Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Market House Trust gets new lease on life


The Columbia Historic Market House Trust got a new lease on life Monday night when Borough Council voted unanimously in favor of a motion to support the trust moving forward to apply for grants for design and construction for Phase II of the Market House revitalization study of 2005. Any grant funding will be used to rehabilitate the interior of the market, as called for in the borough's strategic plan and the 2005 study. Over 50 people filled the borough council chamber, many of whom were there to show support for the trust.  

Trust Chairman Cleon Berntheizel asked for council's approval to move forward with the plan.  He stated that he is not asking for money, just a "nod,” in order to recruit people to come up with the numbers needed to design and submit grant requests. Berntheizel said the goal is to raise money through public and private grants.    He said the trust wants to start the grant process immediately, because September 12th  is the deadline to apply for a grant that was suggested to the trust by PA State Representative Stan Saylor. Berntheizel stated that he intends to begin the capital campaign within the next few months.  He said he hopes the trust can raise money from public and private sources without asking council. He said some significant donors have already pledged to help fund the project.

Market consultant Ken Kauffman stated that he was approached by the trust about returning the market to its original intended purpose and to help members better understand how to run a market.  Kauffman explained that  the proposed plan for infrastructure would include space requirements and electrical upgrades, as well as many facilities necessary to operate the market (for example, hand sinks). (Currently, there is one common sink in the market.)  Once the plan is in place the trust can work with contractors on cost.

He said the second use of the plan would be aimed at creating a “marketing piece.” He said the plan would show “a high level of credibility” to potential merchants. He also said that the first impression has to be “fantastic,” not half done.  He stated his opposition to a food court/fast food area, referring to it as “parasitic” use.  He said people will drive to a destination if there is fresh produce.

Councillor Mary Barninger asked what the timeline would be for design and construction. Kauffman replied that it would be a year. Councillor Barry Ford asked what will happen between now and a year from now. “That's up to the trust to decide,” Kauffman replied.

Councillor Kelly Murphy asked if the building will remain open during construction. “We never had that discussion yet,” Berntheizel replied, adding that he didn't know if part of the building could remain open. Berntheizel also said he didn't know how many stands will be leaving or that TJ's was leaving, until that evening's meeting. [Note: Near the start of the meeting, Duval Dollar of TJ's told council he will be leaving the market on November 1. “It's very sad, but we can't take anymore,” he said, adding that he will still be in town.]

Berntheizel stated that he wants to see a complete restoration to a green farmers' market and said that the trust is excited about the new possibilities.  He said that the market house has been called “the jewel” of downtown revitalization.

Berntheizel also stated that the inside of the market is inadequate.  He said it is too hot in the summer and the produce can't stay fresh. He also said he has heard that older people are afraid to walk on the bricks but added, "There is no discussion about tearing up bricks.” “Our produce stand suffers immensely,” he said, because the produce can't be kept fresh. According to Berntheizel, the current obstacle is the lack of staple products to take home. He said customers should be able to get what they need, as in a grocery store. 

Councillor Ford said he believes in the trust concept but is concerned that the borough has no control. “The way the trust body is set up, we don't have control over anything,” he said. “I really don't see us helping except as a letter of support.” He said he wants to do what is best for the citizens of Columbia. He stated several options for the market house:
Do nothing and let the market operate as status quo.
Go with the trust plan and hope there are grants.
Find out what can be done that's currently not being done. 
Close the market.
Close it for a month and reorganize.
Put the market manager in charge of the trust.
Sell the market.
He concluded by reminding the trust that they need to be “more open.”

Councillor Jim Smith urged the trust to “formulate a plan and stick to it.”

Berntheizel remarked that he has never volunteered in a position where the negativity is so great.  He says they are “smacked down” by the press and social media who are getting only half the story. He said, “We are not secretive. We are open. We want to be as transparent as can be.”  

Mayor Leo Lutz suggested that the trust advertise meeting dates and have the meetings open to the public.  He said that there has to be a flow of information. He added that if there had been, "a lot of things we're hearing now wouldn't be.”  He also suggested that the council chamber could be used for trust meetings.

Councillor Barninger acknowledged that it was difficult to put aside all the “dirty laundry” that was aired over the last three years, but that the history should be separated from the trust's request. “Think about what this place could be,” she said. Barninger then made a motion to support the trust with  the grant application.   Councillor Smith seconded the motion. After council voted unanimously in favor of the motion, many in attendance erupted in applause. 

26 comments:

  1. What I read above about council hands are tied, and can't do nothing about the market. Then let it be as is!! Do not bring it up at meetings anymore period!!!!!

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  2. How can the council give grant application votes, when the borough has nothing to do with the Market!!

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    1. They didn't give "grant application votes", it says they support the Trust in their process of applying for Grants.

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    2. Then if so, why even bring anything up about the market trust at borough meetings.

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  3. I want to say thanks to our Columbia Borough police department. A recent call to them was answered and handled promptly and professionally. Their attitude and dedication makes me feel safer living here.

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  4. Good reporting Cole!

