Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Trash Talk: Residents, city officials discuss billing, recycling app as city considers new sanitation laws.

Harrisburg Treasurer Dan Miller explained a sanitation billing proposal as Mayor Eric Papenfuse looked on at tonight’s public meeting.

As Harrisburg attempts to overhaul the city’s trash and recycling laws, city officials are turning to the public for help to guide their proposals to final passage.

Mayor Eric Papenfuse last month unveiled a proposed set of laws concerning trash collection, billing and illegal dumping in the city.

The proposed ordinance would create harsher fines for illegal dumping and hauling, grant enforcement powers to more city employees and introduce a new, annual billing system designed to save the city more than $100,000 a year.

City officials have fielded public questions about the bill at a series of public hearings, including one that brought almost 40 residents to the Harrisburg Armory in North Allison Hill tonight.

Papenfuse hopes that City Council members will pass the ordinance before they adjourn for recess in July, which would give the city almost six months to undertake marketing and public information campaigns before the law takes effect in January 2019.


Billing

Some residents expressed concerns tonight about the proposed billing system, which calls for issuing one annual bill to city homeowners. The city’s current practice of issuing monthly bills costs thousands of dollars in postage, printing and labor costs, said Treasurer Dan Miller.

The new billing program would add the cost of trash service to homeowners’ annual real estate tax bill, which the city mails in January.

Residents could choose to pay their trash bill in one lump sum at the start of the year or opt for monthly direct deposit payments from their checking account.

Whatever they choose, the January trash bill will be the only one they receive all year.

“I really want to stress the difference between a bill and a payment,” Miller said. “If you get one bill at the start of the year, you can still pay it monthly.”

The treasurer’s office will offer exemptions for people who do not have bank accounts, Miller said.

Harrisburg will also stop sending trash bills to tenants. The city currently bills tenants at the request of their landlords, but under the proposed ordinance, landlords would receive all bills for their properties.

Annual billing will save the city more than $100,000 every year, Miller said. Residents have suggested ways the city could use those savings, such as hiring another employee to enforce the sanitation rules or funding a satellite treasury office where people can pay bills for city services.

Recycling

The global recycling industry is in trouble, but Harrisburg just introduced a free glass recycling program with collection stations throughout the city. It also expects to keep its single-stream recycling program free, even as other municipalities may begin to charge residents recycling fees, Papenfuse said.

Recycling coordinator John Rarig said that residents should be more cognizant of what is and isn’t recyclable. The city is launching a new phone app, Recycling Coach, which contains all the details of the city’s trash and recycling laws.

Residents can use the app to determine if an item is recyclable or remind themselves of their neighborhood trash collection day. Harrisburg officials will also be able to send updates and notifications to app users.

Harrisburg introduced single-stream recycling more than three years ago, but the city is finding a growing amount of contamination in its recycling bins. Rarig said that food waste, plastic shopping bags and Styrofoam containers all belong in trashcans.

Harrisburg officials continue to encourage residents to recycle glass in new drop-off locations throughout the city. Papenfuse said that every ton of glass that is recycled saves the city $190 in tipping fees at the LCSWMA trash incinerator.


The final public hearing on the proposed sanitation ordinance will take place at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 13, at the Scottish Rite Temple.

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