Columbia Borough Council tabled a resolution empowering police to enforce park rules at Locust Street Park, until its November 10 meeting, due to insurance issues. At its October 27 Meeting of the Whole, council considered Resolution 14-18, a lease agreement with the Old Columbia Public Grounds Company (OCPGC) to give the borough jurisdiction over the park. Park maintenance would continue to be handled by OCPGC. Currently, police cannot legally enforce park rules unless requested by OCPGC but can enforce laws in the Crimes Code.
A motion was made and seconded to accept the resolution, but a spontaneous discussion erupted before the measure could be voted on. Councillor Jim Smith asked why police cited people for offenses there in the past, since the park has always been private property. Borough Manager Sam Sulkosky explained, "Since it's private property, our police are limited on what they can enforce and what they can't enforce."
Smith replied, "They always enforced it."
Mayor Leo Lutz said, "The laws have changed. If it's private property, we cannot cite people," but added, "We can enforce curfew."
"If a person who owns a property observes an illegal activity they can call the police and have them cited," Lutz said.
Lutz also said OCPGC is currently struggling, and if it disbands, ownership of the park will be transferred to the borough, which will then be responsible for maintenance, in addition to enforcement. "It reverts to the borough, same as any cemetery," Lutz said.
Liability insurance is required under the lease, similar to the agreement the borough has with Columbia River Park. Councillors questioned the need for the borough to carry insurance, since the park is already covered under the OCPGC's policy. Mary Wickenheiser, a member of the borough planning commission, cited the difference between the borough's relationship with Columbia River Park and the proposed agreement for Locust Street Park. "The lease of that River Park and the lease of this park are two totally different situations. The lease on the River Park was for the borough to use that property, for the borough to basically have control of that property," she said.
After a brief discussion, council voted to table the lease until its next meeting so that insurance issues could be investigated