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Signs 300x225 Mayors Slate Victorious in City Council Primary

Campaign signs from earlier today outside a polling station.

Mayor Eric Papenfuse wasn’t on the ballot, but he may have emerged the greatest victor in today’s Democratic primary for Harrisburg City Council.

The three candidates endorsed by Papenfuse–incumbent Jeffrey Baltimore and challengers Cornelius Johnson and Westburn Majors–won nominations for four-year terms on council. Challenger Destini Hodges tallied the most votes for the lone two-year seat.

No Republicans ran in the primary, meaning the winners of the Democratic primary will be strongly favored in November’s general election.

Moreover, Papenfuse vocally denounced incumbent Brad Koplinski, pleading with residents to vote against him. Koplinski placed fourth, losing to Majors by just 18 votes for the nomination for the final four-year seat.

“This is a big night for Harrisburg, absolutely phenomenal,” said Papenfuse after the final votes were reported. “I’m elated that we’re finally going to get new leadership to move the city forward.”

He added that he believed the public, with its vote, sent a message that it was “tired of the dysfunction on City Council.” Papenfuse advocated for new blood on council to help move his agenda forward and to replace Councilwoman Wanda Williams as council president.

Primary results were as follows: Johnson, 1,474; Baltimore, 1,429; Majors, 1,257; Koplinski, 1239; Ellis “Rick” Roy, 1,048; Rhonda Mays, 760; Jeremiah Chamberlin, 719; Ron Chapel, 332; Koscina Lowe, 226.

In the race for city treasurer, Tyrell Spradley defeated challenger Brian Ostella by a count of 1,279 to 1,221. Council appointed Spradley last year to fill the unexpired term of former city Treasurer John Campbell, who was arrested on theft charges.

For Harrisburg school board, Jennifer Smallwood, Monica Blackston-Bailey, Matthew Krupp and Melvin Wilson Jr. won nominations for four-year seats. Daunessy Penn and Lionel Gonzalez were tied for the final four-year slot, each with 1,159 votes. Judd Pittman defeated LaTasha Frye for the nomination for the sole two-year seat.

 

 

 

Welcome to TheBurg Podcast, a weekly roundup of news in and around Harrisburg.

Jan. 30, 2015: This week, Larry and Paul discuss City Council’s latest legislative session, gun-rights groups suing the city, and a whole bucketful of honorable mentions, including the cover of the February issue, which was distributed today.

Special thanks to Paul Cooley, who wrote our theme music and whose own podcast, the PRC Show, is available on SoundCloud and in the iTunes store.

TheBurg Podcast can be downloaded by clicking on the date above or by visiting the iTunes store. You can also access the podcast via its host page, here.

At TheBurg, we’re not much into new media stuff.

Link bait, user-generated content, seeding. Yuck.

In recent months, I’ve had several news people defend aggregation to me, the practice of taking content produced by others and liberally repurposing it for one’s own use.

“We used to call that plagiarism,” I’ve snapped back, stunned that reporters are now being told to do things that used to get them fired.

Then there’s the listicle.

Using lists to convey information has been around for a long time.

For years, one of my favorite features in the Washington Post was the annual “What’s Out and In” list that appeared every New Year’s Day. I had no idea how the contributors determined what would be hot or not over the coming year (why, a few years back, were “cancer memoirs” out and “grief memoirs” in? Beats me), but I relished sitting down with a big cup of coffee and poring over the lengthy, whimsical list every Jan. 1.

In part, I enjoyed the feature because of its novelty. Presenting information as a list was an exception, not the rule, or a crutch, as it’s become for many media outlets today.

For the past few years, I’ve created my own list each January: the Top 10 Harrisburg news stories of the past year.

So, enjoy the list for what it is: a highly subjective summation and ranking, with my own spin on the year’s news. Feel free to nod, argue or curse me out. And I promise not to make a habit of it. This will be my one and only listicle of 2015.

Screenshot 2014 12 29 10.44.40 300x287 A Year of Change: In 2014, you had to sift through the pastors, treasurers and gun packing lawmakers to get to the most important news.10. Civil War War: Sometimes, big stories seem to pop up from nowhere, and the scuffle over funding for the Civil War Museum fit into that category. Without notice, Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse appeared at a Dauphin County commissioners session to mount a case for negating an agreement that set aside about $300,000 a year in hotel tax money for the museum. Over the ensuing months, the city and county revived issues that hadn’t been discussed much in years: the purpose of the museum, its viability, its funding and how Harrisburg should use its limited funds to market itself. It also re-engaged the always-simmering battle over the legacy of former Mayor Stephen Reed.

Screenshot 2014 12 29 10.44.50 300x295 A Year of Change: In 2014, you had to sift through the pastors, treasurers and gun packing lawmakers to get to the most important news.9. Pastor Arrested: Upon taking office, Papenfuse declared an all-out war on blight, targeting slumlords, deploying codes officers and even formulating a new Housing Court. That sounded fine to most people until the first person arrested under the get-tough policy was one of the city’s most prominent pastors, Bishop A.E. Sullivan, Jr., whose blighted church began to crumble down on its neighbors. For some, the arrest was an early test of Papenfuse’s resolve. For others, it signaled the re-emergence of racial tensions that always seem to lie just beneath the surface in Harrisburg.

