The regular monthly meeting of the Columbia Borough Council was held at the Borough Hall, 308 Locust Street, at 7 p.m. on July 14, 2014. Highlights of the meeting are as follows:
In Citizen Comments (Agenda Items Only), Columbia resident and Market House vendor Jen Stoutzenberger presented to council a list of complaints against the Columbia Historic Market House Trust, including non-responsiveness and lack of vendor input in decisions made by the trust. She said she doesn't know who is on the board and stated that the trust's responsibility is to oversee the market and not individual businesses.
A second vendor told council that picnic tables were removed without notice and replaced with metal bistro-style chairs, which elderly patrons find difficult to sit on. He added that he was willing to supply tables to accommodate those patrons as well as larger groups but was not permitted to do so by a trust representative. Borough Manager Sam Sukolsky said the missing table issue will be investigated since it constitutes removal of borough property. Market House vendors also presented a petition to council to abolish the trust.
(A meeting attendee wishing to remain anonymous spoke to this reporter and said several people wishing to rent stands had their requests denied by the trust. The reason given for the denial was that their business was not classified "agricultural." According to the attendee, this is one reason many stands remain empty.)
SGT Damian J.M. Smith, a historian for the Pennsylvania National Guard, expressed interest in acquiring the 3-inch artillery piece that currently rests near the entrance to the Veterans Memorial Bridge. Smith asked that the borough consider a mutually agreeable arrangement for obtaining the piece, which would ultimately rest in the Military Museum at Fort Indiantown Gap. He also stated that the military could simply take it without the borough's consent, since it is still considered federal government property, but they prefer not to do so. Smith stated he is currently in pursuit of a similar but more valuable piece in Arizona and said if unable to acquire it, he would then be more inclined to take Columbia's. When asked by council how he found the piece, he replied that newly installed lights near the bridge allowed him to see it as he drove past. Council agreed to research how the borough had originally acquired the piece. One resident estimated it had been at or near its current location for about 60 years. Councillor Barry Ford directed Smith to the local 11-11-11 Club for assistance in the meantime.
The issues of fire company consolidation and the purchase of radios for fire emergency personnel were revisited. Susquehanna Fire and Rescue Co. #4 representative Jay Barninger asked council to back consolidation of the borough's three fire companies by setting a completion date of April 1, 2015. He said the process could conceivably be completed sooner but that the stated date includes a buffer allowing for unforeseen delays. Councillor Mary Barninger said council had been pushing for consolidation for five years and it was time to move forward with it. Council voted to recognize only one (consolidated) company after the April 1 deadline and allow the current fire chief to serve out his term until then, to afford a smooth transition. Council also reconsidered last month's vote on the allotment of funds to purchase radios and subsequently reduced the amount to approximately $120,000. The $40,000 in leftover funds will remain in account and be reassigned for use at a later date.
Councillor Jim Smith explained his absence at the June 23 meeting of the whole where council voted to sell the borough's wastewater assets to the Lancaster Area Sewer Authority (LASA). At that meeting, some councillors seemed uncertain of whether or not Smith would attend. Smith stated that he was in Salzburg, Germany for 12 days visiting a childhood friend who is now a priest. He added that council knew about the scheduled vacation for a year.
He also added that he was disappointed the vote was taken in his absence, since, as he stated, he had "pushed for" the committee of the whole, and the LASA issue was the most important one the council had faced in many years. He said the vote should not have occurred at that meeting but at a regular borough council meeting. He said he would have liked to have been "part of the conversation." When questioned by a citizen, Smith gave no indication of how he would have voted.
During Citizen Comments (Non-Agenda Items Only), Shirley McBride of Perry Street questioned the inspection process of rental properties in the borough, specifically citing 211 Perry Street, reportedly owned by realtor Paul Snyder. She said she was "appalled" at the conditions of the home, specifically, mold, deteriorating ceiling tiles, and other problems. She added that the property is overrun by mice.
Two views of the aforementioned artillery piece: