Sunday, July 19, 2015

Part 2 - Resident alleges selective enforcement by codes department

(For Part 1 of this story, go HERE.)

At last Monday night's Columbia Borough Council meeting, Gerald Maurer of 518 North Third Street read to council from a prepared statement outlining his complaints regarding the Columbia Codes Department.  Maurer stated that he was cited for violations even though he was not told by code officials what codes he was violating. He further asserted that code officials had not inspected the projects supposedly in violation - a kitchen addition and a deck atop it.

"To this day, nobody has shown me any codified documenting of written code that I am violating," he told council. He added that he was initially informed in a telephone conversation with the codes office that no permit was needed for the project.

The deck as seen from the rear of 518 North Third Street.

Maurer said code officials told him the deck is not strong structurally and does not meet code, even though they did not specifically cite which code.  Maurer also alleged that code officials refused his repeated invitations to inspect his property. He further claimed that the codes department often does not conduct its own inspections, despite its $300,000 a year budget (according to Maurer), but instead sends work to another agency, Commonwealth Code Inspection Services in Manheim.

518 North Third Street

Maurer said a search warrant was issued for his property after he had appealed the violation. When he questioned why the citation was not held in abeyance until after his appeal was completed, he said he was told by a borough official it was because he had not paid a $600 fee to file the appeal.  Maurer said he had received no notification of such a fee.

This is page one of an enforcement notice Mr. Maurer received recently which he says does not include notification of a $600 fee.

Maurer also accused one code official of stating "an outright lie" on the affidavit of probable cause. He also said he observed the official trying to break into the rear of 516 North Third Street.

Maurer informed Columbia Spy that he has recently received an email from Andy Nelson, of Commonwealth Code Inspection Services, informing him that he has until July 27 to pay any fees associated with the permit before any action is taken up with the borough attorney "to compel compliance." If payment is not made by then, the borough could fine Maurer $500 a day, every day, since each subsequent day of non-payment would be considered a separate violation.



  1. wow...and WHO told him initially that No permit was needed or required? Unbelieveable.

  2. We received the following message from Gerald Maurer. It's posted here with permission:
    "Columbia Borough Code Office is budgeted in excess of $300,000.00 for the year 2015. Jeffrey Helm, Head of the Office, is paid a salary of almost $30.00 an hour. Robert Osborne is paid about $23.00 an hour. These figures are a matter of public record which I received from Columbia Borough. Both taxpayer paid officials refused to inspect my projects, despite my repeated invitations of almost a year. Mr. Osborne, at Mr. Helms approval, elected to execute a search warrant on my home recently."

  3. Dear Anonymous:
    I telephoned Columbia Borough Code office to asked about needing a permit. I was told by a female who answered the call (she acknowledged it was Code Office) that no permit was need because the project would not infringe on neighbors property or block the sidewalk. This was over 5 years ago!

  4. I get a permit for every project I do because it's a lot cheaper than trying to fight it later. But the property owner on thirteenth street had signed permit and later it was deemed to be a mistake, so?

  5. If people would just let it all be, then the power to be will get us to bankruptcy soon!!

  6. Letting it all be would mean inequality. Why are some residents above the "law" so to speak.

  7. there have been so very many complaints and inequities within the Code Dept the last few years (at least). Council must step up and fix it. The hardworking taxpaying homeowners in this town work too hard and pay too much in taxes to allow such blatant overspending and non consistancy in 1 dept. a serious overhaul is overdue. do you people realize HOW much they spend on JUST Codes?????