Screenshot 2014 12 29 10.44.58 293x300 A Year of Change: In 2014, you had to sift through the pastors, treasurers and gun packing lawmakers to get to the most important news.8. Grand Jury Convened: What happens when you open a closet and a room full of secrets pours out? In the case of Harrisburg, a grand jury is empaneled. At press time, months after official-looking guys in official-looking jackets hauled away box-loads of potential evidence to Pittsburgh, the investigation continued into the myriad twisted, dubious deals that led to Harrisburg’s financial collapse.

Screenshot 2014 12 29 10.45.08 291x300 A Year of Change: In 2014, you had to sift through the pastors, treasurers and gun packing lawmakers to get to the most important news.7. Primetime Crime: If it bleeds, it leads, right? The media continued to have a field day (or year—or years) over the issue of crime in Harrisburg. Not that there wasn’t ample material to draw from. A continuing high homicide rate largely negated the good news that some other types of crime fell. Meanwhile, a few high-profile stories (the tragic case of Jared Tutko, Jr., a brief exchange of gunfire between a state legislator and a teenage mugger) led to predictable bouts of media hysteria. We’ll have to see if a few more cops and, as has been proposed, the revival of the school resource officer program make any difference for 2015.

Screenshot 2014 12 29 10.45.21 300x288 A Year of Change: In 2014, you had to sift through the pastors, treasurers and gun packing lawmakers to get to the most important news.6. Treasurer Trouble: Sometimes, it seems like Harrisburg just can’t catch a break. In August, trouble arose from an unexpected corner when city Treasurer John Campbell—a young man with a seemingly boundless future—was arrested on charges of taking money from several organizations where he also served as treasurer. These allegations involved no city business, and the treasurer’s office operates largely independently from the administration. Nonetheless, Campbell’s arrest was yet another reason for people to dump on Harrisburg, as was the withdrawal, two months later, of his appointed successor, Timothy East, after a personal bankruptcy came to light.

Screenshot 2014 12 29 10.45.44 288x300 A Year of Change: In 2014, you had to sift through the pastors, treasurers and gun packing lawmakers to get to the most important news.5. Receivership Ends: It came in with a bang and ended with a whimper. No, I’m not talking about the month of March, but about Harrisburg’s state-imposed receivership. In November 2011, bond attorney David Unkovic rode into the office amid tremendous skepticism over his intentions. In just a few months, he allayed those worries so that, when he suddenly resigned, many people feared the city had lost its best friend. In stormed Air Force Maj. Gen. William Lynch, who completed what Unkovic had started: selling the incinerator, privatizing the parking system and trying to straighten out and normalize Harrisburg’s calamitous finances. Count me among the surprised that the receivership ended so quickly after the major elements of the financial recovery plan were put into place. Today, the state retains some supervision over city finances as Harrisburg remains in Act 47. However, the receivership was never as strong-armed as many thought it would be, and, instead of fading away, it just went away.

Screenshot 2014 12 29 10.45.53 295x300 A Year of Change: In 2014, you had to sift through the pastors, treasurers and gun packing lawmakers to get to the most important news.4. Parking, Parking and More Parking: Besides crime, parking became the media’s go-to story of the year. Sleepy news day? Go find some suburbanites and restaurateurs pissed off about the rising cost of parking. Beneath the hype, there was a real story. As part of the city’s financial recovery agreement, parking rates doubled and metered parking expanded, which did negatively impact some businesses. In addition, the rollout of the new digital meters was bumpy, and Standard Parking was (how shall I put this?) god-awful in communicating with the public. But, by the end of the year, people seemed to be adjusting, and the new regimen even had some pluses, such as a new source of revenue for the city, the ability to use credit cards and much higher turnover of street spaces. Also, while some weak businesses shut down (though not all due to parking, believe it or not), several others opened.

Screenshot 2014 12 29 10.46.05 300x291 A Year of Change: In 2014, you had to sift through the pastors, treasurers and gun packing lawmakers to get to the most important news.3. Front Street Makeover: Sometimes, events are deemed important because they follow an accepted standard of what constitutes news—a political scandal or a high-profile crime, for instance. Other times, the importance is less certain, and only later do people realize the significance of a piece of news. I put the state’s announcement that, starting this spring, it will reconstruct Front Street, into the second category. Moreover, the state is studying improvements to Forster Street and to making much of N. 2nd Street two-way. It also plans to re-open the dormant rail bridge to pedestrians and maybe transit. In other words, the state seems to want to reverse the damage wrought almost six decades ago, when much of Harrisburg was turned into either a freeway or a traffic island, with devastating results. A more welcome, livable city could be a game-changer for Harrisburg.

Screenshot 2014 12 29 10.46.15 300x295 A Year of Change: In 2014, you had to sift through the pastors, treasurers and gun packing lawmakers to get to the most important news.2. Papenfuse Takes Over: In January 2014, Eric Papenfuse took the oath of office as mayor of Harrisburg. In so doing, he promised to be both an effective administrator and an inspirational leader. A year later, I’m not sure about “inspirational,” but he has shown competence both in identifying what needs to be done and then taking steps to get those things done. From finances to blight to streetlights to schools, Papenfuse took on a full plate of issues, most very difficult, many controversial. My fellow columnist, Tara Leo Auchey, has described Harrisburg as being in a state of “reconstruction” following decades of misrule. The administration’s first year has been to try to stabilize a government in shambles and then plant the seeds of that reconstruction.