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  5. Again, the Trust is obligated under section 2 of ordinance 811, (establishing the Trust) to respond to standholder, consumer, and community input on matters related to market operations. That was not done at this meeting for sure, as the Trust members left prior to citizen comments. Hopefully the new leaf will include public meetings where questions and comments are welcome.

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  6. I have to laugh at this comment "We are not secretive. We are open. We want to be as transparent as can be.”

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  7. I laugh with you lololololololololololol..................

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  8. They become transparent after a few drinks at union station.

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  9. never saw so much negativity.lol.what was more negative then forcing stand holders and market managers,to leave with your negative tactics and this is two different groups of stand holders.having your secret meetings,having 7 members but only the select 4 voting.i blame the council more then the trust.they let them do anything they want and they cower at the thought of doing anything to them.this is columbia,not lancaster.why does a small market need a trust?what you need to do is go back to renae,or carmen,put them in charge,and watch what happens.in 6 months or less the place would be something columbia can be proud of again.how can you allow this group to get grant money after all the damage they have caused?why is the trust so hell bent to keep control of this market?we are columbia,and that's what we will always be,no matter if folks try to turn us into something else for the elites of this town.outsiders for years have tried to bring us down and now our boro council is helping and that is a shame.

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  10. Over 7,000.00 dollars spent on advertising the market. Really? What kind of advertising was done? Does the Trust have to present receipts for this spending?

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  11. An idle mind is the devils playground. He has LOTS of pawns on here I see. Do something with your time, volunteer on a board and stop criticizing those who DO volunteer.

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    1. They do for themselves that is why they are on the board! :O)

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  12. The Trust paid the advertising bills, who do you think they need to provide receipts to?

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  13. Already do belong to and support non-profit organizations, which is all the more reason to question what's going on here. If the market was thriving under the Trust's watch no one would be questioning what's going on. With only a handful of stand holders left, one must ask what is going wrong and those charged with the task should be willing to answer. Ignoring the fact that there is an obvious problem will not solve it.

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  14. I think the IRS would like to see it!

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  15. If the Trust is planning to ask for public donations, why can't the public ask what their donations will be used for? The lack of public interaction makes it appear as if the Trust has an "I'm better than you" attitude toward the standholders, as well as some patrons.

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  16. The Trust previously received an approximate $11,000 grant from Penna. Dept. of Agriculture which was designated solely for use for advertising and marketing of the market. I believe the way these grants work is that first you spend the money, and then PDA reimburses for the amount spent.

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  17. Then over 4 thousand dollars is still left over from the 7 thousand already spent!

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  18. The grant was $3,500. Somebody needs to get their facts straight.

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  19. Some one got their hands in the cookie jar.

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  20. Cole, Sadly as we head down an all to familiar road... the Council is in the only position they can be because so much money is at stake and lost. Meaning, a grant is the only hope that the market will relive or revive? Too many past dirty deeds were done by the Trust and Cle is correct by saying it has become more than negative. However, one would think with that concept, The Trust would step out of the box and make a drastic measure. Perhaps, one that would lead everyone to be more appreciative. Cole, what is more upsetting out of all this is not that we lost terrific managers, vendors, customers, more than our fair share at "black eyes"or respect. It's the powerful statement from council that say's, OUR HANDS ARE TIED AND WE HAVE NO CONTROL>Hmmm. This will damage everything far more than they will ever know. This behavior, secretacy and otherwise will NEVER be forgotten. People that are on Council and Trust will always be remembered as the LACK OF TRUST OF THOSE THEY SERVE. I often wonder what goes on behind closed doors in the council chambers. I would be willing to bet on more than one occasion, that the Council members have said, please people give us a break on this whole Trust thing. I would also be willing to bet that when the Trust meets at the Union or other places a bunch of laughs going on to cover up there true thoughts. I personally think that both Council and Trust are so far into this shame, that it will take a miracle to recover from. I DO BELIEVE that the Council did have the best of intentions to pass management over to the Trust. I believe the vision was clear when they first thought this up, but what unfolded was nothing more than a disgrace. I wish the Trust would allow a helping hand from the ones who are here and concerned. In the past, my wife and I would come and visit and sit, sing, hug, shop and enjoy. Memories were made, businesses were started and things were moving in the right direction. I also remember the tours that the one manager gave with heart and passion. I remember that when I would stop and talk to her, she was always open, pleasant and accommodated many request. I attended the many meetings that patrons, vendors and managers pleaded and pleaded and pleaded with Council to rethink the control. Think about it folks, why would you NOT have control of your investment. What person in their right mind would allow someone to waste time, money and more. People are sued everyday for stealing or breaking contracts. Why is this any different. Why is it that we have no answers and more importantly no say. This biggest and most powerful statement I can make and end with is this..... PEOPLE ITS NOT THE BOROUGH WHO HAS NO CONTROL, IT'S US! I would be willing to bet that if anyone has a conscious, they will see the plea and understand its not about control it's about COLUMBIA PROUD! PAUL STANFORD SR.

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  21. If the trust REALLY cared about the market they would disband. Obviously the majority of people have had it with them. Stepping down would help the market move forward. I do not expect this to happen because 4 people have power they do not want to give up which proves they do not care about the market.

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  22. Stephanie Bradford, who wrote today's article.... please call the old manager. Offer stands!

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