Sunday, May 31, 2015

Everyone loves Loreto's

Loreto's tomato sauce - from Columbia

Accident scene investigation at 2nd & Chestnut

Accident reconstruction personnel were still on the scene of this afternoon's accident at the intersection of North Second and Chestnut Streets, three hours after the incident. The intersection was still shut down, but traffic to and from the Veterans Memorial Bridge was routed through the entrance and exit roads at the bridge.

Vehicle accident at N. 2nd & Chestnut

A vehicle accident involving a motorcycle and an automobile occurred shortly after 2 o'clock today near the entrance to the Veterans Memorial Bridge. The female motorcyclist sustained several injuries and was taken by ambulance. She was reportedly wearing a helmet at the time of the accident. The vehicle was a blue Kia.  The driver was interviewed at the accident scene.

Columbia Burrow

This cartoon - including title, and characters and their names  - is copyrighted.  All rights reserved.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Ashley Curry's Justice Fund

Ashley Curry

A fund has been set up for Ashley Curry's legal fees.

The backstory - from the funding site:
"On Feb. 3rd, 2015 Ashley Curry was harassed and assaulted and in defending herself was wrongfully charged for exercising her 2nd amendment right."

For more information and to access the site, go HERE.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

About town

Some recent town sights . . .

 Sails on the river

Sun-kissed bridge

First leg of the journey?

Codes department executes search warrant for Perry Street property

Residents have occasionally criticized the codes department, often with just cause, but the department has recently been pursuing resolution to code issues at 320 Perry Street.

 This notice, dated May 6, references several code violations.

And this is a posting of an application for a search warrant.

What's wrong with this picture?

Answer: There are at least two blatant violations of park regulations.

Let's get Columbia back in the swim

This photo was taken at Columbia River Park this afternoon.

During the discussion of River Park at Tuesday night's Meeting of the Whole, residents and councillors noted that people are using one of the docks as a home base for swimming in the river. This particular dock is designated for boat loading and unloading only, and is clearly marked "NO SWIMMING." Installing additional signage to address the issue was suggested, although the problem is not poor signage, but lack of enforcement. If the existing park regulations are not being enforced anyway, why not designate an area alongshore for swimming at one's own risk? Now that Locust Heights is gone, Columbia needs a swimming area. What better place than this great resource running right along our shore?

Po-jama People

A lot of folks have been wearing pajama bottoms around town these days - in public, during the day, as some sort of socially acceptable rebellion, or simply out of sheer laziness. Do they wear the same clothes to bed, after tromping around the streets, sitting in public places, and possibly using public restrooms? Let's hope not.
A few decades ago, Frank Zappa wrote a song that might be seen as a backhanded tribute to the public pajama wearers of today:

Everyone loves Loreto's

Loreto's tomato sauce - from Columbia

Hoodlums in the park - More enforcement needed

Columbia sells Wastewater Treatment System to LASA

On May 27, 2015, the Columbia Borough and Municipal Authority sold the sewer collection system in the Borough to Lancaster Area Sewer Authority (LASA). LASA is now responsible for operations and maintenance of the sewer collection system.

LASA is a regional sewer authority that provides sewer service to 33,000 customers in the townships of East Hempfield, West Hempfield, Lancaster, Manor, and Manheim and the boroughs of East Petersburg and Mountville. For more information about LASA, visit their website at

Sewer Problems or Emergencies

To report a problem or emergency with your sewer service, contact LASA at the following numbers:

Monday – Friday 8:00 am – 4:30 pm – Call 717-299-4843, select Option 3

Evenings, Weekends, and Holidays – Call 717-396-9619 (24 hour Call Center)


You will receive one final sewer bill in mid-June from Columbia for sewer service through the end of May. After that, you will receive your sewer bills from LASA. LASA's billing process differs from Columbia's, so a transition time is required.