Screenshot 2014 12 29 10.46.56 293x300 A Year of Change: In 2014, you had to sift through the pastors, treasurers and gun packing lawmakers to get to the most important news.1. Balanced Budget: This may seem like an odd choice for the #1 news story in Harrisburg. Yawn, right? Yes, in most cities, a balanced budget indeed would be a non-event. In Harrisburg, however, this was (or should have been) major news, as it was the city’s first truly balanced budget in—God knows—20, 30 years? Papenfuse even insisted on including items that had been kept off-budget for decades, as Reed was a genius at tucking inconvenient expenses into places where they couldn’t be found, then masking the overage with borrowing. This is an achievement that should not be understated. Going forward, it should allow the city to build an honest foundation and move forward from there.

So, there you have it—my Top 10 stories of 2014. Looking at the year in whole, I consider 2014 to have been a transition year: a transition from state to local control; a transition from perpetual crisis to some level of normalcy; and, I hope, a transition from dishonest and incompetent government to one that conscientiously serves the people of Harrisburg.

Lawrance Binda is editor-in-chief of TheBurg.

Spradley Appointed Treasurer

Tyrell Spradley was named Harrisburg’s treasurer last month, ending a search that spanned more than two months.

A divided City Council selected Spradley following four rounds of voting, which included two other candidates—attorney Karen Balaban and former city councilman and controller Dan Miller.

Following his appointment, Spradley, 30, said he was eager to learn about and take on the part-time position, which pays $20,000 per year.

Harrisburg needed to name a new treasurer following the arrest in August of then-city treasurer John Campbell, who has been charged with theft from two organizations where he also served as treasurer.

Council first appointed accountant Timothy East to serve as Campbell’s replacement, but East withdrew his name after a personal bankruptcy came to light.

Spradley’s own eligibility was briefly called into question last month over issue involving his residency and the lack of a business license for an accounting company he owns. City officials later indicated those issues had been resolved.

Spradley will serve the remainder of Campbell’s four-year term, which runs until the end of next year.

 

Sinkhole Money Available

Some Harrisburg residents may benefit from a decision last month that allows federal assistance to be used to buy out homes endangered by sinkholes.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency ruled that municipalities could apply for aid to acquire sinkhole-prone structures.

Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse said the city immediately would apply for a grant to provide relief for homeowners along the 1400-block of S. 14th St., which has been devastated by sinkholes. There is no guarantee that Harrisburg will receive the money, as fierce competition is expected around the country for the grants.

Separately, Camp Hill-based Gannett Fleming last month issued more results of its sinkhole study in South Harrisburg.

The engineering firm told City Council that it had two options. The city could either buy out 27 houses in the middle of the most affected block or it could inject a substance beneath the surface to help stabilize the ground and prevent future sinkhole formation. Either option, both of which would include extensive road repair and relocating of residents, would cost about $4 million.

FEMA has put a cap of $3 million per project on its disaster allowance for sinkholes.

 

Schools Fail to Meet Performance Goals

Harrisburg public schools failed by a wide margin to meet academic standards set by the state-appointed chief recovery officer, according to state academic performance measures released last month.

None of Harrisburg’s schools met the academic goals for the 2013-14 school year set forth by Chief Recovery Officer Gene Veno in an April 2014 amendment to his recovery plan for the district.

The state’s “Building Level Academic Score” uses a 100-point scale to measure school performance. Much like a student report card, a score above 90 is considered excellent, while a score below 70 is deemed poor.

The following list shows each school’s performance, followed by a bracketed number that includes Veno’s goals for each school for the 2013-14 academic year.

  • Math Science Academy: 75.9 [94.2]
  • Harrisburg High School SciTech Campus: 63.8 [72.3]
  • Foose School: 57.8 [59.8]
  • Scott School: 57 [62.4]
  • Melrose School: 53.1 [69.7]
  • Downey School: 49.4 [67.5]
  • Benjamin Franklin School: 44.6 [63.5]
  • Marshall School: 44.4 [61.4]
  • Rowland School: 42.6 [56.5]
  • Harrisburg High School: 39.7 [57.6]
  • Camp Curtin School: 39.6 [60.3]

Scores were based upon several measures, including students’ performance on state standardized tests, improvement since the previous year, graduation and attendance rates and, in the case of high school students, SAT and ACT scores.

 

Lighting Grant Approved

Harrisburg’s plan to upgrade its streetlights took a step forward last month, as the city announced that it had received a $500,000 grant for its LED streetlight project.

Several months ago, the Papenfuse administration applied for the Pennsylvania Energy Department Authority grant, which City Council then approved.

In related matters, the administration last month asked council to approve the hiring of Doylestown-based Suburban Lighting Consultants to provide engineering services for the LED project. It also asked council to OK the engagement of Pittsburgh-based The Efficiency Network, which would conduct an inventory of existing streetlights, as well as an audit of streetlight and exterior light utility bills.

 

Green Infrastructure Grant Received

Capital Region Water has been awarded a $125,000 state grant to develop a Green Stormwater Infrastructure Plan for Harrisburg.

The grant from the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) will allow Capital Region Water to evaluate using green infrastructure to reduce the impacts of runoff on the Harrisburg community, the Susquehanna River and Paxton Creek, and the underground infrastructure it operates, according to Andrew Bliss, Capital Region Water’s community outreach manager.

Green infrastructure is a broad term for trees, gardens and other ways to help reduce runoff by absorbing rainwater.

Last month, Capital Region Water also marked the one-year anniversary of its takeover of city water and sewer operations.

In addition to the DCNR grant, Bliss said, the year included several other achievements, including a “Top 5” designation for best drinking water in the country; a bond refinancing that will save the authority $4 million over two years; progress on a comprehensive GIS mapping project; and the beginning of a $50 million upgrade to the wastewater treatment facility.

