Saturday, September 30, 2017

Columbia newsletter being mailed to residents

Columbia Borough's fall newsletter, The Columbia Connection, is currently being mailed to residents. The publication contains news, calendars of events, and project updates.

The newsletter is available as a pdf HERE.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Council president and mayor object to Columbia Water Co's proposed rate increase

Columbia Mayor Leo Lutz questions the Columbia Water Company's proposed rate increases at a hearing in Marietta on September 27.

Columbia Borough Council President Kelly Murphy and Mayor Leo Lutz questioned the Columbia Water Company's recent request for a rate increase of just over 13% at a hearing on Wednesday.  Murphy and Lutz spoke under oath at a hearing conducted by the PA Public Utility Commission's Office of Administrative Law Judge at Marietta Borough Hall.

Murphy requested that the rate increase be denied. In a prepared statement, he described as "excessive" the requested rate increases of 13.18% for residents using 3,000 gallons of water per month, and 13.21% for commercial customers. He said Columbia residents cannot afford the rate increases requested.

Murphy said rate increases typically follow capital improvement projects within the municipality in which increases are being proposed. He noted, however, that the borough is not aware of any significant capital improvement projects taken on by the Columbia Water Company within the Borough since the company's last request.

"It appears to us the Columbia Water Company is attempting to raise the profits for the stockholders on the backs of Columbia residents without making any significant capital contributions to the water system," Murphy said.

Murphy also noted that a Columbia resident will be paying $32.55 per month, while a resident served by the East Donegal Municipal Authority will be paying $42 per quarter, or $14 per month. Residents served by the York Water Company typically pay about $22 per month.

Mayor Lutz asked how the proposed rate increase and the surcharge added several years ago just prior to construction has impacted stockholders and the profits of the Columbia Water Company.

"Did Columbia Water Company stockholders and Columbia Water Company as a business incur some of the cost of upgrading the plant, or was it all put on the residents' backs?" Lutz asked.

There were only six Columbia residents (including Murphy and Lutz) present for the hearing and a second hearing that evening.

According to the PUC, the request submitted by Columbia Water would increase operating revenues by approximately $923,668, or 17.8 percent. Under the company’s proposal, the total bill for an average metered residential customer in the Columbia Division would increase from $399.48 a year to $452.04 a year. The average annual bill for metered residential customers in the Marietta Division would increase from $318.48 to $452.04 (based on an average residential usage of 3,700 gallons per month with a 5/8-inch meter, and not including any PennVEST surcharges).

On August 3, 2017, the Commission voted to suspend the rate increase request for up to seven months and assigned the case to the PUC’s Office of Administrative Law Judge for investigation. Their testimony will become part of the record on which the PUC will issue its final decision in early 2018.

The company serves approximately 10,223 customers in West Hempfield, Rapho, East Donegal and Manor Townships, and Columbia, Mountville and Marietta Boroughs, Lancaster County, and Hellam Township, York County.

The mayor explains the Lead-Safe Columbia project

Residents have expressed concern about the LEAD-SAFE COLUMBIA project that will be initiated by Healthy Columbia under the fiscal sponsorship of Catholic Health Initiatives-St. Joseph Children's Health. This is a voluntary program that will offer lead screening and financial assistance if necessary.

Columbia Borough will begin its LEAD-HAZARD Screening program by first ensuring that all Blighted Properties, Vacant Properties, and Condemned Properties, are screened prior to occupancy. The program will expand after educational programs are presented to the public and training of Borough Officials is completed. A time and location will be announced shortly for a community information session.

