June 2019 News Digest
Receiver Named for Harrisburg Schools
A Dauphin County judge last month appointed Dr. Janet Samuels as receiver for the Harrisburg school district, giving her broad authority to run the district for the next three years.
Judge William Tully issued an order that Samuels serve as receiver, a three-year appointment requested by the state Department of Education. Samuels has served as the district’s state-appointed chief recovery officer since last year.
In his “Memorandum Opinion,” Judge Tully outlined how the district has failed to meet the academic objectives outlined in the 2013 recovery plan and the 2016 amended plan, thus necessitating the receivership. The district fell far short on a number of measures, including graduation rates and standardized test scores, the opinion states.
The opinion further faulted the school board for “failing to comply with the directives issued by the CRO.”
With her appointment, Samuels now is widely empowered to run the district, assuming the roles of both the CRO and the school board. The one power she explicitly lacks is the ability to levy and raise taxes, which remains with the elected school board.
The order came on the same day that the Harrisburg school district dropped its opposition to receivership. In a court hearing, district Solicitor James Ellison told Tully that the district would not fight receivership, even though he had issued a point-by-point refutation of the state’s case only days before.
Furthermore, Ellison said that the district administration would fully cooperate with the receiver, who is assuming much of the authority of Superintendent Sybil Knight-Burney and the elected school board.
I-83 Study Approved
A split Harrisburg City Council last month approved hiring an outside consultant to study the proposed expansion of I-83, with an eye towards possibly slimming down the project.
Council voted 5-2 to spend $72,500 to hire Harrisburg-based Kittelson & Associates to conduct a traffic and community impact study of the current state proposal to double the number of lanes running through the city.
The study would review PennDOT’s widening plan, which envisions as many as 12 lanes and new interchanges, and determine whether alternatives exist to reduce the project’s footprint and the impact on the community.
Before the vote, Councilman Westburn Majors said that the city had received a letter from PennDOT stating that it would take into consideration Kittelson’s findings.
“It looks like they’re open to further analysis,” Majors said following the meeting. “They trust Kittelson to be a straight shooter with them.”
At a prior work session, several council members requested such a letter prior to the vote today.
The letter wasn’t enough to sway council President Wanda Williams, who maintained her opposition from a prior meeting. Before voting no, she reiterated that she believed that the expenditure was a waste—that it ultimately wouldn’t change PennDOT’s plans and that the money would be better used elsewhere.
“I don’t think that the city of Harrisburg should be committing $72,000 when I have potholes all up and down my streets and my pools haven’t opened yet,” she said.
The city plans to pay for the study from its large fund balance, Mayor Eric Papenfuse said previously.
Harrisburg, Steelton Enter Trash Agreement
Harrisburg will begin providing sanitation services to Steelton this month, as the city has 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 last month.
“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.” Steelton trash is picked up on Wednesdays, the one day when Harrisburg has enough spare capacity to handle the borough’s 2,500 residential customers, Johnson said.
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 also emphasized 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.”
Monument Podium Unveiled
A nonprofit group last month unveiled the first part of a monument slated to be erected near the state Capitol’s Irvis office building in June 2020.
The monument, titled “A Gathering at the Crossroads,” depicts four 19th-century figures from Harrisburg history gathered around a speaker’s podium—the part of the monument that has been completed.
Organizer Lenwood Sloan said that the monument is meant to serve a dual purpose: honor both the city’s long-lost “Old 8th Ward” behind the state Capitol and honor the 15th and 19th amendments to the U.S. Constitution, which guaranteed voting rights for African Americans and for women, respectively.
Sloan and others are now raising money to complete the monument, which will feature life-sized figures of civil rights activist William Howard Day, Harrisburg native, journalist and lawyer Thomas Morris Chester, musician and restaurateur Jacob T. Compton and abolitionist and suffragist Francis Ellen Walker Harper.
The podium is on display in Strawberry Square until Labor Day weekend.
Home Prices Continue Rise
Housing prices continued their long rise in the Harrisburg area in May, as sales slipped a bit from last year.
For the month, the median sales price in the three-county area jumped by 12.4 percent to $195,000, while the number of homes sold dipped by 3 percent to 644 units compared to May 2018, according to the Greater Harrisburg Association of Realtors (GHAR).
Dauphin County experienced strong price growth, with the median sales price jumping to $180,000 from $151,000 in the year-ago period, while units sold dropped slightly to 305 from 316, said GHAR.