 

Midtown Distillery Proposed

Two city residents announced plans last month to open a small-batch distillery in Midtown Harrisburg in the blighted, historic “Carpets and Draperies” building.

Alan Kennedy-Shaffer and Stanley Gruen are due to appear this month before the city’s Planning Commission and Zoning Hearing Board in an effort to get a variance for the site at 1507 N. 3rd St., which is not zoned for industrial use.

The partners plan a full renovation of the century-old building, which has sat empty for more than a decade. Their plan includes a bar and tasting room, in addition to a craft distillery that would make such spirits as whiskey, vodka, gin and rye.

If all goes well, they hope to open in mid-2015.

 

Parking Ordinances Updated

Motorists are on the hook to pay their parking fines, as the Harrisburg City Council last month updated its parking ordinances to conform to the city’s financial recovery plan.

Council needed to make technical changes to the city code to give operator Standard Parking the legal authority to enforce penalties. It also changed language to increase fines and allow non-currency forms of payment, such as credit and debit cards.

Standard Parking took over the city’s parking system in January, but council did not immediately update the city code. As a result, Harrisburg will receive about $200,000 less in parking revenue than anticipated this year.

The city said it expects to receive as much as $2.5 million in parking revenue next year.

 

Playground Safety Grant

Harrisburg has received a grant that could lead to improved safety at five of the city’s playgrounds.

The $10,000 grant from the Community Conservation Partnerships Program will fund an inspection and safety audit of the Cloverly Heights and Royal Terrace playgrounds, as well as playgrounds at Norwood and Hollywood streets; N. 4th and Dauphin streets; and Penn and Sayford streets.

The grant also will fund the creation of a routine playground maintenance and safety program and the training of city staff on program implementation.

 

Kim Re-Elected to 103rd

Incumbent Rep. Patty Kim will serve a second term in the state legislature, as voters returned her to office last month in an uncontested race.

Kim ran unopposed in the general election for the 103rd legislative district after beating challenger Gina Roberson in the Democratic primary in May.

In other election news, former Harrisburg Mayor Linda Thompson lost in her bid to unseat incumbent Republican Scott Perry to represent the 4th House district in Congress.

 

Changing Hands

Adrian St., 2423: B. Bisbano to C. Warble, $49,300

Benton St., 527: R. & A. Della Croce to S. Rea & M. Urgiles, $98,500

Berryhill St., 1954: C. Frater to M. Frater, $65,000

Cumberland St., 119: JB Buy Rite LP to S. Pritchard, $73,500

Duke St., 2614: PI Capital LLC to W. & A. Rivera, $88,900

Fulton St., 1710: N. Culver to Cartus Financial Corp., $107,000

Green St., 1615: R. & S. Aulakh to J. Scott, $92,500

Green St., 1902: WCI Partners LP to B. Garner, $180,000

Green St., 2024: Fulton Bank NA to J. Workman & J. Arawj, $139,000

Harris St., 213: J. Counterman to 8219 Ventures, $52,000

Herr St., 215: R. & E. Simons to Crested Enterprises LLC, $77,500

Hoffman St., 3206: Secretary of Veterans Affairs to Skynet Property Management LP, $43,000

Holly St., 1840: Tassia Corp. to Capital Properties LLC, $40,000

Kensington St., 2422: PA Deals LLC to C. & S. Feggins, $68,000

Mulberry St., 1936: C. Doran & A. Burnett to I. Peredo, $64,900

N. 2nd St., 513: T. & J. Male to Cricket Real Estate Enterprises LLC, $165,000

N. 2nd St., 2527: N. Myers to S. & A. Andrus, $193,500

N. 3rd St., 2304: Harrisburg Ventures LLC to FD Harrisburg Holdings LLC, $2,213,700

N. 4th St., 1733: PI Capitol LLC to G. Laudenslager, $100,000

N. 4th St., 2336: S&T Renovations LLC to A. & A. Barras, $58,000

N. 4th St., 2400 & 2402: M. Reed to E&K Homes LLC, $57,000

N. 4th St., 2547: PA Deals LLC to J. Tucker, $61,000

N. 4th St., 3228: A. Wlazlak to J. Tyson, $105,000

N. 4th St., 3231: J. Crutchfield to J. Grant, $79,900

N. 7th St., 2324 & 2350; 655 Seneca St.; 648 Curtin St.: M. Spangler to DAP 7 Curtin LP, $260,000

N. 16th St., 1205: D. Griffin to C. & B. Orellana, $35,000

N. 17th St., 817: G. Andrews to J. Jacob & T. Byrd, $120,000

N. 20th St., 14: Kirsch & Burns LLC to LMK Properties LLC, $32,000

N. Cameron St., 1914: D. Marino to J. Pagliaro, $72,000

Norwood St., 916: M. Flickinger to Crist Holdings LLC, $38,000

Penn St., 1509: D. & D. Dreher to D. Walker, $127,000

Penn St., 1703: B. Houtz to L. Colestock, $155,000

Penn St., 1921: S. Vanscoyc to H. Elliot, $123,000

S. 3rd St., 27: E. & R. Shore to Dewberry LLC, $190,000

S. 17th St., 38: S. Ledesma & M. Figueroa to J. Renteria & C. Figueroa, $30,000

S. 25th St., 713: S. Mosley to Kirsch & Burns LLC, $30,000

S. Front St., 595; 106 Tuscarora St. & 601 Showers St.: J. Barton to Dunkin & Associates LP, $250,000

State St., 231, Unit 202: LUX 1 LP to M. Abuel Jr., $134,900

Tuscarora St., 104: R. Rammouni & Touch of Color to J. Jones, $182,500

Verbeke St., 112: PA Deals LLC to M. & G. Modi, $125,000

Walnut St., 126: Pennsylvania Tourism & Lodging Assoc. to 126 Walnut Street LLC, $75,000

