In meetings throughout the day Wednesday, Harrisburg leaders worked to find ways to pay the big bills to fix a problem plaguing the city (and many others like it): an aging network of pipes.
The massive sinkholes on North 4th Street and recent water main breaks along Cameron Street have given added focus to the long-term issues facing the debt-ridden city as it prepares to handle expensive upgrades.
Following a meeting Wednesday morning about the city’s financial recovery, Rep. Patty Kim (D) and Sen. Rob Teplitz (D) held a roundtable discussion focused on addressing the city’s infrastructure repair issues. Mayor Linda Thompson (D) did not stay for it, citing other meetings and a press conference later in the morning.
Teplitz said he’s requesting $25 million in state funds be designated for repairing the city’s 40 sinkholes. The city’s been repairing issues as they arise, sometimes at a significant cost.
The 4th Street sinkhole repairs are estimated to cost $744,000. City Councilor Sandra Reid said only about $400,000 remains in the city’s public works budget for the year.
“Address it once and for all and put the city on a path then of routine maintenance so that we don’t have emergency after emergency,” said Teplitz. He explained if the money is included as part of the budget, Gov. Tom Corbett also would have to act to free up the funds to be spent.
Later in the evening, the Harrisburg Authority moved forward with a high-tech, long-term plan to get a handle on just how pervasive the problem with the city’s infrastructure is.
The authority is working with Herbert Rowling and Grubic, Inc. for engineering services on a project that will involve using cameras in the city’s network of pipes to identify where the issues are.
The project will take about four years and will cost $8-$10 million, said authority executive director Shannon Williams. Once completed, officials will be able to prioritize what repairs need to happen and in what order.
“There’s a whole lot of work, a whole lot of boots on the ground, a whole lot of technology that’s going to be used,” said Williams.
She added the authority is aiming not to take on new debt in financing the project, by seeking grants and utilizing existing funding within the authority’s budget.
She said should the need arise to take on long-term financing, the authority will conduct financial analyses to figure out the impact on customers’ bills before going forward.
“So that we can make sure we have gradual increases as necessary instead of having large jumps,” said Williams.