Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

April News Digest

Superintendent Decision Reversed

The Harrisburg School District may not be getting a new superintendent after all, thanks to an unexpected vote last month.

In March, the board voted 5-4 to approve a resolution opening the position of superintendent to new applicants. The move signaled to current superintendent Sybil Knight-Burney that her contract would not be automatically renewed when it ends on June 30.

But last month, Tyrell Spradley, the board member who cast the deciding vote on that contentious resolution, motioned to rescind it. His motion passed 5-4 with board members Carrie Fowler, Percel Eiland, Brian Carter and board President Judd Pittman in the minority.

Asked what the vote meant for Knight-Burney’s contract, district Solicitor Samuel Cooper pointed to the Pennsylvania school charter. That law states that the board must give the acting superintendent 90-days notice if it doesn’t intend to automatically renew her contract.

But if the board fails to take action, the terms of Knight-Burney’s contract extend for one year, Cooper said.

By nullifying the vote from the prior month, the board has essentially chosen to forego any action on the superintendent’s contract. It will automatically renew for a one-year provisional period, but Cooper said the board could act before then to renew it for up to five years.

After the meeting, Spradley said that he changed his mind about the search because the board received new information about personnel and budget matters.

Allowing Knight-Burney’s contract to renew for one additional year will preserve consistency in the district and lead to better decision-making by the board, he said.

“I don’t have an issue looking for candidates, but we need time to find the correct ones,” Spradley said. “The board may feel rushed.”

Pittman was disappointed, but not surprised, by the board’s action. He said his position on Knight-Burney’s tenure has not changed in the three years he’s served on the board.

“When you look at our academic data and the evidence we put forth for our success, it just isn’t there,” Pittman said. “If we’d done a search and Knight-Burney came out as the best candidate, I would have supported her… but our responsibility as a board is to hold everyone as accountable as possible.”


School Finances “Bleak”

The Harrisburg School District’s finances are “more bleak” than anticipated, said the president of the Harrisburg school board.

Board President Judd Pittman offered that assessment last month following a presentation by Chief Financial Officer James Snell, who told the board that the district is facing serious financial challenges.

Budget projections prepared by consultants at Philadelphia-based Public Financial Management (PFM) anticipate that rising expenditures and flat revenues will generate years of consecutive deficits and ultimately draw down the district’s $21.6 million fund balance.

PFM consultant Marissa Litman told the board that the fund balance could be depleted in as few as three years, even if the board levies the highest allowable tax hikes.

Expenditure projections anticipate no salary increase for HEA-represented employees, but they do expect that bargaining will move some teachers up a salary step based on a grievance settlement. Social security and pension payments will increase along with those salary expenditures, and the projections also call for $3 million for facility enhancements. The expenditure projections assume that the district will continue its debt service payments and will not borrow any more money.

Litman reminded the board that projections are based on assumptions that are subject to change. Nonetheless, she advised the board to correct its spending to avoid drawing down its fund balance.

“This has been projected for a number of years, and now we have to deal with it,” Litman said.

The district was able to add to its fund balance as recently as the 2014-15 fiscal year. But the district ran a $3.7 million deficit in 2015-16, followed by a deficit of roughly half a million in 2016-17. The current 2017-18 budget anticipates another $6 million deficit.

DBEs Debated

For months, Harrisburg City Council members have raised seemingly the same question to members of the city’s administration.

How many women and minorities are being hired for public works contracts?

Last month, they got their first firm answer from Harrisburg Business Director Marc Woolley, who appeared at a legislative session to review the city’s success in hiring disadvantaged business enterprises, or DBEs, for its public contracts.

DBE is a recognized business category that includes minority business enterprises (MBEs) and women business enterprises (WBEs). A business can seek MBE or WBE certification if 51 percent of its ownership is controlled by minorities or women, respectively.

Most large cities across the country have policies aimed at drawing DBEs into public projects. TheBurg reported in March that Harrisburg’s own policies became the subject of scrutiny late last year, when council members grilled city officials on the rate of DBE participation in a major repaving project.

Last month, Woolley confirmed that DBE contracts for the 3rd Street Multimodal project, which will enhance two miles road and sidewalks from Uptown to downtown Harrisburg, amounted for just 3.8 percent of the project’s $3.1 million construction budget.

“There’s a lot of room for improvement if we want to increase our participation percentages,” Woolley said.

Working with colleagues from the Department of Community and Economic Development and the city’s Affirmative Action Office, Woolley set out to determine how many DBEs have participated in city contracts in the past three years and how city departments can reach more through bidding and solicitation.

