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Harrisburg will provide sanitation services to Steelton under new intergovernmental agreement

Members of Harrisburg City Council in session on Tuesday night.

Harrisburg soon will provide sanitation services to Steelton, as the city on Tuesday night agreed to begin trash collection in the neighboring borough.

Harrisburg City Council unanimously voted to enter into an intergovernmental agreement so that the city will begin picking up Steelton’s residential trash and recyclables starting the week of July 1.

Steelton’s council approved the same agreement on Monday night.

“This is a really exciting and positive development for the city of Harrisburg and the borough of Steelton,” said Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse.

Borough Manager Doug Brown said that Steelton wanted to make the change because of residents’ dissatisfaction with the service provided by long-time hauler Republic Services, as well as a proposed price increase by the company.

“It was significantly more money,” Brown said. “That, plus the problematic service we were getting.”

Therefore, Steelton had the idea of approaching Harrisburg to see if the city had the interest and ability to take on its trash removal.

Harrisburg Public Works Director Aaron Johnson described the arrangement as “all positive,” since Steelton’s trash has been picked up on Wednesdays, the one day when Harrisburg has enough spare capacity to handle the borough’s 2,500 residential customers.

“It couldn’t happen on a better day,” he said. “For us, it’s just like adding another route.”

The agreement calls only for residential, not commercial, trash pickup, which is handled privately in Steelton.

Papenfuse said that Harrisburg does not expect to have to add any personnel or equipment to handle Steelton’s trash, because Wednesday has been a slow day for the city’s sanitation workforce.

Under the agreement, Steelton households will pay Harrisburg $25 a month for pickup, or $300 per year. Residents now pay Republic $24.45 a month, but that price would have increased by $13 to $15 a month under the company’s renewal proposal, Brown said.

Papenfuse declined to describe the agreement as a potential revenue generator for the city, but said it would offset some costs.

“It will pay for part of our employees’ time and the truck’s time, which will free up money for other uses,” he said.

Papenfuse also pointed out the turnabout from several years ago, when, under the “Harrisburg Strong” financial recovery plan, the city almost privatized its trash pickup to Republic Services. City Council pushed back on the deal brokered by then-Mayor Linda Thompson, and sanitation remained a city-provided service.

Notably, the sanitation charge for Steelton residents will be less than that for Harrisburg residents, who receive a monthly sanitation bill of $32.34. The difference, Papenfuse told council, is due to the vastly different amounts that the two municipalities pay for refuse disposal at the Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority (LCSWMA) facility in south Harrisburg.

Steelton pays a “tipping fee” of $85 per ton, while Harrisburg, due to the terms of its agreement with LCSWMA that helped resolve its financial crisis, pays $195 per ton.

The agreement reached between Harrisburg and Steelton is only a temporary measure that runs through Dec. 31. Both municipalities will need to hammer out a longer-term deal in the fall.

Council members said they were pleased with the agreement, both because it represented an efficient use of the city’s resources and because it offered a rare example of cooperation and shared services between local governments.

“It seems like a no brainer,” said Councilwoman Danielle Bowers. “I hope this is the first of many cooperation agreements between us and neighboring municipalities.”

Harrisburg and Steelton officials plan to make a formal announcement of their agreement during a press conference tomorrow afternoon.

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