Harrisburg Weighs 2019 Budget
Harrisburg City Council last month delayed a vote on the 2019 municipal budget, citing unresolved disputes with the mayor’s office over spending proposals.
The seven-member council voted unanimously to table the budget bill proposed by Mayor Eric Papenfuse in November.
The mayor’s $70.8 million balanced budget called for slightly less spending than last year, flat tax rates, and more than $7 million in capital improvement projects.
The budget was the subject of almost eight hours of public hearings in December, when council members raised questions about proposed salary increases and the reorganization of city hall departments.
Council budget and finance chair Ben Allatt said on Dec. 18 that the administration would not budge on those proposals, or grant council’s requests to amend capital spending plans.
The mayor’s original capital spending plan called for $4.8 million in spending from the Neighborhood Services fund, including:
- $2.5 million for the acquisition of a new public works building
- $250,000 to outsource the demolition of abandoned buildings
- $2 million in new equipment for parks maintenance
An additional $2.5 million in the proposed budget would allow the city to finance its share of grant-funded transportation projects. Among them are:
- $517,000 to construct new sheltered bike lanes and a traffic circle on N. 7th Street.
- $345,000 to repave two miles of Riverfront Park’s lower river walk, a segment stretching from Maclay Street to Shipoke.
- $270,000 for landscaping and construction to complete the MulDer Square revitalization project.
- $250,000 to complete the 3rd Street repaving project, which was delayed last year by heavy summer rains.
As of press time, the council budget vote was scheduled for Dec. 27. Allatt declined to describe the specific changes council sought.
Recycling Fee Hits Harrisburg
Harrisburg will start paying a new fee for single-stream recycling in 2019, but ratepayers won’t see any changes to their municipal waste bills.
Beginning in January, Harrisburg will pay trash collector Penn Waste $40 for each ton of recycled paper and plastic taken to its materials recovery facility, where refuse is sorted, baled and prepared for export.
Harrisburg has used Penn Waste’s recycling facility since 2014 but did not previously pay for recycling.
Due to recent federal trade disputes with China, however, consumers across the country are now paying for a service that waste management companies traditionally offered for free.
As the world’s largest importer of recycled goods, China took the American waste industry by surprise earlier last year when it announced a temporary ban on all American imports, claiming that they contained too many contaminants—non-recyclable plastics and food waste that made their way into recycling bins.
The country later imposed new contaminant standards that all but disqualified American recyclables from import.
The announcement led to a meltdown in the American recycling industry, as waste companies began hemorrhaging money on a previously profitable service.
Higher Water, Sewer Rates in 2019
Water and sewer rates will rise this year for many people in the Harrisburg area, as Capital Region Water set its new rates for 2019.
Under the 2019 budget, CRW’s drinking water customers will pay $9.65 for 1,000 gallons, an increase of 19 cents, or 2 percent, over the 2018 rates. These customers also pay a $7.62 “ready to serve” charge.
Wastewater rates will go up more substantially. For 2019, these customers will pay $7.65 for 1,000 gallons, an increase of 66 cents, or 9.4 percent, over the 2018 rates.
An average, full-service residential customer who uses 4,500 gallons of water monthly will pay an extra $3.98 per month, according to CRW.
CRW stated that the rate increases were necessary, in part, to fund ongoing capital improvements in its service area. The company has committed to some $40 million in capital projects to repair and replace its aging infrastructure.
For 2019, CRW’s water projects include lining a major water main on Cameron Street, replacing several aging water mains, and evaluating the DeHart Dam spillway. Wastewater capital improvements include updating treatment systems at the wastewater treatment facility and repairing major interceptor sewers along Paxton Creek and the Susquehanna River, according to the company.
CRW has increased its water and sewer rates for several years in a row. For 2018, drinking water rates went up by 7.5 percent and wastewater rates by 7.1 percent.
Charter School Proposed
A new elementary charter school could open its doors in Midtown Harrisburg next year, if it gets the approval it seeks from the Harrisburg school board.
