Sunday, August 31, 2014

Dynamic Duos - This year's parade theme

The theme for this year's Columbia Mardi Gras Parade is "Dynamic Duos."
The parade, sponsored by the Columbia Lions Club and the Sunsnappers, is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Thursday, October 23.

Why did the pigeon cross the handicapped ramp?

There's a punchline there somewhere.

What I Saw - August 31, 2014

At Columbia River Park today, vehicles without trailers were ticketed for being parked illegally.  The deadline on this restriction runs out tomorrow, Labor Day.

Last but not least, the construction fence at the front of the Visitors Center was down again.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Labor Day Yard Waste Pickup Schedule

Construction to begin on Ironville Pike

Park-goers being bullied in Columbia - Letters To The Editor

Columbia Borough Council Committee of the Whole Meeting August 25, 2014

The regular monthly meeting of the Columbia Borough Council Committee of the Whole was held Monday, August 25, at 6 p.m. at Borough Hall, 308 Locust Street. Highlights of the meeting are as follows:

Community Development 
Councillors Steph Weisser and Jody Gable are coordinating with Columbia Historic Preservation Society President Chris Vera to give guidance to new businesses and otherwise help promote Columbia Borough. Although the borough is not directly involved in the endeavor, Weisser and Gable will serve as a conduit back to the borough.

Vera had previously given a presentation with goals for marketing the town, especially focusing on Locust Street storefronts.  He is also developing a website featuring storefronts available.  Quarterly seminars will be part of the plan in providing business guidance. The board of directors is to be announced. Councillor Barry Ford said, “I want to be make sure all businesses are going to be involved.”
Gable said, “It's going to be all-inclusive.”

Kathy Hohenadel, executive director of the Susquehanna Valley Chamber of Commerce, stated there was a $4,000 request in May of this year to purchase banners and billboards promoting the Smithsonian's 20 Best Small Towns recognition. She thanked council and noted money is left over.  The final bill was $1184.30. She also noted that there will be an article about Columbia in October's Lancaster County Magazine.

Community Yard Sale
A community yard sale is scheduled for September 13, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Councillor Ford stated he was leaning toward not having it until next year, because September is the end of the yard sale season and that it will be too scattered. Another borough employee stated the notification was already printed on sewer bills, so it is too late to cancel the event. 

Council discussed having a central location for next year's event, comparing it to Hellam's and Mountville's, since Route 462 runs through both those municipalities, and people can walk along the street from one sale to the next.  In Columbia, this is not feasible, since the sale would be scattered over town.

Public Property
Council declined a request for a river baptism scheduled for August 30, 2014. The deadline for the request was not met, and full details were not provided by the requestor.

Market House Trust Concerns
Market House vendor Jen Stoutzenberger made an emotional appeal to council regarding the Market House Trust.  She reported that trust members refuse to talk business when they are in the market.  She held up a form that must be completed and submitted with any questions or concerns regarding the market.  She questioned the secrecy surrounding the trust. 

“I don't know what all the hush-hush is with this trust.” she said. “They don't want to hear my questions or concerns. If they don't want to hear anything, how can they fix anything?”

“It's not the trust. It's the people on the trust,” she said and told council they should be removed.

“What are they trying to do?” she asked. 

She said that the president of the trust [Cleon Berntheizel] apologized to her for not being at the market more often but that he is very busy with his own business.  In a question pointed at Berntheizel, she asked, “What about the businesses in the market house?”

In regard to Berntheizel, she told council, “If you don't have the time, you should resign.”

She urged everyone to embrace the fact that this is a low income community and people like to "sit a spell and reminisce.”  She said she does not see that any more and that people do not want to stay.

“There is no tradition at the market anymore. The trust made sure of that.”

Mayor Leo Lutz that said the trust refused to attend any public meetings, because they do not want to respond to negativity.

Councillor Barry Ford said, “ I thought the purpose of the trust was to get us [the council] out of the market business.” He said he is in favor of a Thursday-only market. He said that day was originally chosen so as not to be in competition with the Green Dragon on Friday and Central Market in Lancaster on Saturday.

Councillor Mary Barninger said she's not getting the sense that they want help.
“I don't think they're open to a lifeline at this point,” she said. She stated that Lancaster Market has a different philosophy, in that there are no seats at stands. She said the expectation is that you get your stuff… in and out. 

