Sinkhole Tour riles Harrisburg Mayor
Harrisburg, PA – Mayor Eric Papenfuse is demanding that the residents of South 14th street affected by the sinkhole disaster be treated with courtesy and respect and not subjected to media or official tours without their consultation.
“The residents of South 14th Street have suffered enough,” said Mayor Papenfuse, in a press release issued today. “They don’t deserve to be used as backdrop for political speeches, media tours, or victory laps.”
Mayor Papenfuse is responding to complaints from area residents about a tour of the sinkhole area organized Tuesday by the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development.
The Mayor refused to participate in the tour and asked the department to delay holding any event on South 14th Street until residents could be informed and prepared for media coverage.
Residents have contacted the City to complain about the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development conducting a tour and press conference in the area without informing them. In one phone call the City received Tuesday, the family of a 92-year-old resident objected to his being disturbed by the onslaught of media and officials in the neighborhood.
In a message sent Monday, Oct. 24, 2016, to the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, the Mayor asked that the press event it organized for Tuesday without the Mayor’s approval be delayed until area residents are consulted.
“These residents have been through a lot and should not be viewed as backdrop for a photo op,” Mayor Papenfuse stated. “To the extent this event is important, there needs to be outreach first and a clear set of priorities conveyed to the residents.”
The Mayor is calling on all officials to respect the privacy of residents of South 14th Street and ensure they are informed in advance of all events taking place in their neighborhood.
“Now that funding has been secured to address the sinkhole issue, all agencies involved should be sitting down and rolling up their sleeves to make sure relief comes as quickly and efficiently as possible for those affected,” the Mayor said.
The Department of Community and Economic Development Secretary Dennis Davin today announced that the department has received approval from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for the matching funding necessary to complete the sinkhole mitigation project on South 14th Street in the City of Harrisburg.
“We are pleased that we were able to advocate and secure approval for this project on behalf of the City of Harrisburg,” said Davin. “This funding serves as the local match requirement necessary to obtain federal approval for the project and we are thrilled that so many federal, state, and local officials have worked together to ensure that this project moves forward.”
The project approval will cover the local match needed for the first phase of the project on behalf of the City of Harrisburg, as well as all costs accompanying phase two of the project.
Phase one will cover the voluntary acquisition and demolition of the first 25 homes on the 1400 block of South 14th Street between Cloverly Terrace and Magnolia Street. Phase two will cover the remainder of the block. Following demolition, the site will be excavated to a depth of 10 feet and backfilled. The site will be zoned as greenspace without the possibility for future development.
“On behalf of Harrisburg City Council, we would like to extend our sincere appreciation and gratitude to all those involved in securing additional funding for the residents of South 14 Street,” said Harrisburg City Council President Wanda Williams. “These funds will help the homeowners who have been displaced and suffered great agony over having to leave their homes. We look forward to giving them some peace of mind after all they have been through.”
“The sinkholes have caused numerous problems for families living along 14th Street, so this is good news for the neighbors who have been suffering while waiting for a solution,” said state Sen. Rob Teplitz (D-Dauphin/Perry). “This funding will allow the residents and the city to move forward, and I’m grateful for the coordinated effort among federal, state, and local officials to make it possible.”
This announcement comes one month after Governor Wolf announced that Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency received approval for $1,650,000 in federal funding through Federal Emergency Management Agency. Earlier this year, DCED identified the sinkhole area as a priority for disaster relief federal funding and submitted an amended plan to HUD for approval. This approval marks the first time the commonwealth has received approval to use the funding in this manner.
SOURCES: Harrisburg Office of the Mayor press release, DCED press release