Residential and Public customers  – For residential and public customers (municipal / church / firehouse / post office), LASA charges a fixed (of flat) amount per quarter for each dwelling unit, regardless of water usage. Each quarterly bill is mailed at the beginning of the quarter in January, April, July, and October. During the transition time, LASA will bill on the following schedule:

Bill Date                            Period Covered

August 1, 2015                June and July

September 1, 2015         August and September

November 1, 2015          October, November,  and December

January 1, 2016               January, February, and March

Quarterly thereafter for each upcoming quarter

Commercial/Industrial Customers – For commercial and industrial customers, LASA bills quarterly based on water consumption. Each quarterly bill is mailed at the end of the quarter in January, April, July, and October. During the transition time, LASA will bill on the following schedule:

Bill Date                            Period Covered

October 1, 2015              June, July, August, and September

January 1, 2016               October, November, and December

Quarterly thereafter for each prior quarter

LASA will be communicating directly to you before their first billing in August to provide additional details about the billing transition. For more details about LASA and their purchase of the Columbia sewer collection system, visit their website

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Meeting of the Whole - Part 3 - Concerns over the Call Center

At last night's meeting of the whole, several residents questioned borough council's intention to back a proposed call center at Columbia #1 Fire Company.  Resident Cleon Berntheizel expressed concern about parking needed for the endeavor, since parking is already limited in the borough. He cited  SGHA's proposal for Columbia Crossing which would require a large number of parking spaces.  He noted that the borough would be taking away three parking lots in the downtown for one business. He also questioned the amount the borough will spend if awarded the project.

"If the borough's going to spend close to a million dollars on helping one business developer create 135 jobs, I would think you could probably give about 20 businesses - mine included - in Columbia a couple thousand dollars to have an extra employee or two or five," he said.

He questioned the wisdom of taking away most of the available downtown parking that other businesses now rely on, including the Market House and Kettle Works. The call center would require parking Monday through Friday 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. He noted that the River Park will be used every day (when the trail is completed and Columbia Crossing is in operation).

He said the borough should pay off the fire company's debt and own the current Columbia #1 building, with the possibility of using it to house the police force and borough offices and convert the existing borough hall back to businesses, since it is in the business district.

"If you're going to own the building, why give it away to be developed?" he asked.  "In five years he (IBS President William Roberts) will own everything, and something else could go there, and he's going to make all the profit from it."

Mr. Berntheizel also cited the recent charrette in which "disconnects" were discussed. He said huge business disconnects currently exist from the 200 block to the 400 block of Locust Street.

Councillor Barry Ford said there's a residency requirement to work at the building.  Employees must live in Lancaster County. Fourteen jobs will be coming from the Lancaster County office with the remainder being "new." He said a source told him that the starting salary would be about $42K per year. He agreed that parking would be an issue. He also said that East Petersburg is being heavily favored for the call center at this time, according to his source.

Resident Elaine Beckley questioned the large expenditure for the call center when council squabbled over the cost of a new police car recently.

"I don't understand how you can argue that point and then turn around and give away $900,000," she said. "People are losing their homes, because they can't afford to pay the taxes." She cited other businesses that have been successful in the borough without receiving public funds. "I didn't think our money was to prop up a business."

Resident Frank Doutrich asked what council got in writing about number of jobs and salaries. Councillor Jim Smith replied that salaries were not mentioned in the proposal. (At the May 18 special council meeting at Columbia Crossing, realtor Jeff Seibert said entry level salaries would be $50K per year.)  Smith said that according to his own research, entry level salaries are $30-35K per year.

Resident Don Haines told council that he works in civil service, and to his knowledge, entry level jobs start at a low salary. He also said that a government agency will sometimes hire from a temp agency and pay employees $10 an hour.

"It's just too much uncertainty," he said.

Mr. Berntheizel added that a million dollars invested in the downtown would be better spent. He also noted, "You're agreeing to a plan that doesn't even have planning or zoning approval."

(It was reported that council subsequently passed a motion not to allow the use of municipal parking for call center employees.)

