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Hbg. business owners backing increased police presence

By - Last modified: April 5, 2012 at 11:01 AM

A grassroots effort led by businesses in Midtown Harrisburg to boost public safety and security in neighborhoods from Front to Seventh streets and Forster to Maclay streets will begin to take shape a little more on Monday.

The proposed Midtown Improvement District will hold its initial public meeting at 7 p.m. Monday at the Midtown Scholar Bookstore on North Third Street. Eric Papenfuse, the store's owner, chairs the advisory committee to the new commercial and residential neighborhood improvement district.

The group's plan calls for hiring up to eight extra-duty police officers to patrol Midtown, Papenfuse said.

With the city's finances in turmoil, due in large part to the incinerator debt, the estimated $420,000 annual budget would be paid by the roughly 4,000 commercial and residential property owners in Midtown, he said.

The idea is for homeowners to pay a 10th of one percent and business owners a 15th of one percent of their assessed property value, Papenfuse said. The average homeowner would pay about $60 per year, he said.

Monday's meeting will lay the groundwork for the district. A vote on the proposal could happen this summer, Papenfuse said. The concept has been drafted under the state's Neighborhood Improvement District Act, he said.

Forty percent of property owners would have to vote against the plan for it to fail, Papenfuse said. Every parcel owner gets one vote, so a business owner with five parcels would have five votes.

If approved, the City Council would then need to sign off on the proposal.

On Wednesday, the Harrisburg Area Community College and Mayor Linda Thompson announced a new police substation at HACC's Midtown 1 on North Fourth Street.

The new substation, the city's fourth, was organized prior to the Midtown Improvement District proposal, city spokesman Robert Philbin said. Other substations will be opened in the future, he said.

Downtown business owners last month offered to cover the cost of additional police protection after a series of events, including a fatal stabbing along Second Street's Restaurant Row.

Jason Scott

Jason Scott

Jason Scott covers state government, real estate and construction, media and marketing, and Dauphin County. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at jasons@cpbj.com. Follow him on Twitter, @JScottJournal. Circle Jason Scott on .

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