The Pennsylvania STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) Academy last month presented a charter application to the school board at a public hearing in the district’s Lincoln Administration Building.
Only three board members attended the hearing, which was recessed after 90 minutes and will reconvene in January.
The presentation was led by former Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Carolyn Dumaresq, a founding board member of the PA STEAM Academy. Dumaresq explained that the school would offer small classes and a rigorous curriculum in STEM fields, as well as a deep emphasis on language arts and literacy.
If Harrisburg grants the five-year charter application, the STEAM Academy would open at the HACC Midtown 2 Academic Building, 1500 N. 3rd St., in fall 2019 for grades K-2. The school would add a grade of instruction every year, allowing the incoming cohort of 2nd-graders to progress through 6th grade by the time the charter expires in 2024.
If their charter is granted and then renewed, they hope to expand to 8th grade.
HACC currently occupies Midtown 2, but the 15-year lease on the building expires in June 2022, and HACC announced in March that it would not renew it. The college plans to start moving some programs out of the building as early as this year.
As a public charter school, enrollment at PA STEAM Academy would be free for students, paid for by contributions from its students’ school districts. Harrisburg students would have first priority for the 120 enrollment slots. If the school received applications for more students than it could serve, it would select students through a lottery system.
Enrollment would only be open to students from other districts if the school could not fill its seats from within Harrisburg.
The school would also have a research component, Dumaresq said, serving as a testing ground for innovative curriculum programs that could raise student achievement across all of the Harrisburg school district.
“We would be able to look at our programs, look at student achievement, and say ‘this works’ and take the model [to other schools],” Dumaresq said. “A school district the size of Harrisburg can’t implement things this big all at once.”
UMC Churches to Close
Ten Harrisburg-area United Methodist churches are slated to close as their congregations consolidate, it was announced last month.
The Susquehanna United Methodist Conference cited declining membership and the high cost of building maintenance in its decision to shutter and sell the churches. Several churches are historic structures that date back more than a century.
The churches set to close are:
- First Harrisburg UMC, 260 Boas St.
- Riverside UMC, 3200 N. 3rd St.
- Rockville UMC, 4386 N. 6th St.
- Mark’s UMC, 3985 N. 2nd St.
- Camp Curtin Memorial Mitchell UMC, 2221 N. 6th St.
- Grace Harrisburg UMC, 216 State St.
- Derry Street UMC, 1508 Derry St.
- Twenty Ninth Street UMC, 750 S. 29th St.
- Grace Penbrook UMC, 25 S. 28th St., Penbrook
- Trinity Penbrook UMC, Canby and N. 25th St.
The conference stated that the congregations will consolidate into a smaller number of newly constructed campuses. Sites in Harrisburg and Penbrook are being considered as locations for the new campuses.
County Tax Unchanged
Dauphin County last month passed a 2019 budget that will keep the county’s portion of the property tax unchanged.
The $247 million budget retains the county rate of 6.87 mills, plus a .35 mills library tax.
This marks the 14th straight year that the county tax will not increase.
Additionally, the budget includes $11 million for the county’s municipal bridge project. Under the program, Dauphin County will use state transportation-related funds to cover 40 percent of a municipality’s cost to repair or replace a bridge. The rest of the money can be borrowed via low-interest loans from the Dauphin County Infrastructure Bank.
County officials said they are working with municipalities to determine an initial list of bridges.
“Without this program, township and boroughs would be forced to either close or weight-restrict bridges or raise local taxes to fix them,’’ said Commissioner Mike Pries. “We’re looking at long-term solutions and working with our municipal partners to improve the quality of life in the county.”
Robinson Regains Board Presidency
Danielle Robinson returned to her post as president of the Harrisburg school board last month, ousting incumbent Judd Pittman in a 6-3 vote at an annual reorganization meeting.
Lola Lawson, a board veteran who was appointed to a temporary seat in August, will serve as vice president.