Council President Mike Beury said that the trust “is not one of our crowning achievements.”
He added, ”There comes a time when it's too expensive to fix it, so tear it down and redo it.”

Handicapped parking request
 Carol Snyder from Grace EC Church, 36 North Eighth Street, asked council for two additional parking spaces for Sunday services.  She said cars are parked in designated handicapped spaces on Sundays.  Currently, cars cannot be towed, only ticketed.  She said cars get ticketed but stay there anyway. She said that church officials previously placed notes on the cars reminding them to be moved during Sunday services.  One note was duct-taped to the church door with a rude reply.

Currently, reserved hours are 12 a.m. Sunday through 12 a.m. Monday, which the mayor said is unreasonable in that residential area.  The proposed hours will be 8 a.m. to noon on Sunday, with signage stating that violators will be towed.  The motion will be on the agenda for and voted on at the September 8 meeting.

Locust Street Park
Mayor Lutz said there have been significant troubles in Locust Street Park and officers have responded there routinely. He said fires have been set against the building, and recently a fire was set in a storm sewer. He also said people are entering the grounds during school. He added that most of the “go-ers” have been identified and that he recently told the kids there, “If this park is trashed again, I'm going to issue a proclamation. I'm going to shut it down from 4 p.m. to 6 a.m.”

Currently, the borough cannot enforce park regulations, because the property is owned by the Old Columbia Public Grounds Company, which must lease the property to the borough [for $1] for regulations to be enforceable by the borough. He said the Grounds Company is agreeable to the arrangement and must draft a formal proposal and present it to council. He said that under the agreement, the company will continue to perform park maintenance. Former Borough Manager Norm Meiskey advised council to pattern the agreement after that of the Columbia River Park.

Renter Complaints
[Names and addresses are being withheld in this article while the matter is under investigation, due to vandalism, threats, and other retaliation from neighbors.]

Acting on advice from Police Chief Jack Brommer, a resident brought her concerns to council about extreme problems with renters in her neighborhood.   She stated there are parties occurring at that address all night with fires that are extremely close to her fence.  She said the renters are confrontational and disrespectful, adding that there are several families living at the same address.  She said the police have responded many times, but the situation has not been resolved.   She expressed concerns over quality of life, due to distress caused by the neighbors.  She said her husband, who works 12-hours days, gets up at 4:30 a.m. for work, and the noise often prevents him from sleeping. She also said she is on disability.  She stated that she has only six years left to pay on her mortgage and does not intend to move. 

A second neighbor also told council about the same situation.  She implied that prescription drugs are being sought by the neighbors in question and that drugs are being sold in the area. She also said possible welfare abuse is occurring.  
“Where do I go with this? Nobody wants to help,” she said.

Council told the women that there is a new ordinance about fires in the borough. Mayor Lutz strongly urged the women to call 911 rather than go through the local dispatch number, because calls to the local station sometimes do not have all details recorded. He said callers to 911 can request to have their names withheld. Mayor Lutz was holding paperwork listing all of the police calls to the address in question.  

Norm Meiskey asked a question about a $50,000 shortage and offered suggestions regarding a bank note and payoff, as well as investing money wisely.  He added that part of the LASA agreement is to pay off the loan. “If we can pay off the loan, it saves us 2% of interest.”

Barry Ford asked if council is aware that there are propane tanks at the end of Blunston Street. He said a resident had expressed concern that the tanks could explode. Barninger said that they belong to Kleen-Rite.  

In regard to the first day of school, Lutz said Park School was in chaos that morning, due to traffic issues.
Beury proposed using Cherry Street from Bethel to 6th as a parking lot for Park School. He said doing so would also allow more parking for Janson's Park in the evening.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Columbia Borough Council Committee of the Whole Meeting Agenda - August 25, 2014

Details to follow

From Lancaster to Columbia with a bucket on his head

On Saturday, Sept. 11, 1926, Dan Foster walked from Lancaster to Columbia with a 10-quart bucket. The bucket was half-filled with water. The water had three goldfish in it.
More of the story  HERE.

Route 30 to be resurfaced

$9.6 million has been allotted to resurface Route 30 from the York County line to Marietta Avenue (Route 23); construction is scheduled to begin next year.

More information HERE

UPDATE: Report of body found in Susquehanna River

Emergency responders are checking out a 12:46 p.m. report of a body found at Long Level Marina on the Susquehanna River, a county dispatch supervisor said.