According to Woolley, the program currently under development will have three objectives: removing impediments to business certification, participating in business development, and elevating small businesses and suppliers by moving them up the supplier chain.

Woolley said that Harrisburg’s current process for certifying DBEs is cumbersome, which could discourage businesses to seek DBE certification and, in turn, skew the city’s participation rate.

Woolley and his team plan to simplify the certification standards and are in the process of verifying the DBE status of every vendor that the city has hired in the past three years. The verification process has already revealed some vendors who were not listed as DBEs and who have since been added to the city’s Certified Minority Business Directory, Woolley said.

While some cities try to enforce minimum participation levels for DBEs, Harrisburg’s own DBE program will focus on education and business development, Woolley said.

City officials also plan to bolster outreach efforts by advertising public bidding opportunities on social media and in public service announcements.

More Apartments Downtown

Another downtown apartment project received the official go-ahead last month, as Harrisburg City Council agreed to a residential conversion on Pine Street.

Council voted 5-1 to allow Harristown Enterprises to proceed with converting the circa-1952 office building at 124 Pine St. to a 25-unit apartment building with commercial space on the first floor.

The lone no vote came from council President Wanda Williams, who stated that she would refuse to vote affirmatively on future Harristown projects until she was satisfied that they contained what she considers to be affordable units.

With the affirmative vote, Harristown can move forward with purchasing the six-story, 30,000-square-foot building from current owner Keystone Human Services, which has it on the market for $1.5 million.

Once the sale is complete, Keystone is expected to lease the building until it can find a new home, meaning that the office-to-residential conversion probably won’t begin until early 2019, according to Harristown CEO Brad Jones.

The Pine Street project, Jones said, will consist of 18 one-bedroom and seven two-bedroom units that will range from about 700 to 850 square feet in size. He expects rents to be about $1,095 to $1,395 a month. The project includes 19 off-street parking spaces, which would be rented separately.

Over the past few years, Harristown has converted several other downtown office buildings to residential use, adding about 60 apartment units in all.

At last month’s meeting, City Council also approved a resolution that will allow broadcaster ABC27 to construct a 3,500-square-foot addition to its Uptown Harrisburg building. The project entails consolidating three parcels at 3235 Hoffman St. and at 560 and 600 Alricks St., demolishing several existing structures on the Alricks Street parcels and adding to the main building on Hoffman Street.

In other action, council passed an “aerial easement agreement” with Harristown, allowing the company to continue to string about 580 lights over S. 3rd Street between Market and Chestnut streets. Harristown hung the lights last year after receiving temporary authorization from the city. Since then, several evening block parties have been hosted on the street.

Council also approved a $2 million, 10-year loan from the state Department of Transportation Infrastructure Bank to fund the repair and improvement of streets, including accessibility upgrades, in south Harrisburg.

Lastly, council passed a resolution allowing New York-based Smart City Media to install about 25 digital kiosks in downtown and Midtown Harrisburg. The kiosks will display city-based information such as events, businesses, dining options, schedules and history, with Smart City footing the $100,000 cost per kiosk, said Councilman Cornelius Johnson. The displays will contain advertising, with the revenue split between the company and the city, he said.

Glass Recycling Re-Starts

Glass is trash no more.

That was the message of Mayor Eric Papenfuse last month, as he announced the return of glass recycling to Harrisburg.

“We are pleased to be able to provide a way for our residents to recycle glass jars and bottles,” Papenfuse said. “This is just another way we’re trying to implement environmentally friendly programs that will make us a green and progressive city.”

Three years ago, Harrisburg suspended glass recycling, citing its high cost and difficulty. At the same time, it began to accept paper products for recycling, which previously had not been allowed.

While glass recycling will re-start, it will not be picked up with other recyclables during weekly curbside collection. Instead, the city has identified areas in the following places where glass can be dropped off:

  • Shipoke
  • Hall Manor
  • Kline Plaza
  • Fire Station Two
  • Fire Station One
  • Fire Station Eight
  • Broad Street Market
  • Uptown Shopping Plaza
  • Harrisburg Department of Public Works
  • William Howard Day Homes

Each location will provide a clearly marked dumpster or bin for recycled glass products, Papenfuse said.

Specific glass products, including jars and bottles without lids or tops, will be accepted. Other glass products such a mirrors, windows and drinking glasses, will not be accepted.

Papenfuse said that glass recycling has re-started because the new program will keep glass out of the waste stream of other recycled products. A major challenge for glass recycling has been that broken glass is difficult and expensive to separate and handle when intermingled with other recycled waste.

The city has contracted with Mount Pleasant, Pa.-based CAP Glass, a glass recycler, to collect and recycle the glass.