Meeting of the Whole May 26, 2015 Summary - Part 2

NOTE: In the previous post, it was stated that Columbia Borough Council President Mike Beury said during the meeting that he was resigning from council.  He also stated he had written up his resignation during the meeting. When Item 13c of the agenda (sale of wastewater treatment plant) was discussed, he said he could not resign until he signed papers related to the sale on May 27 (this morning). As of this writing, it is not known if he actually tendered his resignation. At the end of last night's meeting, council adjourned to a personnel session.

A second summary of the highlights of the May 26 Meeting of the Whole:

Chiques Rock Outfitters
Jim Cox, proprietor of Chiques Rock Outfitters, asked to install a bait vending machine at River Park. Councillor Barry Ford read him a lengthy statement from the borough's solicitor detailing stipulation for such a venture.  In summary, the project must be bid out.

Columbia Kettle Works
Bill Collister, Columbia Kettle Works proprietor, asked council for a variance to allow sidewalk tables and seating outside his establishment on Third Street. He stated that his enterprise has succeeded in bringing people into town and that his customer base is fairly well-off. He also stated that his business is more of an attraction than a bar and closes by 10 p.m. Council informed him that such seating must be at least 20 feet from any adjacent street (for example, Walnut Street or Avenue H) and that a number of parking spaces versus seats must be provided, according to ordinance. Councillor Ford said he would talk to Zoning and Planning Officer Jeff Helm about the issue.

Municipal Legislation
Councillor Barry Ford discussed a requirement for registration/inspection for vehicles to park on borough streets. After a brief discussion, he expressed his displeasure with the codes department citing people for backyard basketball nets.

"We've got bigger fish to fry in Columbia," he said. "We want people to be out playing."

Ford also expressed concern over the so-called "bomb trains," trains hauling a large number of oil-carrying cars. He stated his wish to send a letter to Senator Bob Casey supporting his efforts to address train safety, since trains run through the borough on a regular basis. Mayor Leo Lutz added that the issue relates to Homeland Security.

Sewage Issue
Jerry Hawn, who owns a property on the 500 block of Walnut Street, addressed council about the sewage problem he has dealt with since January.  He had addressed council about this issue at a previous meeting. Although the situation has since been resolved,  Mr. Hawn expressed concern over the lack of response from the codes department, citing specific phone calls that were not returned.  He presented photographs of his basement with a significant amount of sewer water on the floor.  He also stood a five-gallon bucket on the floor before councillors and asked what would happen if he spilled the contents.  Council stated that he would have to clean it up, and then he asked, "What happens if I don't?"  He said that codes cited his son for a butterfly bush growing out of concrete, but would not condemn a house with a sewer water leak.  

Interim Borough Manager Ron Miller and council remained steadfast that it is not the borough's problem;  he was told to file a civil lawsuit.  Mr. Hawn tried pointing out that the codes department bears some responsibility in their failure to act. 

Meeting of the Whole May 26, 2015 Summary - Part 1


Last night's Columbia Borough Council Committee of the Whole meeting lasted nearly five hours and addressed a multitude of issues, including many concerns brought forth by residents. The sometimes contentious meeting almost derailed several times as residents occasionally spoke over each other and out of the order of the agenda.

Following is part one of a summary of the highlights of the meeting:

Audit Report for Fiscal Year 2014
The meeting opened with an Audit Report for Fiscal year 2014 by Mike Reiner of Sager Swisher, LLC. The report included the expected discussion of tax revenue, debt, expenses, etc. One significant item discussed was the police pension plan which is underfunded by $1.7 million. However, Mr. Reiner said that council is conservatively budgeting revenues and are under-budget on expenses. Councillor Jim Smith said, "We have to pay attention."

SGHA Presentation of Columbia Crossing
Representatives from the Susquehanna Gateway Heritage Area (SGHA) proposed a partnership with the borough for operating the Columbia Crossing building at River Park, since there is currently no concrete plan for its use. Mark Platts, president of the organization, said the building will be the main gateway to the Northwest Lancaster County River Trail and will attract lots of visitors. (The trail is scheduled to be completed this October.) The proposal would be a cooperative 5-year agreement between SGHA and the borough.