Walnut St., 128: Pennsylvania Tourism & Lodging Assoc. to 126 Walnut Street LLC, $75,000

Walnut St., 1854, 1856, 1858 & 1860: T. Vu & T. Tran to T. Van et al, $145,000

 

Treasurer Turmoil Continues

Harrisburg’s newly appointed treasurer stepped aside last month after the city learned that he had filed for personal bankruptcy.

City Council selected accountant Timothy East in late September to fill the post left vacant following the resignation of former city Treasurer John Campbell. East was one of six applicants deemed qualified for the office and one of four ultimately nominated by members of council.

East did not reveal the 2011 bankruptcy during his interview before council. The issue arose later when he needed to be bonded for the job. He was never sworn in.

The city now must re-start the process of selecting a city treasurer.

Campbell resigned in early September following his arrest on charges of theft from two nonprofit organizations unaffiliated with the city. The new treasurer will fill out the remainder of Campbell’s term, which runs through next year.

Note: An October news digest article about the city treasury incorrectly attributed a comment to the controller’s office, saying the office had reviewed the treasurer’s books and “found no anomalies.” To date, the controller’s review of treasury, involving questionnaires about treasury’s internal controls, has not yet been completed.

 

Arborist Position Created

Harrisburg soon will have someone looking after its trees, as City Council approved the new position of arborist.

The post, which will pay no more than $50,000 a year, including benefits, will be funded by the city’s Host Municipality Benefit Fee Fund, money that Harrisburg receives for being the host site of a regional waste facility, namely the incinerator now owned and operated by the Lancaster Solid Waste Management Authority.

The arborist will help ensure the health of the city’s extensive tree canopy. Among the arborist’s first jobs: the removal of about 200 dead trees identified in the city’s recently completed tree inventory.

In addition to hiring an arborist, City Council approved other administration priorities for the Host Fee Fund: $55,000 for a portable road salt shelter; $32,000 for liners for several leaking trash trucks; and $25,000 for charges relating to the city’s comprehensive plan.

Before the allocation, the city’s Host Fee account totaled about $400,000, according to Bill Cluck, chairman of city’s Environmental Advisory Council. The city should receive another $100,000-plus into the fund soon, said Cluck.

The city receives $1 for every ton of trash processed at the facility. The money then is set aside for environmental projects.

Mayor Eric Papenfuse admitted that the spending from the Host Fee Fund had been ad hoc this year. However, he said he would propose a 2015 budget that will set priorities for use of the monies going forward.

 

School Resource Officers Urged

Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse last month urged the city school district to reinstate the school resource officer program, saying it would help make the student environment safer.

The administration has drafted a proposal for rebooting the program, which was suspended several years ago by the school district for budgetary reasons. The administration’s proposal would cost about $500,000 a year, the cost borne by the district.

He made the proposal following the sexual assault last month of a student just a block away from Harrisburg High School. He reiterated it after four teenagers, including three high school students, were arrested for allegedly trying to hold up two state assemblymen on a Midtown street, an altercation that resulted in gunfire between the suspects and the lawmakers.

 

Collection Agency Hired

Harrisburg last month agreed to hire a collection agency to recover some of the back business taxes and fees owed to the city.

City Council voted unanimously to engage Pittsburgh-based eCollect Plus to collect delinquent taxes such as the business privilege tax, business license fee, mercantile tax, zoning review fee, health license fee, amusement tax and parking tax.

The company’s fee will range from 20 to 25 percent of the amount recovered. However, it must recover at least $376,000, which is 10 percent of the city’s average business and mercantile tax collections over the past three years, to receive any compensation.

eCollect specializes in tax collections for Pennsylvania municipalities. Its client list includes Chester, McKeesport and Hanover Township.

 

HMAC Gets Funding

After years of trying to secure financing, the owners of the Harrisburg Midtown Arts Center have received the funding that they believe will allow them to complete the renovation of the expansive arts space.

Michael Giblin, an HMAC principal, confirmed that he and his partners—John Traynor, Gary Bartlett and Chuck London—closed on financing that will allow them to add a restaurant, a 700-person entertainment space and a rooftop bar to the building at N. 3rd and Herr streets. The restaurant will be designed and managed by Rehoboth Beach, Del.-based Highwater Management.

HMAC opened in 2009 with a single entertainment space and bar called Stage on Herr. However, the project remained uncompleted after hitting funding snags as banks scaled back lending in the wake of the financial crisis. The facility has been on the sheriff’s sale list numerous times over the past five years, though was never publicly auctioned.

The century-old building was originally Harrisburg’s Jewish Community Center. It later housed the city’s Police Athletic League. It had sat empty for many years before Traynor, Bartlett and London bought it from the Harrisburg Redevelopment Authority in late 2007.

 

SAM Opening Set

The Susquehanna Art Museum has set Jan. 16 for the opening of its new building in Midtown Harrisburg.

