strict contract with the company that takes over the plant.

"One of the things I want added to the contract is that they honor the current contracts and renegotiate in good faith when those contracts are up. I don't want to see anyone lose their jobs," Pacifico said.

It is expected to take several months before the city starts to accept bids.

Altoona moves to lease water authority


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