A member of the school board since 2012, Robinson served as its president from 2015 to 2017, when she lost her leadership role to Pittman. She was subsequently elected vice president for the 2018 calendar year.
Robinson and Pittman found themselves in opposite factions throughout most of 2018, as the board decided whether to retain Superintendent Sybil Knight-Burney or conduct a nationwide search for her replacement. The board frequently split along slim margins on questions related to Knight-Burney’s tenure and administration, with the majority supporting her.
In other school board news, board member Melvin Wilson died suddenly last month. The board now must appoint a replacement by mid-January.
Study: Dauphin County Most Like “Middle America”
A research firm last month named Dauphin County the most typical county in the nation.
Alexandria, Va.-based Echelon Insights released the results of its “Middle America Project,” which ranked Dauphin County as, statistically, the “closest to resembling America as a whole.”
The firm used a variety of demographic and other data, including income, employment, church attendance and voting tendencies, to compile a “Middle America score” and rank more than 3,000 counties.
Another Pennsylvania county—Lehigh—took second place nationwide, with Scott County, Iowa, Shawnee County, Kansas, and Peoria County, Ill., rounding out the top five spots. Webster County, W.Va., was ranked as least resembling the nation as a whole.
Locally, Lancaster County came in at No. 51, Cumberland County at 109, York County at 318, Lebanon County at 533, Adams County at 633 and Perry County at 2,024.
Adam Porter was named last month as president of the executive board of Harrisburg Young Professionals for 2019. Porter is co-owner of both the st@rtup Harrisburg co-working space and Provisions, a downtown grocery. In addition, HYP named Jeremy Scheibelhut and Brandon Boring as vice presidents, Sydney Kyler as treasurer and Mary Kate Grimes as secretary.
AutoZone passed its first significant hurdle last month, as Harrisburg City Council voted to void several “paper” alleys on the proposed site at N. 7th and Maclay streets. Before the auto parts company can build a retail store on the Vartan-owned parcel, the city still must approve its land use plan.
Beth Taylor resigned last month after more than three years as manager of the Broad Street Market in Harrisburg. At press time, the market board had not yet named a replacement.
Harrisburg City Council last month unanimously passed a resolution opposing “conversion therapy,” a controversial treatment that claims to be able to change one’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Council passed the measure, which contains no sanctions, as a public statement of opposition.
Harrisburg University has been named U.S. STEM University of the Year by United Kingdom-based Corporate LiveWire. Corporate LiveWire is a networking platform that allows individuals and organizations to find other professionals in the corporate finance and business community.
Lindsay Helsel has been named vice president of Team Pennsylvania, a nonprofit dedicated to innovation and entrepreneurship in the commonwealth. Helsel previously served as the group’s director of international initiatives.
Patrice Merzanis will serve as the new executive director of the Dauphin County Bar Association effective Jan. 1. Merzanis, who most recently served as a consultant with the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors, replaces Elizabeth Simcox, who served in the position for seven years.
Radish & Rye Food Hub plans to open a second location this summer on the 1300-block of N. 3rd Street in Harrisburg. Owners Dusty and Julia James will open a seven-day-a-week grocery store, complementing their Broad Street Market stand, focused on local, organic and prepared foods. Radish & Rye has received a three-year, $333,410 federal grant to help fund the expansion.