SAM will debut the 20,000-square-foot facility with an exhibit titled, “Open: Icons of Pop Art from Niagara University.” The show will feature art on loan from the university’s Castellani Art Museum, including works from such seminal mid-20th century figures as Andy Warhol, Robert Indiana, Marisol and Roy Lichtenstein.

The new museum includes the original, fully renovated Keystone/Fulton bank building at N. 3rd and Calder streets, plus an addition built in the former bank parking lot. It also will feature the Doshi Gallery for Contemporary Art, a sculpture garden and a new mural by Messiah College professor Daniel Finch.

For the past several years, SAM has been without a permanent home, mounting exhibits in a gallery in the State Museum. It long exhibited in the Kunkel building downtown before that building was redeveloped.

 

Enterline Appointed Chief

Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse last month named department veteran Brian Enterline as the new chief of the city’s Fire Bureau.

Enterline had been acting chief since his appointment a year ago by former Mayor Linda Thompson. He has served for 14 years with the department.

 

Heavy Equipment Bought

Harrisburg last month purchased two pieces of heavy equipment: one for road maintenance and the other for firefighting.

City Council approved the lease/purchase of a new Case 580 SN Loader Backhoe from Mechanicsburg-based Groff Tractor and Equipment. After a trade-in of an existing backhoe, the net sales price will be $47,425, amortized over 60 months.

Council also OK’d an intergovernmental agreement to buy a 1984 Sutphen Pumper Fire Engine from Swatara Township. The used pumper will cost $3,500.

 

Changing Hands

Adrian St., 2252: Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. to E. Waters, $58,000

Adrian St., 2445: C. & T. Phillips to G. Goneste & G. Niguse, $70,000

Adrian St., 2459: M. Sopp to B. Rotta, $70,000

Barkley Lane, 2524: J. Paul to Codi Tucker, $53,200

Bellevue Rd., 2042: L. & S. Freeman to D. Miller & M. Heagy, $91,000

Brookwood St., 2610: Scottsdale Commercial Partners LP & Brickbox Enterprises Ltd. to University Park Plaza Corp., $230,000

Capital St., 1200: J. & D. Fuhrman to 8219 Ventures LLC, $70,000

Elder St., 821 & 808 S. 26th St.: GR Sponaugle & Sons Inc. to AIS Property Management LLC, $939,500

Green St., 1900: WCI Partners LP to J. Bovender & J. Van Horn, $192,500

Green St., 1938: WCI Partners LP to I. Brea to O. Sanchez, $201,000

Green St., 2133: D. Ware to M. Brown, $40,000

Hale Ave., 420: V. Ly to Luckylan Properties LLC, $30,000

Harris St., 205: Arthur A. Kusic Real Estate Investments to J. Heinly, $100,000

Herr St., 256: C. Wilson to N. Hench & R. Wetzel Jr., $125,000

Hillside Rd., 109: L. & K. York to W. Morgan Jr. & A. Winans, $254,900

Hoffman St., 3133: S. Harvey to M. Sobkowski, $62,000

Hoffman St., 3235: Harrisburg Television Inc. c/o Allbritten Communications to WHTM Acquisitions LLC & Revac Inc., $598,400

Holly St., 1823: J. Johnson to S. & D. Fenton & Exit Realty Capital Area, $56,000

Hudson St., 1152: PA Deals LLC to Amboy MAA Properties LLC, $104,000

Kensington St., 2241: F. Marsico to L. Murphy, $40,500

Kensington St., 2400: M. Eck to R. Murphy, $49,000

Lewis St., 101: R. Alexander to T. Arora, $75,000

Market St., 2048: S. St. Clair Jr. to R. Monzon & L. Trinh, $35,000

North St., 216: E. & R. Maff to R. Lamberson, $75,000

N. 2nd St., 1307: B. Winpenny to V. McCallum, $68,900

N. 2nd St., 2101: JAD Development to SMKP Properties LLC, $229,000

N. 3rd St., 1126: Cornerstone Realty Management LLC to BCG Holdings LLC & Lehman Property Management, $310,000

N. 3rd St., 1200: Cornerstone Realty Management LLC to Keuka LLC & Lehman Property Management, $575,350

N. 3rd St., 1626: C. Hoffman to C. Grilli, $119,000

N. 4th St., 1630: PA Deals LLC to M. & J. Leahy, $48,000

N. 4th St., 2032: M. Stransbaugh to A. & A. Gault, $81,000

N. 12th St., 54: D. Schubert to J. Achenbach, $44,000

N. 19th St., 43: Kirsch & Burns LLC to LMK Properties LLC, $52,669

N. Front St., 1525, Unit 202: C. Shoemaker to R. & A. Chappelka, $185,000

Reel St., 2719: J. Eby to E. Tilahun, $51,000

Reily St., 255: C. Ruegsegger & S. Kauffman to E. Harman, $139,000

S. 19th St., 901: L. Zaydon Jr. to CSP Group LLP, $285,000

S. 19th St., 1101: PA Deals LLC to Amboy MAA Properties LLC, $98,000

S. 27th St., 701: Fannie Mae to A. Brinkley, $87,900

S. Cameron St., 535: J. Strohecker to Capitol City Holdings LLC, $175,000

Susquehanna St., 1622: D. Remm & E. Goshorn to R. & G. Harris, $116,000

Wilson Parkway, 2600: A. Sias Jr. & S. Gibbs to M. Cabrera, $50,000

Harrisburg property sales for September 2014, greater than $30,000. Source: Dauphin County. Data is assumed to be accurate.