From SGHA's Power Point presentation at last night's meeting

Bidding would not be required (as was the case with Daisy Pagan's previous offer to operate the building), because the foundation would be offering a professional service. Resident Frank Doutrich later asked council if they were aware that the operating expense is projected to be $150,000 per year, and council answered in the affirmative.

A discussion of River Park concerns followed the presentation. Issues explored included confusion over parking, poor signage, and people swimming at the docks. The SGHA representatives left as the discussion continued.

Avenue J
Longtime borough resident Mary Loreto spoke of her wish to convert Avenue J (between South Second Street and Bank Avenue) to a non-vehicular, walking-only area, in line with recommendation of consultants at the recent charrette gathering at Perfect Settings.  She said the borough hired consultants to undertake the study.  She added that doing so would help retain the Avenue's historical nature and enable the borough to apply for grants. (As Mrs. Loreto addressed council, two councillors carried on a conversation between themselves.) 

"I'm praying you have the wisdom to make that happen," she told council. "This is your time to shine."

Mrs. Loreto left the meeting immediately following her presentation, and a discussion of the issue ensued. During the give-and-take, Council President Mike Beury, who was considering making a motion, took exception to a side conversation Councillor Mary Barninger was having with Mayor Leo Lutz. When she explained she was talking to the mayor, Beury said, "You shouldn't have been without ... permission." Councillor Barninger said she did not want to make a motion without knowing everything that transpired when councillors visited the area and talked to residents.  

"You want this stinkin' job, you can have it," Beury said in a moment of pique. When Megan Bigler (Mary Loreto's granddaughter) said that was not professional, Beury replied, "I know it is not professional, but I can only take so much."

"You are fighting. Disrespectful," Ms. Bigler said as she left the meeting.

Beury then told council, "You'll have my resignation in the morning. You can get somebody else for president and council members because I've had enough of this crap!"

Council then discussed several options for the alley, including closing the alley at both ends, closing only one end, and keeping it open.

Councillor Smith said council spends a lot of time on this issue at every meeting. Resident Elaine Beckley reminded council to consider the consultants' recommendations to keep Avenue J for walking. Another resident said the consultants were only looking at maps and thought the alley was unused when they made the recommendation.  When it was suggested by another resident that one person was responsible for the Avenue J controversy, Beury said he was told "that was a beautiful street to live in until he moved in." At the conclusion of the discussion, the issue had not been voted on or resolved.


Tuesday, May 26, 2015


The Columbia Borough Parks and Recreation Commission will be providing a summer playground program for children entering 2nd grade through 6thgrade.   The playground program will be located at Rotary Park and Makle Park starting June 15, 2015 through July 24, 2015.   The hours for the playground program will be 9:30 AM until 12:00 noon Monday through Friday.

There will be various sports related activities such as basketball, softball, soccer, football, kick ball, jump rope, whiffle ball, horse shoes, quoits and various board games.

Parents will need to complete a registration and waiver form in order for their child/children to participate.   In addition, parents, babysitters, or guardians are responsible to pick up their child/children each day.  

In case of inclement weather, the playground will be cancelled for that day.   

There is no cost to participate in this program. Open the following link to fill out the Registration form. Preregistration forms can be dropped off at the Columbia Borough Office located at 308  Locust Street, Columbia, Pennsylvania on or before June 8, 2015.     
Registration, waiver and Release Form for Summer Program

IBS Request Letter to Council

Shown below is a request letter to council from IBS President William Roberts regarding the proposed call center at the current Columbia #1 Fire Company building.

Everyone loves Loreto's

Loreto's tomato sauce - from Columbia

Meeting of the Whole tonight

Columbia Borough Council will hold its Committee of the Whole meeting tonight, Tuesday, May 26, at the borough offices, 308 Locust Street, at 6 p.m.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Notes on last week's Call Center meeting

Due to time constraints, a full article will not be posted as planned on this site about last week's meeting concerning the proposed call center. However, reporter's notes (i.e, not a final article) can be accessed by clicking HERE

Click HERE for LNP's summary of the call center issue.

Columbia Memorial Day Parade May 24, 2015