Sunday, October 18, 2020

About Town 10/18/2020

This week's photos of Columbia

(Click/tap on photos to see larger, sharper images.) 

Cutting the road at 6th & Locust

The collection box at Columbia Presbyterian is now green to match the doors.

Workers are making progress at the Shawnee Run Restoration Project

Riparian buffers are in place, and a greenway is being installed.

Out for a walk at Columbia River Park

It's fall and time to collect leaves in your umbrella.

Commercial space for rent . . . here?
(300 block of Walnut)

When you can't take Fido to the spa, bring the spa to FIdo.

Injured sign on 462

Rainbow flag

It's always a good time for a shoulder rub.

Looks like Christmas is right around the corner.

Flags a-waving

Flags on the bridge

Golden arches

These flags are waving - and hanging.

Meanwhile, over at Universal Tech

Looks like the news is that way.

The wheels keep on turning, except when they don't.

Albatwitch mask

Headin' out

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Columbia moves toward buying McGinness Airport property

Council voted 5-2 to hire York-based marketing agency Gavin to handle messaging around the borough's potential purchase of the vacant McGinness Airport property. Council members Sharon Lintner and Howard Stevens were opposed to hiring the marketing firm. "I don't understand why we can't communicate with our public. ... Why do we have to pay someone to communicate with them?" Lintner asked.

In a phone conversation after the meeting, Borough Manager Mark Stivers said the borough is considering the purchase in order to create a small industrial park development or something similar, with various businesses on the property. When asked for environmental assessment records after the meeting, Stivers said they were not yet available to the public.

Borough solicitor Evan Gabel is working toward a purchase contract. Stivers said the property would be paid with a bond taken out in 2016 for a different project that did not occur. He said developing the property would greatly increase its taxable value, reducing the tax burden on citizens.

Stivers said Borough Council will publicly discuss more specifics of the redevelopment plan for the McGinness property at the Nov. 5 meeting.


Columbia schools appoint new board member, increase sports spectator limits

At the October 15 school board meeting, Kyle Jensen was appointed as a member of the Columbia Borough school board.

The board recently accepted the resignation of Cole Knighton, who abruptly resigned as a board member via letter Sept. 7. 

Sports: In accordance with Gov. Tom Wolf's latest spectator restrictions, the district will increase its attendance at both indoor and outdoor events to 20% capacity, which translates to roughly 400 people in the football stadium and 60 in the gymnasium.


Friday, October 16, 2020

The annual Albatwitch Festival is this weekend; here's the story behind the local legend

Paranormal investigators, authors and researchers will convene in Columbia for the 2020 Albatwitch Day, an annual festival celebrating the local legend, the Albatwitch, on Saturday.

Daytime attractions run from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Haunted tours begin at 7 p.m.

The fun takes place at Columbia River Park, 21 Walnut St., Columbia. For more information, visit


Council hires public relations firm to "manage the message" on purchase of McGinness property

In 2017, the McGinness Airport property was listed for $1,625,000.

Columbia Borough Council approved a contract with a public relations firm this week to handle communications and information about a potential purchase of the McGinness property at 1020 Manor Street. 

Gavin, a "public relations and communications services" firm, will "guide communication strategies" (according to their proposal) concerning the purchase of the 58-acre tract. (Currently, the property is not under agreement.) The 10-page contract proposal detailing the scope of services and pricing structure begins on page 25 of the meeting's council packet, which can be downloaded HERE.

At Tuesday night's council meeting, councilman Todd Burgard said the company will help the borough in "managing the message" regarding the purchase. Although it was not explicitly stated, that message might involve tamping down any possible controversy over a report about environmental/subsurface conditions at the site, which stems from a 2017 study. Although no definite plans for the property were announced, an item in the proposal mentions "drone innovation and investment." 

Council vice president Sharon Lintner said she knew nothing about the Gavin proposal until she saw it on the meeting agenda. (The agenda lists the item as "11. b. Consider Contract for Communication and PR Support for the purchase of the McGinness Airport.") Council president Heather Zink suggested tabling the item, but after discussion the item remained, and council ultimately voted to approve the contract 5-2, with Lintner and councilman Howard Stevens voting against the motion.

This is not the first time the property has been under consideration by the borough. At the April 10, 2017 council meeting, the former council voted 5-1 to purchase the property but nixed the deal in July due to "environmental and/or subsurface conditions of the property." According to the minutes of the July 24, 2017 special council meeting, council approved the following motion 6-0 to void the agreement of sale:

[Note: At Tuesday's meeting, councilman Burgard insisted, without evidence, that the deal had been nixed due to price, not contamination.]

The property is currently listed at $1,495,000.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Wickersham Elementary School principal to become Columbia superintendent in 2021; current superintendent placed on leave

Columbia Borough School District has made its sixth change to superintendent in seven years.

The school board on Thursday night hired Ashley Mercado, the principal of Lancaster's Wickersham Elementary School, as Columbia's new superintendent. Mercado's first day will be Jan. 2, 2021, after students return from winter break.

In an abrupt response to the hire, current Superintendent Tom Strickler will go on paid administrative leave until his contract expires Dec. 31.The board unanimously approved Mercado's appointment and Strickler's leave, and then it named Gregory McGough, the district's director of curriculum, as interim superintendent until Mercado takes over.

School board Vice President Kathleen Hohenadel declined to answer questions about Strickler's leave prior to the meeting. Instead, school board President Charles Leader sent a prepared statement, which he also read aloud during the meeting. The board and Strickler "mutually agreed" to the leave, according to the statement.