Papenfuse said that, since he’s been mayor, recycling in the city has increased three-fold, and he stressed the importance of glass recycling to keep down the city’s cost of burning solid waste at the incinerator.

“Not only are we concerned about the environment,” he said. “We’re also concerned about taxpayer dollars.”

River Walk Repaving Funded

Harrisburg will soon start repairing its pockmarked riverfront walkway, working with a budget that’s 50 percent larger than initially anticipated.

Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse announced last month that the city has received an additional $500,000 in grant funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation to repair concrete on the entire length of the city’s historic river walk—11,000 linear feet stretching from the Shipoke neighborhood to Maclay Street in Uptown.

The city learned a year ago that it had received $1 million from the federal Transportation Alternative Program (TAP) grant, which is designed to assist and promote non-motorized transportation.

City officials knew then that $1 million would not cover the whole project, Papenfuse said. They successfully lobbied PennDOT, which administers the federal TAP grant, for more money.

“It’s a massive project,” Papenfuse said. “With the price of concrete and total scope of the project, we needed more.”

Papenfuse said that work could begin as early as this year. He declined to say how long it would take to complete the repairs, but did say that the city might have to work quickly to comply with terms of the grant. Harrisburg expects to receive its funds almost immediately after City Council grants approval for the grant agreement.

“I think PennDOT is ready to go,” Papenfuse said. “This isn’t that complicated and won’t require a separate design phase. So, we’ll move into the contract and bidding phase next.”

The 100-year old river walk is pummeled by floods, snow and ice every year, which leads to erosion and cracks in the concrete. The walkway is currently marred by potholes and uneven surfaces, making it difficult to navigate for anyone riding bikes, pushing strollers, or travelling in wheelchairs.

The funds from this grant will not permit the city to repair the stairs leading from Riverfront Park to the riverside promenade, nor the steps that descend from the lower walkway into the river. Papenfuse said that those fixes, as well as other enhancements like landscaping, could be made by the city with in-house labor after the walkway repairs are complete.

“This is a major investment, and it will be up to the city to maintain it,” Papenfuse said.

HACC Tuition Rises

HACC students will have to pay a bit more for the next academic year, as the college plans to raise tuition and fees to close a budget gap.

The Harrisburg-based regional community college announced last month that its board of trustees passed a $142 million budget with an average 2.9-percent tuition hike.

“HACC faces enrollment challenges similar to other colleges and universities across the commonwealth and throughout the country,” HACC President John J. “Ski” Sygielski said.

Sygielski said that HACC faced a $1.7 million shortfall for the 2018-19 academic year. The higher tuition and fees will yield an extra $2.4 million, he said. HACC’s tuition will increase by $6 per credit hour for sponsoring, non-sponsoring and out-of-state tuition rates.

For an in-state resident who lives in one of the 22 sponsoring school districts, tuition will increase from $174.25 to $180.25 per credit hour (3.4 percent increase). For non-sponsored, in-state residents, tuition will go from $211 to $217 per credit hour (2.8 percent increase). Out-of-state residents will pay $262 per credit hour, up from $256 (2.3 percent increase).

There also will be a $25-per-credit-hour increase in tuition rates for “College in the High School” and dual enrollment programs, and a $1-per-credit-hour increase in technology fees for students.

So Noted

Barley Snyder last month announced that it has formed a “Senior Living Industry Group” to address legal issues facing the growing senior living industry. The law firm has offices throughout central PA, including in Harrisburg.

Devan Drabik began last month as the new director of marketing and communications for ExploreHBG, Visit Hershey & Harrisburg’s tourism branding program for Harrisburg. Drabik last served as director of business development for the city of Harrisburg

Gary Lenker was named last month to the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency. Appointed by Gov. Tom Wolf, Lenker is executive director of Tri-County Housing Development Corp.

S&T Bank last month announced two personnel moves. Melissa Doss was named mortgage banker to serve the Harrisburg and East Shore markets. In her new role, she will originate mortgage loans and foster relationships with new borrowers in that region. Katie Rittel was promoted to mortgage banker, responsible for originating mortgage loans and growing the bank’s existing loan portfolio in the Camp Hill and West Shore markets.

Shores Veterinary Emergency Care Center cut the ribbon last month on its facility at 835 Sir Thomas Court, Harrisburg. The 9,600-square-foot hospital features two surgical suites, eight treatment rooms and a dedicated trauma entrance, in addition to a 40-seat conference room.

TheBurg last month announced that it received 16 2018 Keystone Professional Awards from the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association. TheBurg received peer-judged press awards in a wide range of categories, including for reporting, writing, headlines, graphics, photography and design. For the third straight year, TheBurg also won the prestigious “Sweepstakes” award for best performance statewide in its category.