2014 L-L football: Columbia shifts focus to running game

Sunday, August 24, 2014

One boater located, one still missing after canoe overturns in Susquehanna River near Marietta

Jazzy's Day is a big hit at Makle Park

Jasmyn "Jazzy" Smith

The second annual Jazzy's Day, a celebration of the life of Jasmyn Smith, was held in Columbia's Makle Park on Saturday, August 23, with several hundred people attending.  Jasmyn, affectionately known as "Jazzy," passed away in 2012 at age 11.  The event was sponsored by Aevidum, a national organization that helps support children and young adults through troubled times.  The organization's philosophy is "I've got your back."  Aevidum's website is HERE.

During the course of the afternoon, about 350 backpacks – out of the 500 available - were given away to local students. Remaining backpacks will be held until next year's giveaway. Backpacks were collected and then donated to the event by the American Legion and other local organizations. The event also featured music, face painting, a raffle, games, and refreshments. A balloon release in remembrance of Jazzy topped off the day's activities.

Recently, Park School and Taylor School each received a  “Jasmyn's Buddy Bench,” a place of refuge for students who need help on the playground. More information can be found HERE.

Balloons in Jazzy's favorite colors were in abundance.

Aevidum's motto is "I've got your back."

About 350 backpacks were given away . . .

Jazzy's family (standing): Jazzy's parents, Stephan and Lindy Smith;
(seated L to R): Larry Phiel (grandfather), Jean Phiel (grandmother), Jailyn Smith (sister), Bonnie Smith (grandmother).

Jazzy's little sister, Jada

Aevidum members, front and back . . .

Jazzy's dad, Stephan Smith, helped distribute balloons to attendees of the event . . .

Others enjoyed the many activities  . . .

The crowd gathered on the basketball court for the balloon release . . .

Up, up, and away!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The taxes are too damn high!

[Following is an article submitted to this website today. I added the title and graphic.]

Over the years, I have heard (repeatedly) how high the taxes are in Columbia Borough.  I was born here and have been a property owner since 1986.  When I was young, I simply accepted whatever the taxes were and paid them without question.  Taxes were part of the mortgage payment and therefore I (like many other young people) made the payment and ignored the tax part.  The closer I get to retirement, the more I realize it may be impossible to continue living in this borough.  I wanted to see what other options might be available and this became quite an eye-opener.  Hearing that taxes are "high" is not enough, we need to look closer to see clearly just how high they really are.  
Currently, there are a few homes for sale that have a Columbia address, but are actually in West Hempfield.
I found an example of this with two homes of comparable square footage and selling price, both with Columbia addresses, but one sitting in West Hempfield Township. The annual property tax was 1,667.00 dollars higher in Columbia.  That is enough to pay a winter heating bill for one year/season.  For a person in retirement, that is a chunk of change.  
The following scenario is based on a home worth 150,000 dollars, as well as good health:
A homeowner in Columbia, planning to retire at 62 years and live in their home until he or she reaches age 82 will pay well over 120,000.00 dollars in property tax to Columbia Borough during that 20 year period.  Obviously that amount will rise, but is based on no increase for the sake of this study.  That is like paying for the home twice.  The average tax bill will be 500.00 a month!  We never actually OWN the home, even if the mortgage is paid, we rent it from the borough.  If homeowners were billed $500.00 a month for taxes, I wonder how many would be delinquent.  That 120,000.00 dollars does not include all the tax money paid to the borough prior to retirement.  
The last part that grabbed my attention was a "three- building" rental property for sale in the borough with an annual property tax of 10,762.00 dollars.  This property has 13, one-bedroom units, and one commercial space.  There is the potential for 13 to 26 people to reside in this apartment building.  The tax on one, single family home, is as high as 6,000.00 dollars.  The people living in the single family home probably are maintaining their property, thereby helping the borough's image.  On the other hand, the landlord is more than likely not living in the borough and does as little as possible to maintain the property, in order to enhance his own wallet.  The tax disparity is obvious.
If the homeowners in Columbia were billed monthly for taxes and paid their mortgage separately, there would be a public outcry.  The homeowners in this borough must come together and demand action.  Attend the council meetings, crowd the room, speak up.  If we went shopping and made a $500.00 purchase monthly, I am certain beyond a doubt that we would demand to know what our money bought and we would want to be satisfied with the product.  Our tax money is no different.
(Tax information was gathered from public records.)
[Name withheld by request]