JohnCampbell 300x267 John Campbell: I Am Sorry

Former city Treasurer John Campbell at his swearing-in ceremony in January 2012.

Former Harrisburg Treasurer John Campbell issued a lengthy statement late this afternoon, apologizing for taking money from two non-profit groups.

In his statement, the 26-year-old Campbell repeatedly apologized for his alleged thefts from Historic Harrisburg Association, where he served as executive director for four years, and from Stonewall Democrats, where he served as treasurer. In explaining his actions, he cited the burden of overwhelming debt and the immaturity of youth, but said these should not excuse his behavior.

“My decisions were selfish and without thought of repercussions,” he wrote.

He added that his achievements at such a young age blinded him to the consequences of his behavior.

“While I was fortunate in my accomplishments, I was also struggling with the challenges that come with aiming so high,” he wrote.

Yesterday, Campbell waived his preliminary hearing and now is due to stand trial on two felony counts of theft and one misdemeanor count of fraudulent conduct. He is charged with writing checks to himself totaling $8,500 from the account of Lighten Up Harrisburg, a charity associated with Historic Harrisburg, and $2,750 from the account of the Stonewall Democrats political action committee.

Following his arrest early last month, Campbell resigned his elected post as city treasurer. An audit of the office revealed no wrongdoing by Campbell, according to the city.

The full text of Campbell’s statement follows:

“The most important thing I can say right now is that I am sorry. I am ashamed. I am regretful. I’ve made poor choices for personal reasons and that have wrongly affected those who trusted me as an employee, an elected official, a community member, an advocate, a friend, and a family member.

I apologize for the disappointment, anger and grief I have caused. Most significantly, I apologize to the members and directors of the Historic Harrisburg Association who instilled their confidence in me as a 21-year-old Executive Director five years ago.  I apologize to the members and officers of the Capital Region Stonewall Democrats who reelected me to four terms as Treasurer and expected me to safeguard the organization’s financial position.

I have confessed to my wrongdoing and have fully cooperated with the authorities. As I continue to make full restitution to Historic Harrisburg and the Capital Region Stonewall Democrats and accept responsibility for my actions, I have not given up on myself.  I have sought counsel from my pastor, therapist, friends, and family throughout this difficult time so that I may learn from this unfortunate situation I caused. I refuse to settle into the failure I created, for it implies that we do not learn from our mistakes.  Instead I believe that new beginnings come only after our most difficult times, light after dark. It’s hard, sometimes very hard, but new beginnings, light, and learning all come in time.

Some have wondered how this lapse in my judgment could occur. I have thought long and hard about my actions and there are no excuses that can justify them nor shall I offer any. While trying to cloak my actions under a veil of college tuition, unexpected medical expenses, and burgeoning debt might be easy, these are simply symptoms of my decisions, not the causes. My lapse in judgment is ultimately my burden to bear.

Over the past year, while finishing my degree, I made damaging decisions that ultimately hurt me. More importantly, the organizations with which I have worked closely to help restore hope, faith, and trust in Harrisburg were injured. My decisions were selfish and without thought of repercussions. These decisions betrayed the trust I have worked so hard to instill and bring to Harrisburg as a young voice for change and accountability.

Historic Harrisburg is still an organization I hold closest to my values, beliefs, and vision for the future of Harrisburg. It was the organization in which I invested over five years of my life both as a board member and executive director. Together the Board and I built an organization that has become a leader within the community on issues of economic development, community building, and connecting Harrisburg’s past with its future. Just five years ago, the organization had five board members, struggled operationally, and lacked executive leadership. Today the board boasts 23 members, has experienced exponential programmatic and financial growth, and built a staff of six dedicated individuals.

While my tenure at Historic Harrisburg was filled with many successes, it now will be shrouded with doubt and confusion due to mistakes I made that hurt both the organization and me personally. I hope that my actions will not mar the reputation this organization has built.

There has been an impression—one that I fostered and encouraged—that I was a young man superbly succeeding in my ambitions, skills, and goals. Over the past eight years I put myself through both community college and undergraduate school, helped rebuild a struggling organization, reconfigured and modernized a city government office, and gave my time and resources to the community I deeply love. While I was fortunate in my accomplishments, I was also struggling with the challenges that come with aiming so high.

One of the most unfortunate consequences is that I betrayed the public’s trust. While my actions did not pertain to that of the City Treasurer’s Office, as a public official I am held to a higher standard.  Of course that is why I resigned my position in the best interest of the residents of Harrisburg.  My actions have far reaching consequences of betrayal and dishonesty at a time when Harrisburg needs unity, vision, and confidence. For this, I am eternally sorry to the residents of Harrisburg.

I do not expect nor wish to receive sympathy or pardon but instead ask for your compassion, grace, and forgiveness. I hope in time that those I have wronged will forgive me for my mistakes. Again I am deeply sorry for my actions and the ramifications they have had on my community.”

 

 

Harrisburg has received 11 applications for city treasurer, the city clerk’s office said in an email Tuesday morning.

Applications were due by the end of the day yesterday.

The city is now reviewing the applicants’ eligibility, city clerk Kirk Petroski said in the email. To be eligible, an applicant must be 21 years old and a resident of the city, and must also have some accounting experience.

Once applicants have been screened for eligibility, they will be invited to a public City Council meeting on Monday, Sept. 29, at 5:30 p.m., where they will be interviewed by council members.