In Cumberland County, the median price increased to $215,000 from $200,000, and the number of housing units sold dropped slightly to 303 from 313, stated GHAR. Perry County saw a drop in the median sales price, to $151,900 from $170,000 in May 2018, while sales increased by one to 36 units.
Harrisburg City Council last month approved the appointment of David Baker as the city’s new director of Parks, Recreation and Facilities by a 5-2 vote. It also voted against the appointment of Franchon Beeks as the city’s new director of Housing and Development by a 4-3 vote.
Harrisburg University received the final city approval last month to build a 17-story, mixed-used building downtown at S. 3rd and Chestnut streets. Harrisburg City Council voted unanimously for the project, which includes an academic tower, a hotel and a restaurant. HU expects to break ground on the project in August, according to university President Eric Darr.
Momin Bhatti was named last month as the communications manager for Harrisburg. Bhatti was promoted after serving as director of WHBG 20, the city’s cable news station.
Morton Spector, a long-time community leader in Harrisburg, died in late May at Homeland Center. Originally from Williamsport, Spector was a long an executive with D&H Distributing Co. before co-founding Design House Kitchens & Appliances. Spector was active in many area organizations, including Boys & Girls Club of Harrisburg, Dauphin County Library System, Harrisburg Council of the National Jewish Fund, Harrisburg Public Schools Foundation, the Jewish Community Center and the Homeland Center, among others. He received numerous awards and accolades throughout his life. Memorial contributions may be made to any of the following: The Alyce and Morton Spector Scholarship Fund, c/o Don Raiger, Director of Advancement Services, Lebanon Valley College, 101 N. College Ave., Annville, Pa., 17003; The Jewish Home, c/o Marianne Hobart, Comptroller, The Campus of the Jewish Home of Greater Harrisburg, 4000 Linglestown Rd., Harrisburg, Pa., 17112; and The Silver Academy c/o Samara Sofian, Director of Development, The Silver Academy, 3301 N. Front Street Harrisburg, Pa., 17110.
Antoine St., 528: A. Williams to K. Loobey & M. Canoy, $86,000
Berryhill St., 2208: Deutsche Bank National Trust Company Trustee Specialized Loan Servicing LLC to W & J Associates LLC, $32,500
Bigelow Dr., 33: V. Rodall & K. Smith to M. Murphy & G. Neff, $40,100
Boas St., 228: R. Shokes Jr. to E. Miller, $218,000
Boas St., 429: R. King to B. & A. Malia, $185,000
Boas St., 1939: LSF9 Master Participation Trust to I. Hewston, $78,900
Chestnut St., 1928: N. Doan to TPH Asset Management LLC, $39,000
Chestnut St., 1936: N. Doan to State West LLC, $45,000
Chestnut St., 2025: Cama Sidra FBO Edward Mitrovich IRA to L. Profitt, $67,900
Croyden Rd., 2778: D. Blumenthal to G. & M. Romero, $64,000
Derry St., 1439: D & F Holdings LP to K & F Property Investments LLC, $30,000
Derry St., 1934 & 1936: T. & S. Miller to Newport Petroleum Inc., $425,000
Derry St., 2027: P. Taughinbaugh to E. Echevarria, $68,500
Derry St., 2424: J. & S. Boyle to H. Marca & F. Alvarez, $67,000
Derry St., 2528: D. Metellus & R. Costume to D. Logan, $86,000
Dunkle St., 554 & 556: Crist Holdings to D. Brooks, $48,000
Elder St., 780: Bartush Signs to D& F Hummel LP, $185,500
Girard St., 759: J. Robles & R. Cruz to J. Alexopoulos, $97,600
Green St., 1405: D. McLaughlin to A. Stouffer, $146,000
Green St., 1625: K. Biggi & M. Wall to BCRA Realty LLC, $120,000
Green St., 3113: B. Baker to M. Jarvis, $180,000
Green St., 3218: Paramount Home Solutions LLC to S. Roblyer, $150,000
Hillside Rd., 111: J. Hetzel to D. Dissingeer & J. Brown Jr., $86,100
