Harrisburg residents demand answers on sinkhole progress

Remember us? Four months after a massive sinkhole swallowed a Harrisburg street, people claim the city has since forgotten about them.

A white plastic bag rolled down the quiet street like tumbleweed. Cynthia Robinson said her neighborhood has changed for the worse.

“The whole block now. We're like a ghost town,” said Robinson. “Everybody has moved.”

Robinson said she never imagined rocks and city barricades would still flood the 2100 block of North Fourth Street. It was New Years Eve when the first sinkhole opened, swallowing a garbage truck. Since then, the infrastructure problems in Harrisburg have been well-documented locally and nationally.

We asked Robinson when was the last time she saw workers on her street. “Two months ago,” she said. “Two months ago.”

The grandmother who helps take care of a toddler was clearly frustrated about the prolonged inconvenience.

“[Mayor Linda Thompson], we've seen you here once on this block. When are you going to come back and talk to us?” questioned Robinson. “And, ya know…get the problem resolved. You've been here once, you promised us a lot of things and…time for re-election. How you gonna get re-elected if you haven't accomplished anything?”

Robinson said she spoke with city leaders weeks ago but never got a direct answer. So on behalf of Robinson, abc27 went to Harrisburg's City Government Center and spoke with Mayor Thompson.

When asked about progress, the mayor explained Public Works and UGI were waiting until temperatures got warmer. Thompson said UGI obtained permits to dig open Fourth Street once again and lay new gas lines.

“So we're hoping that we'll be able to be have Fourth Street finally done and resurfaced and paved by the mid-part of June…if not earlier,” said Thompson.

A man named Bowman living on Fourth St. said he is tired of the construction. “I can't wait until they get it finished.”

Unfortunately another sinkhole formed earlier this month, this time a few blocks over near the intersection of Meunch and Schuykill.

“I can't even drive around here,” said Regina Walker. She too said Public Works came once and has not been back. “No one has ever fixed nothing.”

What makes matters worse is the city has run out of funds for repairs. Currently the sinkhole on Fourth Street racked up $745,000. However, the 2013 Public Works budget is $400,000.

This week a City Council committee passed a resolution for council to vote on a PennVest loan application. Mayor Thompson is asking council to approve a $1.7 million loan to help the “2013 Utility and Sinkhole Repair Project.”

Council member Brad Koplinski said on Friday the council would most likely vote to approve the loan. He said the 2 percent interest rate the state is offering is “a good deal.”

The loan application hinges on a key variable, the completion of the 2011 audit. Thompson told abc27 the accountants are “six weeks ahead of schedule” and should have the audit completed by “mid-May.” She said the audit should be done in time for the application deadline May 15.

As for residents, the mayor offered some words of comfort.

“Just going forward we just want to minimize the inconvenience to residents” she said. “A lot's happening in the city here. And we want to make sure we minimize those angry calls coming into the mayor's office.”

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