The regular monthly meeting of the Columbia Borough Council Committee of the Whole was held Monday, July 28, at 6 p.m. at Borough Hall, 308 Locust Street. Highlights of the meeting are as follows:
Council President Mike Beury announced that voting will no longer take place at Committee of the Whole meetings but only at regular monthly council meetings. Topics will require a motion in order to be taken up at the next council meeting, at which time a vote would take place. Exceptions would be an emergency or situations involving a deadline. When councillors questioned the new procedures, the meeting briefly turned contentious, with Beury stating he would step down as president and challenging any councillor to take his position, saying, "Who wants to take president? I'll step down." He added he would prefer going back to committee meetings (as opposed to meetings of the whole).
Columbia Historic Market House Trust: Council discussed concerns about the trust's lack of communication with vendors and council. Councillor Barry Ford stated that he, Mayor Leo Lutz, President Beury, and Borough Manager Sam Sulkosky met with six members of the trust and their consultant, Ken Kauffman, last Wednesday night. According to Ford, the trust wants to increase vendors and foot traffic in the Columbia Market House and attract more "green" stands. It would also like to implement improvements and a second phase of a 1998 study, which include interior renovations, a refrigerated area, and repairs to the brick floor to make it level.
Ford said he was concerned about the secrecy of the trust's meetings but reported that the trust wants to be more open. He also said, "Something needs to be done over there," referring to the lack of market house vendors (only five or six currently remaining.) Ford said one day a week for the market was plenty and three is too much. He said that Thursday had originally been chosen to eliminate competition with Root's Market and The Green Dragon. Ford commented that he is concerned the market is failing.
Ford said the picnic tables previously reported missing had been sold to a youth group in Donegal. He added that there is a procedure for getting rid of borough property, and said, "I don't think the proper procedure was followed in this case.” He added that the tables could have been used elsewhere in the borough. Former Councillor Renae Sears said the eight tables cost about $119 each. A vendor at the meeting stated that tablecloths purchased by a vendor also disappeared. Sulkosky said the trust apologized for the removal.
Lutz mentioned seasonal produce stand holders leaving after their produce is no longer in season. He said they do not all want to ship produce from other areas simply to maintain a stand all year long. He said if the trust wants "ag in there," they [the trust] have to be more flexible. Lutz also said that a trust newsletter has not been distributed for a year. He said that when the trust was created, market committee meetings stopped but now need to be resumed. Lutz said that in the short term, the trust should open the lines of communication with the council and stand holders.
Sulkosky said the trust is a year away from having a written plan. He said there were communication problems between the trust and vendors as evidenced by the recent vendors' petition. Sulkosky said the council needs to bring the trust into compliance from a financial reporting standpoint. He said the annual audit report is due within 90 days from the first of the year. Lutz said lack of compliance would give the borough grounds for breach of contract.
A vendor present said "It's about what they [the trust] want, not what the customers want. They don't listen."
Trash at River Park and on Locust Street: Councillor Ford suggested removing trash barrels from River Park due to people depositing their trash from the river islands (in Manor Township) when they disembark at the park. Council also discussed posting signs informing the public to take their trash with them. Ford made a motion to put the issue on August's regular council meeting agenda. Renae Sears stated that some residents along Locust Street place trash in public trash receptacles along the street. Council noted that rental properties on Locust have dumpsters in the rear but that it is more convenient for tenants to deposit trash in the public receptacles.
Traffic Concerns: Council heard from George and Janet Scwhwert of 901 Park Avenue regarding traffic hazards near their property. Janet Schwert said their porch has been hit twice by vehicles and that cars regularly travel at high speeds up Ninth Street past their property. She said he is afraid to sit on her porch and commented that Manor Street used to be the “racetrack,” and now it's Ninth Street. Council discussed installing speed limit signs at the intersection. A borough resident asked whether a speed bump could be installed, but Lutz replied that doing so would hinder snow plowing. Councillors said installing 4-way stop signs would require an ordinance change. Finally, Councillor Smith made a motion to advertise an ordinance change for items b and c on the meeting agenda:
b. Discussion regarding a 4-way stop sign at 9th and Ridge Streets and 9th and Locust Streets.
c. Discussion on School District request for a 4-way stop sign at 8th and Locust and Permit Parking for 600 block of Cherry Street.
Budget: Councillor Smith stated he wants money the borough gets from the Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority and Verizon to be earmarked for continued road work in the borough. Finance Manager Georgianna Schreck stated that the $62,000 from those entities is being used to balance the budget. She said the amortization payments for police pensions has jumped from $270,000 to $420,000, and the water company got a 40% increase in health insurance. She said this year should be a “wait-and-see” year in terms of budget purchases. She added that the borough farm could possibly generate some income. She stated that the total shortfall this year is $700,000. Sulkosky added that the first priority is to balance the budget.
Quick Ticket: The “Quick Ticket” ordinance was also discussed, which allows parking officers to become enforcement officers in citing code violations. Ford stated he wants application of the ordinance to be consistent and there should be “no selective enforcement.”
Parking Meters: Council also discussed the recent parking meter rate increase. It was noted that currently the only notification of the increase on the meters is a handwritten note inside the clear cover. Stickers will be soon be applied to the meters announcing the rate change.
Bridge Lights: Lutz clarified funding for maintenance of the new bridge lights. He stated that PennDOT has allocated $10-12,000 for the maintenance, and that any maintenance done by the borough will be billed to PennDOT.
A ribbon-cutting for bridge lights is set for Friday September 19, 2014 at 3 p.m. (per a council member, but the meeting agenda listed it as 2:30-4:30 p.m.)
Detour: Council also discussed recent confusion regarding the truck detour due to closing of Front Street as well as solutions to remedy the problem.