Trash for Cash: Harrisburg hopes new trucks bring in millions

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HARRISBURG, Pa. -- Harrisburg took its "inaugural dump" Thursday.

Mayor Eric Papenfuse coined the term as the city unveiled its first front-end loading garbage truck and used it on a dumpster at the regional chamber offices and CREDC on Front Street.

"You may remember in the State of the City address (in September) I mentioned that our hosts were using a private hauler," Papenfuse said Thursday while standing in front of 'Hercules', the city's new truck parked in CREDC's lot. "Well, they are no longer using a private hauler."

With that, 'Hercules' lifted the garbage-filled dumpster, marking the start of new era of trash pickup in Harrisburg, one which Papenfuse hopes will bring in "hundreds of thousands" of dollars in new revenue.

Currently, the city has 350 businesses using private trucks, despite the fact Harrisburg ordinances state commercial and residential properties must use the city's services. Most property owners have used private haulers in the past as the city's service was ill-equipped to handle their trash-pickup requirements in needing a front-end loader.

Papenfuse hopes to phase out the use of private haulers in the coming months with the city's newly acquired, but pre-owned trucks. Negotiations with local properties are taking place with settlements possible by the end of 2015. The used trucks cost the city $210,000, which Papenfuse called "a bargain."

Property owners will be expected to phase out their current services, if private and under contract, within the next two years, Papenfuse says. This includes a series of apartment complexes which have been collecting bills from the city for trash services dating back to 2008. Their debt totals approximately $1.6 million.

"We have always taken the position we are not out to break private contracts," Papenfuse said. "We are trying to transition those accounts back to the city."

Among the properties with the largest tabs include the Townhouse Apartments on Boas St. and B'nai B'rith Apartments on 3rd Street. David Lanza, an attorney representing Townhouse and the Executive House Apartments, says negotiations with the city are underway. However, their private haulers have traditionally offered less expensive rates, as well.

"We believe we can give them just as good of a deal with the city," Papenfuse remarked, adding that if they don't pay up, fines could still occur for disobeying city codes.