Kensington St., 2315: PA Deals LLC to D. & K. Borelli, $69,900
Market St., 1510 & 1513: Unitarian Church of Harrisburg to Shalom Properties, $275,000
Market St., 2000: J. Goodfellow James LLC to D. Garcia, $124,000
Nagle St., 123: L. & C. Jerome to F. Rubinic, $163,900
North St., 255: Red Top Properties LLC to Trip Aces 255 LLC, $420,000
N. 2nd St., 215, 217 & 219: W. & G. Nichols to Drinq LLC, $1,033,050
N. 2nd St., 1435: A. Ciervo to AON LLC, $400,000
N. 2nd St., 1715: PA Deals LLC to 1715 N. 2nd Street LLC, $100,000
N. 3rd St., 1110: Bartlett, Traynor & London to 1110 HBG LLC, $5,000,000
N. 3rd St., 1713: C. Smith & K. Overly to J. Nuila, $155,000
N. 3rd St., 1834: A. Peart to T. Miller & L. Wood, $95,000
N. 3rd St., 1919 & 1929: R. & G. Bulatovic to North Third LLC, $260,000
N. 3rd St., 3132: D. Blumenthal to M. Dunbar, $67,000
N. 3rd St., 3134: G. & J. Trump to M. Cruz, $75,000
N. 4th St., 1717: G. & J. Hellmann to A. Craver, $165,000
N. 6th St., 1000: N&R Group LLC to Vice Capital LLC, $62,000
N. 6th St., 2126: J. & J. Kang to Nana S Food Service LLC, $101,556
N. 6th St., 2200: J. Frais to D & F Realty Holdings LP, $150,000
N. 7th St., 2964: J. Getman to D & F Holdings LP, $87,500
N. 15th St., 1304: M. & M. Walker to B. Shephard & N. Cook, $47,000
N. 15th St., 1307: I. Lahlou to B. Shephard & N. Cook, $45,000
N. 16th St., 1318: Federal National Mortgage Association to J. Alvarado, $35,000
N. 17th St., 27: Myers Homes LLC to R. Dunkle, R. Staff & D. Ward, $35,000
N. 17th St., 1120: T. Mundy to J. Baltimore, $30,500
N. 17th St., 1218: T. Backer to Z. Amador, $79,900
N. Front St., 1125: RMK Management Group LLC to D. Pedroza, $384,000
N. Front St., 1525, Unit 508: D. Markowitz to A. Breneman, $165,000
N. Front St., 2837, Unit 402: F. Clark to L. Fenton, $120,000
Penn St., 1315: J. & M. McAnulty to K. Cowden, $85,000
Penn St., 1608: D. Hooker & B. Lister to W. Gelgot & E. Schuchardt, $172,000
Penn St., 2220: B. Butler to Limitless Possibilities Inc., $30,000
Race St., 602: D. & S. White to C. Logue, $160,000
Reel St., 2722: Bigfoot Properties LLC to A. Britton, $37,000
Regina St., 1712: Dan A. Loos Trust & Carol Loos Trust to Ice Properties LLC, $41,500
Rolleston St., 1138: H. Cabrera to A. Hassan, $83,250
Rudy Rd., 2302: G. Brown to J. Chen, $167,000
South St., 225: T. & E. Eachus to C. & C. Clemans, $110,000
S. 12th St., 1407 & 1409: D. Seymore to Islamic Center Masjid Al Sabereen, $44,500
S. 12th St., 1523: N. Garwood to R. Rabuck & A. Mema, $48,000
S. 13th St., 340: Round Rock Investments LLC to McClellan Development Group LLC, $110,000
S. 13th St., 1488: S. Rose to J. Torres, $60,000
S. 20th St., 207: T. Poole to M. Drennon, $109,900
S. 21st St., 709: Seneca Leandro View LLC to J. Martin, $77,000
S. 21st St., 968: E. & E. Rose to Edwin L. Heim Co., $365,000
S. 25th St., 645: U S Bank NA Trustee to S W M Properties LLC, $58,500
S. 26th St., 615: 2013 Central PA Real Estate Fund LLC to K. & M. Blomerus, $112,900
S. River St., 304: Pear Tree Liv Revocable Trust & D. Ogden to M. Della & I. Smith, $52,500
Schuylkill St., 331: L. Diaz to Scarn LLC, $85,000
State St., 130: L. Milspaw Jr. & M. Beshore to 130 State St. LLC, $185,000
Susquehanna St., 1626: R. & S. Stark to H. Belmont III, $133,950
Susquehanna St., 2006: C. Frater to PD Estate Properties LLC, $30,000
Swatara St., 1516: J. Finney to G. Brown, $54,900
Verbeke St., 315: S. McDermott to S. Goel, $150,000
Washington St., 109: NP 1 Ventures LLC to M. Della & I. Smith, $90,000
Whitehall St., 1815: D. Trexler to 37 Estate LLC, $65,000
Zarker St., 1415: Centric Bank to TPH Asset Management LLC, $30,000
Harrisburg property sales for May 2019, greater than $30,000. Source: Dauphin County. Data is assumed to be accurate.