Sunday, January 19, 2020

About Town 1/19/20

This week's photos of Columbia

This snowman is about the only one you would have seen last week.
The predicted 4-8 inch snow never materialized.

Anyway, what's that white powder on 7th Street?

Porch pirate bait on Locust

Here's a sub-sub-compact (?)

Doesn't take up too much parking space. If every resident had one of these, our town's fictional parking problem would be solved in no time.

Might not be too good for hauling furniture, though.

Tight squeeze

Signs of progress at Hotel Locust - a new sliding gate out back

Down on Bridge Street

Might want to keep these handy. Winter's not over yet.

Tie a yellow ribbon, yes, but maybe something bigger and more respectable.

This will never work.

Meanwhile, downtown:
JULY 8, 2019 TO
FEBRUARY 28 [?], 2020

There's another one.

Crane's back.
Down at 401-403 Locust

It was scheduled for Thursday, but due to high winds was postponed until Friday.

Nope, no 4-8 inches, just a light dusting

New office building at the self-storage on North 2nd. We hear the ugly trailer's gonna go.

Out at 4th & Manor

Also there: a great bargain

PennDOT on the job, ready to plow the nearly non-existent snow

Just one from Hellam

The twin towers at Turkey Hill
Trump says windmills cause cancer, so don't get too close.

Route 441 up towards Chickies, as seen from downriver

St. Peter Apartments vs Trinity House

Columbia High School

On the bridge, the road's nice and clear.

But who's responsible for clearing the sidewalk?
Looks like you're spit out of luck, if you're a pedestrian.

Who knew that someone makes these things - almost like putting several bottomless trash cans together.

Lone gull braving the wind

New sign at the entrance to Locust Street Park at South 6th & Locust

And another one - along Route 462

 Sorry, S.A. Comunale, you'll have to park elsewhere. Your space expired on December 31, 2019.

 You're still good, H.B. McClure, but five months seems a bit extreme.

 SECCO gets to park in front of the Presbyterian church.
On Sunday afternoon, Columbia Spy counted seven NO PARKING signs attached to meters. That's 14 meters not collecting revenue for several months near 4th & Locust and on the 200 block of Locust. Not to mention the freebie for Hickernell's secretary on the 200 block of Locust.

Out at CMX - an army of dumpsters

 How rusty does a sign need to get before it's considered invalid?

 Out at the Linden Street Turkey Hill Store -
Next snowstorm, get your bread and beer.
Things might work out better that way anyway.

There are even signs at the gas pumps, so...
Fill 'er up!

Friday, January 17, 2020

Columbia Borough Meetings - Week of January 20, 2020

Letter read at January 6 council meeting explains council president's stance on reopening the budget

Copy of Council President Heather Zink's letter that she read at the January 6, 2020 Columbia Borough Council Reorganization Meeting.
[Click to enlarge.]

During the discussion of a motion to reopen the borough budget at the January 6, 2020 Columbia Borough Council Reorganization Meeting, Council President Heather Zink read a letter explaining her stance on the issue. Zink said that after agonizing over the issue for the last few weeks, she believes that "a line by line exam will be unfeasible given the constraints spelled out in the Borough Code."  Those constraints include a February 15, 2020 deadline to adopt the revised budget, before which meetings must be held to discuss and proposed changes, and a subsequent 10-day period made available for citizens to inspect the budget. During that period, no further changes can be made.

Zink stated that having just under a month to advertise and make changes allows little time for research, unless council knows immediately what those changes are. She said she "would much rather move forward with the understanding that we will be controlling expenditures with our votes throughout the year as well as exploring ways to leverage the recent vacancies to find cost savings in the General Fund than look back by opening the budget."

The complete text of the letter is shown above.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Former borough manager accuses council of "kicking the can down the road" for failing to reopen the budget

Norm Meiskey addresses council at Tuesday night's meeting. 

Former Columbia Borough Manager Norm Meiskey scolded borough council Tuesday night for its failure to reopen the borough budget and accused members of "kicking the can down the road." The current budget, which Meiskey said contains $870,000 in planned overspending, was passed unanimously by former council members, three of whom still sit on council.

