Friday, August 29, 2014

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.


  1. Close the street for parking or just use the curb sides as normal parking? Closing the street is not smart as this would cost the borough money by the loss of liquid fuel tax funds for upkeep. Meaning less money from gas taxes to pay for street repairs, parking lots do not qualify for the tax money.

  2. Here's the deal - parking issues are a school district problem, not a matter for discussion by local government. The lines are mixed here. Is Mr. Beury a professional with knowledge of transportation issues or is he affiliated with the school district in any capacity? The school district needs to take ownership of the problem, problem solve, and coordinate efforts with the appropriate local officials and our police department.

  3. The market house trust needs to go

  4. Time to do away with the market house trust

  5. Are the propane tanks on borough property? Even if they are not, this is a big issue for the size of these tanks. An explosion would be horrific!! This has to be looked into.

    1. Cole, are these tanks on the borough property?

    2. I think the land where the tanks are located is owned by Kleen-Rite.

    3. ok, thank you.

  6. i agree it IS the schools problem. i have NO idea why the teachers don't park on CHerry St along the cemetary and Jansons. IF the parents CAN"T follow the rules for drop off andp ick up....FINE THEM (have teachers outside taking license plate numbers)

  7. the market trust has a new plan

  8. the market trust HAS to go...what a bunch of crazy ignorant and dumb people. they have done NOTHING except RUN the market into the ground. get rid of the trust NOW

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  9. There's only one way to get businesses in this town, make the taxes competitive with the neighboring communities. Currently there's way too much difference. We need to consolidate our towns services with bigger communities surrounding us. We can't have school taxes & spring taxes that are double our surrounding neighbors & expect businesses to choose our town to operate in rather than a community surrounding us