Tax Hike Suggested
Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse last month proposed tripling the local services tax to help close an estimated $6 million budget gap for the year.
Papenfuse introduced the idea during the annual State of the City address, saying that the Harrisburg Strong financial recovery plan needed to be amended because some revenues, including parking revenues due to enforcement snags, have fallen short of projections.
Under this plan, the local services tax would increase from $1 to $3 per worker per week. The increase would generate about $4 million a year, according to the administration.
The increase must be passed by City Council and approved by the Commonwealth Court. Papenfuse later said that Fred Reddig, a state official and the city’s Act 47 coordinator, supports the idea.
During his speech, Papenfuse also urged Harrisburg-based businesses to help the city financially by ceasing to use private haulers for trash collection. In addition, he floated the idea that the city should consider Home Rule, which would allow it to have greater control in its own affairs.
Papenfuse said that Home Rule was the “only real way out” of Act 47 financial oversight. Many municipalities in Pennsylvania, including Carlisle, have Home Rule charters, but achieving Home Rule would take years.
Reed to Stand Trial
The criminal case against former Harrisburg Mayor Steve Reed will go to trial, a judge determined last month.
Following a daylong preliminary hearing, Senior Magisterial District Judge Richard Cashman said the state could proceed with a case against Reed on all 485 counts against him, covering a wide range of alleged corruption.
At the hearing, the prosecution presented evidence that Reed had violated numerous laws, including that he had kept in his possession hundreds of artifacts purchased with city money. Reed allegedly bought the artifacts for several museums that he had proposed building in the city.
The defense team, led by Henry Hockheimer of the Philadelphia-based firm of Ballard Spahr, refuted those charges, stating that the property rightfully belonged to Reed.
Separately, Reed’s attorneys last month filed a motion asking the court to dismiss more than 300 counts against him, claiming they were not valid because the statute of limitations had expired.
Sinkhole Application Favored
The state has ranked Harrisburg first in Pennsylvania to receive federal sinkhole mitigation funds, the city learned last month.
The Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency sent a letter to Harrisburg saying its application for a federal Pre-Disaster Mitigation Grant for sinkhole remediation had been ranked No. 1 in the state.
The city is seeking grants for sinkhole repair and home demolition and buyouts in a hard-hit area of S. 14th Street.
The state support, while positive, does not guarantee that Harrisburg will receive the award, said Mayor Eric Papenfuse. Only state emergency management agencies are eligible to apply for grants under the program, but awards are not allocated on a state-by-state basis.
LED Project Gets Green Light
Harrisburg’s plan to upgrade all of its streetlights with long-lasting LED lights is set to begin this month after the City Council approved funding for the project.
Council last month voted unanimously to borrow $3.2 million from M&T Bank for the LED conversion project, the city’s first major borrowing since the financial crisis shut it off from the credit markets. Council then voted unanimously to contract with The Efficiency Network, based in Pittsburgh, to perform the citywide installation of about 6,000 lights.
The administration estimates that the upgrade will save the city about $500,000 annually in energy costs, which should cover the cost of the financing. As part of its contract, The Efficiency Network guarantees the savings for a 10-year period.
Mayor Eric Papenfuse said much of the work would be done this fall, but probably would not be completed until early next year.
Council also authorized the administration to apply for a $3.6 million grant from Impact Harrisburg, a nonprofit set up as part of the city’s financial recovery plan to assist its infrastructure and economic development efforts. Impact Harrisburg is in the process of hiring an executive director, which it must do before considering applications for grants.
If Harrisburg receives the money, the city would pay off the loan early and use the savings from reduced energy costs for other purposes, Papenfuse said. The loan carries a prepayment penalty of 3 percent.
The city already has received a grant of $500,000 to offset some of the cost of the LED project.
Campbell Gets Probation
Former Harrisburg Treasurer John Campbell last month was sentenced to three years of probation for stealing money from three nonprofit organizations.
As part of his sentence, Campbell turned over a restitution check for $26,230, which will repay Historic Harrisburg Association, the Capital Region Stonewall Democrats and Lighten Up Harrisburg for the thefts.
In all, Campbell pled guilty to one misdemeanor and two felony counts.
Campbell was executive director of Historic Harrisburg and a volunteer treasurer for both Lighten Up Harrisburg and the Stonewall Democrats when the thefts occurred. He was not charged with any crimes in his capacity as city treasurer.
Dauphin County Common Pleas Judge Scott A. Evans is allowing Campbell to serve his probation in the Washington, D.C., area, where he now lives.
Bar Loses Appeal
A Midtown Harrisburg bar targeted for closure by the city has lost its appeal, and now has taken its case to court.
The city’s License and Tax Appeal Review Board rejected the effort by the Third Street Café (formerly Club 1400) to retain its business license and continue operating from its building at the corner of N. 3rd and Calder streets.
The three-person appeals board unanimously sided with the city, which alleges that the bar attracts criminal behavior, especially drug activity.
“The owners and operators of the Third Street Café consented to or allowed behavior on and around the premises that constituted crimes under federal, state and local laws,” concluded the board in its Aug. 28 decision.
The city has tried for months to revoke the bar’s business license. In late March, it sent owner Tony Paliometros a letter stating it planned to revoke the license, giving him 30 days to cease operations. Paliometros appealed the revocation, and a one-day appeals hearing was held in late May.
After losing the appeal, Paliometros immediately appealed that decision to the Dauphin County Court of Common Pleas and was granted a stay to remain open. The court appeal is scheduled for Oct. 9.