The meeting was originally to take place this Thursday, Sept. 18, but was postponed, the clerk’s email said. Asked by phone about the reason for the postponement, Petroski said it was to allow additional time for the city to conduct background checks on the applicants.

Following the interviews, each council member will nominate one applicant for a second round of interviews at the same meeting. Council will then vote to select the new city treasurer, who will be sworn in that night.

Petroski also said Tuesday that he hoped to release the applications publicly by next Monday.

The city treasurer position, which pays $20,000 per year, is normally filled by general election. But the position was left vacant earlier this month after the former treasurer, John Campbell, resigned following an investigation into his alleged theft of around $8,500 from a charitable program unrelated to city government.

Campbell, who has subsequently been charged with the additional theft of around $2,700 from a local political action committee, is awaiting a preliminary hearing.

In the meantime, Paul Wambach, who retired in 2012 after serving as Harrisburg’s treasurer for 20 years, has volunteered to fill the role in an interim capacity.

This story has been updated with additional information from the city clerk.

JohnCampbell 300x267 John Campbells Statement on the Charges Filed Against Him

City Treasurer John Campbell, who resigned Thursday morning following allegations that he stole from a charity unaffiliated with city government, at his swearing-in ceremony in January of 2012.

As provided by John Campbell via email Thursday afternoon:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

John Campbell’s Statement on the Charges Filed Against Him

Harrisburg, PA (August 28, 2014) — In light of the recent charges filed against me, I have surrendered myself to the Dauphin County District Attorney’s office and the Harrisburg Bureau of Police. I appreciate both agencies’ willingness to accept my cooperation.

I have also resigned my position as Harrisburg City Treasurer. While the charges have nothing to do with the Office of Treasury, it is in the best interest of everyone involved, most especially the public, that I step down.

I respect and value that Mayor Eric Papenfuse has called for an independent audit of the Treasury’s business. I agree that is the action that should be taken, and I think it’s necessary to give the public absolute evidence that I did no wrong doing in my position as City Treasurer.

Undoubtedly, there will be more I have to say about the charges against me and my work as Executive Director of the Historic Harrisburg Association. For now, though, I ask that all media inquiries on this matter be directed to my attorney, Adam Klein, Esquire of the law firm Smigel, Anderson and Sacks.

 

Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse has appointed an interim city treasurer, following the announcement of criminal charges Tuesday against city Treasurer John Campbell for theft from a charitable program unaffiliated with city government.

Paul Wambach, a former city treasurer who served for 20 years before retiring in 2012, will assume Campbell’s position on a volunteer basis, the mayor said Tuesday afternoon at a press conference in city hall.

“As chief executive officer of the city of Harrisburg, I have a responsibility to ensure that the city is being managed properly, all accounts are in order, and that city treasury continues to function in the midst of this dilemma,” Papenfuse said.

Papenfuse also announced Tuesday that he had asked the city’s independent auditors, Maher Duessel, to apply extra scrutiny when reviewing the treasurer office’s operations. Expanding the audit would only incur additional costs if an irregularity were discovered, the mayor said, necessitating a forensic investigation.

The Dauphin County district attorney’s office said Tuesday it did not believe Campbell had stolen any money from the city.

The criminal complaint against Campbell, filed Tuesday morning, alleges that Campbell, 26, stole more than $8,000 out of an account related to a fundraising program to replace city streetlights.

Campbell allegedly stole the money while serving as executive director of the Historic Harrisburg Association, a preservation nonprofit headquartered in Midtown. The funds came from the account associated with a program called Lighten Up Harrisburg, which has raised money to fund citywide lighting initiatives, including the restoration of decorative lights on the Walnut Street Bridge.

Most recently, Lighten Up helped sponsor a 5K “Glow Run” in June, in which runners adorned with glow-in-the-dark necklaces, bracelets and paint ran along Riverfront Park to raise money for replacing downed light poles along Front Street.

In July, the city announced that $22,000 raised from that effort would help fund the replacement of 15 light poles. On Tuesday, Papenfuse announced that the city had completed the work but had not yet been reimbursed by HHA, which discovered funds were missing when it went to reconcile the account holding the donated funds.

Following that discovery, HHA board members requested “monthly bank statements and canceled checks” related to the Lighten Up Harrisburg account, according to the criminal complaint. The board subsequently discovered that Campbell had written himself 10 checks from the account between last December and July, totaling at least $8,481, the complaint says.

The complaint also claims Campbell wrote an email to HHA earlier this month, in which he acknowledged taking the money and spending it on “personal medical and college educational expenses.”

Papenfuse said Tuesday that he fully expects Campbell to resign. If that happens, council will have 30 days to appoint a replacement. The mayor said he had spoken with Council President Wanda Williams before Tuesday’s announcement, who had agreed with his interim appointment of Wambach and would have additional comments about the replacement process during council’s legislative session Tuesday evening.

During Tuesday’s press conference, Wambach made a brief statement about his interim role. “I love this place,” he said of the city. “This place has to know that they’re protected. This place will know that they’re protected.”

Wambach added that he had learned about the forthcoming charges against Campbell last Friday, when the mayor called him to relay what he described as the “shocking” news.

The city treasurer position is part-time and pays $20,000 per year, and does not collect health care or pension benefits. Campbell has held the post since January 2012.

On Tuesday afternoon, HHA posted a statement on its website from its board of directors. “We were shocked to discover the irregularities and are saddened by the alleged actions of our former executive director as outlined today by the District Attorney,” the statement says. “We will seek full restitution of the missing funds.”