Berryhill St., 2163: G. Garmin & D. Hart to International Union of Elevator Constructors Local Union #59, $140,000
Boas St., 223: Clionsky & Keys LLC to C. & K. Kelley, $142,800
Boas St., 257: F. & J. Beskind to R. Lowery, $116,900
Boas St., 261 & 263: C. & M. Frater to Alex Manning Enterprises LLC, $194,000
Boas St., 1816: D. Schultz to Harrisburg Properties LLC, $39,000
Cumberland St., 224: A. Karns to A. & A. Chaplin, $114,000
Derry St., 2423: E. Gmys to S. Bello, $78,000
Duke St., 2438: M. & K. Morris to K. Morris, $30,000
Fulton St., 1722: PA Deals LLC to Pedavelis Properties LLC, $109,000
Green St., 1102: LHRE LLC to W. Hoover & Heinly Homes LLC, $50,000
Green St., 1820: C. Edwards to Jhonleo Home Renovations LLC, $45,000
Green St., 2212: T. Treece to E. Villavicencio, $55,000
Harris St., 226: P. & T. Davis to V. Parades, $74,500
Herr St., 1611 & 703 N. 18th St.: WK Rentals LLC to Henry & Sons Property 2 LLC, $119,800
Locust St., 115 & 117 N. River St.: Allis Revocable Trust to M. & D. Williams, $287,000
Locust St., 119: D. Shatto, S. Shatto & A. Rhoads to G. Rhoads & M. Beamer, $95,000
Market St., 1827: 2103 Central PA Real Estate Fund LLC to Henry & Sons Property 2 LLC, $79,900
N. 2nd St., 2131: J. & R. Miller to BCRA Realty LLC, $84,500
N. 2nd St., 2140: M. Price to G. & K. Raser, $140,000
N. 2nd St., 2313: G. Mineur to D. Lehman, $36,700
N. 3rd St., 1614: P. Eusi to D. McCord, $144,500
N. 3rd St., 1800: R. Valentine & C. Frater to 1800 N. 3rd LLC, $174,500
N. 3rd St., 1818: C. Frater to Heinly Homes LLC, $100,000
N. 3rd St., 1724: Y. Farzana to J. Montone, $132,000
N. 3rd St., 1937: C. Frater to Heinly Homes LLC, $130,000
N. 4th St., 3230: D. Garman to C. Sitterly, $132,000
N. 5th St., 2648: R. Walker to R. & O. Hicks, $44,000
N. 13th St., 113: Adonis Real Estate LLC to 77 Estate LLC, $37,500
N. 15th St., 183 & 185: S. Fenton, D. Fenton & Harrisburg Property Management Group to T. Casteel, $58,000
N. 15th St., 1308: Harrisburg Rentals LLC to Henry & Sons Property 2 LLC, $59,900
N. Front St., 1525, Unit 210: N. & D. Burke to R. & L. Mack, $105,000
N. Front St., 2949: Fraternal Order of Police to Vinculum Inc., $285,000
Penn St., 1717: J. Armstrong to N. Houle, $109,900
Pennwood Rd., 3100: C. Pensyl to K. Zuber, $96,000
Reel St., 2433: A. Wood to C. & M. Gentry, $31,000
Reily St., 204: R. & E. Davis to B. Davis, $80,000
Rolleston St., 1235: L. & E. Saunders to ECS Holdings LLC, $170,000
Rumson Dr., 2786: PA Deals LLC to B. & C. George, $79,500
Seneca St., 241: CR Property Group to L. Graham, $71,500
S. 14th St., 1403: J. & F. Scott to City of Harrisburg, $41,000
S. 17th St., 205: J. Tyson, M. Tyson & W. Hill to 205 S. 17th Street LLC, $137,500
S. 23rd St., 605: 2014 LIMG Real Estate Investment Fund LLC to Henry & Sons Property 2 LLC, $64,900
S. 24th St., 705 & 711: C. Dellmuth to R. Hendrix, $95,800
S. 26th St., 655: Twenty Ninth Street United Methodist Church to F. & R. Rivera, $109,900
S. Chestnut St., 100: Dauphin County General Authority to Chestnut 100 LLC, $1,600,000
S. Market Sq.: Skarlatos & Zonarich Real Estate LP to South Second Associates LLC, $1,800,000
State St., 1310: Skye Holdings LLC to M. Maniari & Z. Er Roudi, $30,000
Sylvan Terr., 127 & 134: C. McGraw to Enterprise O LLC, $65,000
Verbeke St., 1418: A. & D. Cruz to J. Reid, $63,900
Yale St., 227: J. & C. Nuhfer to A. De Camacho, $42,000
Yale St., 228: C. Jones to NGDR Company Inc., $45,000