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Nov 23, 2020
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November 16, 2020 Meeting Minutes
Submitted by Mike Jaeger
The Harrisburg Rotary Club’s 11/16/20 meeting kicked off with the bell ringing at approximately 12:02. James gave a brief greeting and Dick Stewart provided the invocation. Addeline played Lift Every Voice and Sing for the opening song. The Club pledged allegiance to our flag and then recited the Rotary Four Way Test. James reminded us to keep the Four Way Test front and center through our week.
 
After thanking today’s meeting assistants, James and Addeline urged the Club to invite friends. They also asked the Club to give ideas to the Program Committee on themes for future meetings. Next, James went through upcoming service projects and events. You can find information through links to the Events Calendar within the website and through email notifications. “Joy to the Burg” is approaching and is a big deal as proceeds help homeless initiatives within Harrisburg. It is also our district grant project this year. Expedition Chesapeake panel discussion is coming up on December the 7th. In preparation for the meeting you can watch the film by getting a digital ticket through Rotary Roundup emails or on Sunday Dec 6th club members can participate in a small screening at the West Shore Country Club. James noted that we need to consider the recent uptick in COVID when deciding what we will do with upcoming events. All members should pay attention to the Rotary Roundup for updates. Next, James shared that this week’s lunch money goes to the Human Society of Harrisburg. Club members can also donate through their website. To date, our lunch money donations are around $20,000 so thank you to the Club for your support! Please share stories of the way Rotary is caring for the community during our Share the Story campaign. Finally, James thanked our corporate sponsors for their support.
James turned the microphone over to Amy Kaunas, representing our Membership committee, to share updates. Amy started by thanking the Harrisburg Chamber who attended our meeting and she also invited them to consider joining the Club. Amy shared some of the initiatives we have underway that benefit the Harrisburg community and encouraged the Chamber members to review our website. Amy and Angela Tatum will assist anyone interested in membership.
 
John Moorefield introduced our guest speaker, Mayor Eric Papenfuse, with a brief background. The Mayor moved to the city in 1999 and was elected to his first term as mayor in 2014.  John mentioned the Midtown Scholar Bookstore that Eric and his wife, Catherine, had purchased and operated and that even before becoming Mayor, Eric started a renaissance within the city.  Mayor Papenfuse was named an honorary Rotarian after his second-term election in 2018.
 
The Mayor took the virtual podium joining us from Channel 20 studios where he also provides a weekly Facebook Live session about topics important to the City. You can join every Friday at noon for information important to the community. Eric joined the Club to outline initiatives going on within the City but first congratulated the Club on continuing to support the community through communication and action through challenges presented by COVID.
Mayor Papenfuse started by sharing that it is a challenging budget for the City next year. Loss of income from hotels, parking and Senators games as well as business shutdown have compressed income. There is a $5M decrease in revenues for next year but, fortunately, money was put away over the last few years bringing the City’s reserve to over $20M which will aid the Harrisburg through next year and allow continuation of all services. It will also allow the City to continue with planned projects. The Commonwealth is also developing its budget and the City is hoping to extend its taxing authority to a permanent extension which will allow them to do a restructuring of the remaining outstanding City debt to take advantage of historically low interest rates. The Mayor is about to approve a budget and is excited about the things Harrisburg will be able to do next year.
 
Next, the Mayor discussed an initiative to expand community policing through a new department called the Community Services Division. It will support the police department by using unarmed citizens to help with community matters and issues; lightening the load for the police department. The initiative is perfect for people who don’t want to go through the Police Academy but have interest in serving the community. The Mayor also wants to bring in social workers who will assist police and take on community needs. Blake Lynch will be overseeing the Community Services Division and will look to expand community partnerships. The Mayor mentioned other partnerships already in place but discussed how they can pull together to purchase cameras and lighting and transforming vacant properties with murals and cleanup, etc. as examples. The goal is improvement through empowerment and strengthening of their partners. The City is looking to spend over $1M for non-traditional policing that will reflect what the community is seeking. The Mayor pointed out that the most recent spike in shootings is youth-on-youth due to stresses caused by the COVID environment. He provided this information as an example of community need that requires attention. The Mayor is a proponent of showing respect for one another as we have a collective responsibility to look out for one another.
 
Mayor Papenfuse transitioned to another initiative sharing that in the Spring we will see a lot of delayed construction projects come together as a part of Vision Zero, aimed at making Harrisburg safer. The City will address problem points where a lot of accidents have happened and will use a data driven approach to transform these problem areas by changing lighting, width of streets, parking configuration and crossing methods. In addition, construction will occur that reduces water pollution into the river. There will be restricted travel lanes at certain times that will improve safety. This is part of the transformation that goes along with 2nd Street going to a two-way street, except for Downtown. 7th Street will have a two-lane bike track. There will be a focus on development around the new courthouse as well. A lot of great projects are coming down the pike.
 
Also, the Mayor is very excited about the Public Works department who made sure no diminishment of City services during COVID. They are also looking to grow the inter-government cooperation agreements. For example, the Sanitation department is making new partnerships with surrounding boroughs. This could be expanded to fire and police in the future. These partnerships are key to everyone’s health in the future and it makes sense financially. Look for further inter-governmental agreements.
 
 
In closing, before Q&A, the Mayor gave a sincere thank-you to Rotary for everything it is doing in the community.
 
Q&A
 
Addeline: Considering the rising real estate prices due to the relocation of the courthouse and commercial development on 7th Street, are there additional affordable housing projects it the works as well? 
Mayor: Although the City hesitates to mandate affordable housing, it is looking for ways to incentivize builders, and they have some bills in the works to address these projects. The Mayor wants affordable housing in all areas of the City and will work with developers to that end.
 
Unknown club member: How can Rotary positively impact youth further?
Mayor: He feels we are doing a good job and projects like the greenhouse and involvement in the school district is great. He expressed that we need the community to support transition back from virtual learning.
 
James: Any other thoughts on plans for City schools?
Mayor: The City has a good relationship with Receiver and Superintendent. They are working on online learning programming and other initiatives like device distribution and internet availability because online learning in the City is a real challenge for a lot of people for various reasons.
 
Vlad: Will the new Police Community Service Officers be hired from residents of the City?
Mayor: There are no current restrictions, but the hope is that it will come from residents. The City is developing job descriptions now which will be open-ended and 12 positions are being proposed at the start.
 
Una: What is the former Bishop McDevitt/Bridge site progress?
Mayor: A lot of progress has been made as the site is being redeveloped for business incubation, sustainable living, gardening, etc. He is hoping for State funding for the cost of transitioning buildings and feel they are close. The former high school, which has the most potential for development, is still being considered for what direction to take
 
Hector Ortiz: What is the status of sanitation and trash collection issues?
Mayor: He is not aware of any current issues but urges residents to notify the City if there still are issues occurring.
 
James thanked the Mayor who concluded with his presentation at approximately 12:58. James then thanked the Club for attending and reminded all about the upcoming Service on a Monday with the caveat that plans could change so everyone needs to stay tuned. The bell adjourning the meeting sounded at 1pm.
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