Housing Market Stable
Housing sales and prices were relatively stable in August, compared to the same period last year.
Throughout the region, 783 houses sold at a median sales price of $165,000, according to the Greater Harrisburg Association of Realtors. In August 2014, 781 houses sold for a median price of $165,000.
In Dauphin County, 265 houses sold at a median price of $144,900. In Cumberland County, 268 houses sold for a median price of $179,900 and, in Perry County, 27 houses sold for a median price of $165,000.
The Harrisburg Downtown Improvement District and Recycle Bicycle last month launched a Downtown Bike Library, which allows people to borrow and then return a bike, a helmet and a lock at no cost from the HDID office at 22 N. 2nd St. This program is considered a pilot program to the Bike Share Harrisburg initiative that is in the works to bring a bike share program to the city.
The Millworks last month started a lunch service, which begins at 11 a.m. Tuesday to Friday. The Midtown Harrisburg restaurant and art space opened in March for dinner, Tuesday through Sunday. It then added weekend brunch hours.
Bricco halted its lunch service last month in favor of expanding its catering business with Ciao! Bakery, in an endeavor now called Bricco-Ciao! Catering. The menu consists of both Ciao’s sandwiches and Bricco’s Mediterranean-inspired dishes. Bricco, at the corner of S. 3rd and Chestnut streets, remains open for dinner.
The Kitchen at H*MAC last month announced new lunch and brunch hours. The restaurant, located at 1110 N. 3rd St., Harrisburg, now is open for lunch on Monday to Friday beginning at 11 a.m. and for brunch on Saturday and Sunday beginning at 10 a.m.
Arepa City, which specialized in the Venezuelan sandwich called the arepa, closed last month after more than six years in downtown Harrisburg. Owner Daniel Farias said customers didn’t follow the restaurant after it moved into larger space further down N. 2nd Street. Farias said he plans to continue his catering business.
Frederic Loraschi Chocolate opened a retail location and production facility at 4615 Hillcrest St. in Colonial Park. For years, the chocolatier has made his high-end confections from a converted kitchen in the basement of his Hummelstown home. The new shop allows consumers to buy directly from him.
Berryhill St., 2101: R. Pickles to D. Maxwell, $96,500
Calder St., 116: M. DePhilip to D. Goldman, $150,000
Chestnut St., 2100: W. & K. Richards to H. Trauffer, $65,000
Curtin St., 543, 2135 N. 4th St., 1949 Berryhill St., 545 Benton St. & 2314 N. 4th St.: Susquehanna Bank to MBHH RE LLC, $107,000
Graham St., 118: B. & K. Elgart & Cartus Financial Corp. to P. Furlong, $219,900
Green St., 1924: D. Miller & R. Finley to G. O’Loughlin, $214,900
Hale Ave., 428: Metro Bank to T. & K. Vu, $42,500
Herr St., 409: W. & F. Moore to D. Jordan, $106,000
Industrial Rd., 3360: Conewago Contractors Inc. to Norfolk Southern Railway Co., $7,500,000
Kelker St., 319: K. Hancock to J. Marks, $60,000
N. 2nd St., 1311: J. Feldman to T. Gray, $78,700
N. 2nd St., 1406: F. Magaro to C. Albers, $149,000
N. 2nd St., 1520: E. Spaar to N. & R. Masterson, $94,000
N. 2nd St., 1708: D. Shreve to J. Seigle, $171,300
N. 2nd St., 1829: E. Stuckey to M. Nolt, $126,000
N. 2nd St., 3206: R. & P. Kotz to S. Margut, $178,000
N. 3rd St., 1606: Fannie Mae to Anselmo Brothers Partnership, $52,500
N. 3rd St., 2243: Kusic Financial Services LLC to A. & M. Collins, $58,000
N. Front St., 2609: Supreme Forest of Tall Cedars to A. Hartzler, $225,000
Penn St., 1820: Bayview Loan Servicing LLC to PA Deals LLC, $50,250
Penn St., 1917: S. Stauffer to S. Cline & J. Lemon, $118,500
Penn St., 1920: WCI Partners LP to C. Clabaugh, $159,900
Rudy Rd., 2141: A. McKenna to M. McNelis, $142,900
Rumson Dr., 2586: Beneficial Consumer Discount Co. to PA Deals LLC, $43,299
Schuykill St., 518 & 522: M. & A. Parsons to J. & B. Readinger, $37,500
S. 15th St., 347, 1529 Catherine St., 1615 Naudain St., 30 Balm St., 1822 Park St. & 22 Balm St.: I. Colon to C. Harp, $30,000
S. Front St., 555: Ashbury Foundation to D. Ogg, $82,500
State St., 115: Pennsylvania Bar Association to Commonwealth Strategic Solutions LLC, $172,000
State St., 231, Unit 504: LUX 1 LP to M. & K. Lastrina, $144,900
State St., 231, Unit 505: LUX 1 LP to M & K. Lastrina, $154,900
State St., 1336: D. Pinnock to D. Vining, $37,000
Susquehanna St., 1833: G. & K. Ender to J. Secrest, $42,500
Swatara St., 2416: M. Gaston et al to D. & E. Davenport, $129,600
Thompson St., 1257: Jamil Karim LLC to Harrisburg Housing Authority, $80,000
Woodbine St., 502: K. Bethea to C. Guerrier, $40,000
Harrisburg property sales for August 2015, greater than $30,000. Source: Dauphin County. Data is assumed to be accurate.