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Night Of The Budget Crisis: Money Woes Abound

It was a cold night in Lackawanna county. The phones were dead. The howls of the lawyers could be heard in the distance, drawing ever closer. The unpaid bills made scraping sounds on all the doors & windows. Soon, everyone was sure, they would find a way in. There was nothing to do but borrow and hope.

This was definitely the start of a bad B movie.

We recovered this note the next day from among the bodies, which seems to have been desperately scrawled in a writer for the Times Tribune‘s last moments as the crazed bills closed in:

Lackawanna County is blaming an oversight for the nonpayment of a $646.74 bill that left the district attorney’s office and the county visitors center without telephone service.

Service was restored at the visitors center on Glenmaura National Boulevard in Moosic on Wednesday afternoon and to the district attorney’s office on Spruce Street on Thursday after the treasurer’s office made the overdue payment to XO Communications LLC, county Chief Financial Officer Thomas Durkin said.

“It was a mix up about what was going to be paid and when it was going to be paid,” Mr. Durkin said of the delinquent bill. “The bill was overdue – there is no question about that.”

Commissioner Jim Wansacz said administration officials will investigate to determine why the bill was not paid and whether there is a better way of handling invoices.

But he was also none too pleased that a vendor would cut off the phones of two county agencies, and the district attorney’s office in particular, over the nonpayment of $600 and change.

“It is kind of ridiculous that a company would do this to a government agency,” Mr. Wansacz said, adding the county will be taking a look at its contracts with XO Communications.

Meanwhile, signs of the end times are appearing all over Scranton, triggering a mass exodus. It was discovered by paranormal investigators this morning that the entire staff of the Scranton Parking authority has completely disappeared. The lone survivor recounts what he saw: “the receiver took over all bank accounts and all assets, [and] we can’t pay employees and certainly can’t keep people working,” he said, unable to look the interviewer in the eye. The Times-Tribune’s inexplicably missing persons division, who conducted the interview, said Joseph O’Brien added that “Seven meter enforcement and collection staffers also were furloughed from the authority, but were transferred to the city, which will take over the responsibility of meter enforcement”. But what will the city do without it’s parking tickets?

The Scranton city council is taking drastic measures to control the panic, bailing out the parking authority to “prevent” further disappearances. This story also from the Times Tribune:

There will be no default for the beleaguered Scranton Parking Authority this month, as Scranton City Council on Thursday unanimously voted to bail out SPA by covering part of a bond payment due Saturday.

Meanwhile council also agreed, in a 3-1 vote, to seek court approval for $9.75 million in borrowing called unfunded debt. This is in addition to $9.85 million in unfunded debt that a court approved in January, and that city officials are hoping to finally secure by Sept. 30. The city does not yet have a lender lined up for the second round of unfunded debt, officials said. Both borrowings, totalling nearly $20 million, are needed for the city to end this year in the black, officials said.

As for the SPA bailout, it was a departure from council’s refusal to cover a prior SPA bond payment that was due June 1, a decision that forced SPA into a default at that time. Council later relented and covered that June 1 bond payment, but only after the default occurred. That default began a series of events involving the council-sought dismantling of SPA, including the takeover on Tuesday of SPA’s parking garages by a court-appointed receiver who hired an outside management firm to run the garages.

Many are worried the city’s “plan” will only prolong the inevitable: a city tearing itself apart. Scary, scary stuff. Get back to making those canned goods, folks! Remember, you can’t stop the apocalypse, but it will stop you.

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