Traditions Mortgage last month held a grand opening for its new location at 3421 Market St., Camp Hill. A division of York Traditions Bank, the mortgage company lends in York, Dauphin and Cumberland counties.

Changing Hands

Boas St., 405: V. Zahorian to J. Varner & C. Fowler, $119,900

Briggs St., 223: P. & J. Moran to D. & L. Butcher, $175,000

Brookwood St., 1915: R. Carter & S. Hill to Edwin L. Heim Co., $50,000

Chestnut St., 2043: V. Oster to P. Geltmacher, $128,500

Cumberland St., 211: Summerhill Partners LP to B. Sholtis, $118,000

Derry St., 1333: Leonard Dobson Family Limited Partnership to S. Costa. $50,000

Emerald St., 247: US Bank National Assocation to M. Bekelja, $31,000

Green St., 1611: L. McLeaish to M. & S. Topping, $177,500

Green St., 1918: J. Leahan to D. Haubert, $145,000

Green St., 2009: J. Croft & M. Kmiecinski to L. Crandall & C. Wagner, $206,000

Green St., 2220: M. & L. Craig to Harrisburg Properties LLC, $34,000

Harris St., 216: D. & R. McLean to D. Zimmerman, $161,500

Harris St., 220: D. Grossman to D. Merkt, $184,000

Harris St., 234: D. Barclift to Big Leaf Properties LLC, $40,000

Hillside Rd., 105: W. & L. McBride to J. Runyan, $149,900

Kelker St., 204: W. Manley to A. Nebbou, $125,000

Kensington St., 2223: Deutsche Bank National Trust Co. to PA Deals LLC, $31,000

Logan St., 1730: E. Tisdell to B. & W. Bechtel, $145,000

Manada St., 1914: T. & R. Black to W. Fischer, $30,500

North St., 254 & 256: Harrisburg Redevelopment Authority to Alli Lin LLC, $34,300

N. 2nd St., 1200, 1202, 1204 & 1206, Harrisburg Second Street Apartments LLC & Nish Realty Inc., to WCI Partners LP, $235,000

N. 2nd St., 2053: Sunoco Retail LLC to 7 Eleven Inc., $1,248,000

N. 3rd St., 2600: D. & V. Alvear to L. Freed, $160,000

N. 4th St., 1422: Leonard J. Dobson Family Limited Partnership to B. Esworthy, $80,000

N. 4th St., 2747: A. Sieger to S. Gamble & C. Kilb, $135,000

N. 4th St., 3212: L. Bowers to C. Gibson & R. Landon, $100,000

N. 5th St., 2606: M. Pitts to M. Napper, $67,900

Parkside Lane, 2906: R. & K. Riley to S. Webb, $350,000

Peffer St., 216: SL Realty to S. Gallagher & C. Prestia, $60,750

Penn St., 917: B. Fritz to B. Golper & J. Wu, $96,000

Penn St., 1908: WCI Partners LP to K. & D. Smyth, $165,000

Putnam St., 1625: S. & M. Mavric to J. Avila, $36,000

Radnor St., 618: Dziko Properties to D. Nelson, $45,000

Rudy Rd., 2311: N. Ishman to V. McCallum, $151,000

S. 14th St., 1408: M. & B. Graybill to City of Harrisburg, $42,000

S. 14th St., 1445: G. Neff to City of Harrisburg, $43,000

S. 14th St., 1446: D. & T. Patterson to City of Harrisburg, $52,000

S. 14th St., 1448: G. Neff to City of Harrisburg, $50,000

S. 14th St., 1450: G. Neff to City of Harrisburg, $49,000

S. 14th St., 1452: G. Neff & City Limits Realty to City of Harrisburg, $51,000

S 17th St., 1034: NationStar HECM Acquisitions Trust 2017 to D&F Realty Holdings LP, $45,000

S. 19th St., 533: PMSC Investments LLC to V. & D. Morales, $58,500

S. River St., 321: S. Cammack to J&S Home Solutions, $60,000

Susquehanna St., 1739: A. Otterson to A. Nebbou, $85,500

Susquehanna St., 1833: J. Secrest to C. Straub, $110,000

Susquehanna St., 2018: Unite LLC to P. Truong, $30,000

Verbeke St., 1723: J. & C. Weathers to Harrisburg Properties LLC, $49,900

Woodbine St., 214: Monte Design Studio LLC to E. Whittaker, $105,900

Woodlawn St., 2710 & 2712: Deutsche Bank National Trust Co. to Fruition Holdings LLC, $80,299

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