Last year, citizens voted out a councilman in the primary election and the council president in the general election over concerns about overspending and lending taxpayer money to private business. Four new members [Kauffman, Lintner, Stevens, Zink] who promised fiscal responsibility were voted in. [Council Vice President John Novak and Councilwoman Marilyn Kress Hartman had finished their terms on December 31, 2019, having chosen not to run again.]

Meiskey said council would not have needed to agonize over reopening the budget, because members simply needed to direct the borough manager to do so and to prepare a new budget plan. "It's incumbent upon the borough manager to take direction from council, and you could have easily directed that to the borough manager and have a budget plan prepared. In this case, with $870,000 involved, that plan would have had a number of action items, not the least of which is certainly a restructuring. Position changes, attrition plan - it would have encompassed all that. But again, that didn't happen."

Meiskey said he had submitted his resume in response to an opening for an interim borough manager but decided not to interview after council's 5-2 vote against reopening the budget. "I cannot possibly work with a council that leaves an atrocious budget plan - particularly the general fund with $870,000 in planned overspending of revenues and onerous taxation of property owners - in place for 2020," Meiskey said. "Immediate corrective action was required, but the can was kicked down the road." He noted that council had overspent by almost half a million dollars in 2017, and over $2 million in 2018.

Meiskey also faulted council on its hiring process, which he believes is improper. "Putting EEO on an advertisement does not mean you're an equal opportunity employer," he said, noting that three positions filled in 2018 were not advertised. He also pointed out that in considering a borough manager or interim, veteran's preference under state and federal law and protected classes must be taken into account. Meiskey said he could have personally filed formal complaints about the three hirings but chose not to, because taxpayers would end up paying the fine. He added that the hiring process involves mitigation of liability, which is the responsibility of the borough manager and solicitor so that the borough is not put at any kind of risk, particularly violations of federal and state law or EEOC requirements.

In a barb aimed at departing borough manager Rebecca Denlinger, Meiskey said he hopes the the new borough manager that's hired is somebody with experience because "We had somebody who was grossly inexperienced." He added that the borough manager has the necessity of handling a whole host of matters, not the least of which is budgets, trying to control spending and mitigation of liabilities - and steering the ship in the right direction.

[NOTE: A previous version of this article stated that the council vice president was voted out in last year's elections. That was incorrect. The vice president, John Novak, completed his term on December 31, 2019, having chosen not to run again. That change has been incorporated into this article.We apologize to Mr. Novak and our readers for the error.]

Agenda - Columbia Borough School Board Meeting - January 16, 2020


Columbia installs West Earl's former borough manager as interim

Candie L. Johnson at Tuesday's Columbia Borough Council meeting

Candie L. Johnson, who formerly served as township manager for West Earl Township, will serve as interim borough manager while it searches for a permanent replacement for former Manager Rebecca S. Denlinger. Johnson, who resigned her position in West Earl in September due to what she says was a "difference of personalities" with supervisors, will be paid $40 per hour while serving as Columbia's interim manager.

"I promise to the Borough Council and the residents of Columbia to be a good captain, to manage the ship and do the best I can for you at this point," Johnson said in brief remarks during the meeting.

The borough also is searching for a new planning and zoning manager to replace Jeff Helms, who retired at the end of last year. No hiring timetable has been set by council.


Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Group allegedly steals $10,000 in jewelry at Burning Bridge Antiques

According to the Burning Bridge Antiques Market Facebook page:

ATTENTION ANTIQUES, JEWELRY AND  PAWN COMMUNITIES: On Tuesday, January 14, at approximately 3 pm, three men and a woman entered the building separately, all while speaking Spanish on their cell phones. One remained at the counter, an approximately 25 year old male with shoulder length dark hair. He stayed at the counter the whole time and pretended to be interested in items, all while remaining on his phone. The other 3 accomplices met at a jewelry case and proceeded to break in and steal approximately $10,000 in jewelry. Locks were broken off. They stole 14k and 10k gold. We are posting the best  pictures we have at the moment because we want to get this information out ASAP! We are working on gathering as much evidence as possible. If you have any further information, please message us and share this with the antique, pawn and jewelry communities! It is in all our best interests to be vigilant! Please protect yourselves by taking this matter seriously.