Lead is dangerous for children, and a community health issue. Many studies have proven that the higher the lead exposure, the lower the standardized test scores in school-age children. Even low levels of lead exposure can result in behavior and learning problems, lower IQ, hyperactivity, slowed growth, hearing problems and anemia, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Leo S. Lutz, Mayor

Lead testing in the Borough to be voluntary; LNP article was misleading

Columbia Borough will not suspend the U.S. Constitution. That's the message Borough Manager Greg Sahd would like to convey to residents. Due to inaccuracies in a recent LNP article, many mistakenly believe the Borough will force draconian regulations on property owners because of a recently introduced lead paint inspection initiative. Doing so would be a violation of the Constitution's Fourth Amendment guaranteeing citizens the right to be secure in their houses, Sahd pointed out. He added that bringing properties into such strict compliance could also bankrupt owners. The Borough can’t take any action independent of current federal and state regulations dealing with lead in residences.

The LNP article's first sentence caused concern for many residents:
“Columbia will begin testing every home and apartment in the borough for lead beginning next week.” 
This statement was repeated in an editorial in today's LNP. Sahd said that no Borough official made a statement to that effect.

Sahd said such inspections are strictly voluntary. If high levels of lead are found, the Borough will educate owners on options. Certificates of Occupancy will not be withheld.

The project, Lead-Safe Columbia, is an initiative of Health Columbia under the fiscal sponsorship of CHI St. Joseph Children's Health.

Much needed help for the opioid crisis and testing for lead paint is time well-spent

"We commend borough officials for recognizing a problem and taking steps to solve it — a welcome change of pace for government at any level."

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Columbia fixes up, cleans up, digs up

Folks took advantage of the warm weather over the past few days to get out and about to fix up, clean up and dig up around town...

There was a JLG on high at 3rd & Locust.

 And a pressure washing project at 4th & Locust.

 And an "Amish" high and dry, aloof on a roof at South 2nd & Cherry.

 There were guys in white looking up ladders on North 3rd.

 Here are some of the bricks that were collected.

And here's a longer view.
And there's another JLG.

 And there are the guys taking down the bricks.

Just up the block - yes, another JLG

And there's the driver.

 And there he goes.

The self-storage project along Front Street appears to be done.

Rewiring was being done yesterday on North 4th.

UGI was digging up the 500 block of Walnut to install new services and redo old mains. Workers will be proceeding to various locations around town shortly for more of the same.

The building at North 2nd & Walnut was being scraped and painted.

And even the giant cow was getting a "makeover"!

Columbia moves to become 1st county municipality to zone for medical marijuana

Columbia Borough is looking to amend its zoning to allow medical marijuana dispensaries and growers or processors in areas zoned "light industrial."

Monday, September 25, 2017

Columbia has 5 murals - with a big one on the way

Columbia currently boasts five large murals within its borders - one a work in progress - with the promise of a large-scale project on the way that will include community participation.

This painting of Columbia poet and painter Lloyd Mifflin was rendered by Columbia artist Mark Kise on the rear wall of the Foresters building facing, appropriately enough, the Columbia Historic Preservation Society. The mural was completed in 2014.

Many travelers along Route 462 have marveled at this wall-sized mural that Columbians know well. The painting was commissioned by the renowned National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors and was rendered by artist Marion Stephenson. 

This giant mural was painted on the back wall of Our Lady of the Angels Catholic School at Fourth and Cherry.

This mural, composed of thousands of small square tiles, is located on the north wall of the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors at Fourth and Poplar. The association's motto,"Tempus Vitam Regit" (Time Rules Life) is symbolized by the presence of two timepieces; a sundial and a pocket watch.

This work-in-progress at Locust Street Park is being rendered by Joanna Spicer, an art teacher at Our Lady of the Angels Catholic School. When the "wraparound" mural is completed, the five circles shown above will feature the insignia of the five main branches of the armed services of the military: Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard. The backstory on this project is HERE.

The Eastern Drillers building, shown above, will be the location of a large - and long - mural currently being planned by Philadelphia artist Cesar Viveros. The painting - or rather, paintings - will be rendered on a parachute-like cloth to be permanently installed to the wall. The mural will first be divided into grids (up to 100) within which sections will be traced and which members of the community will be invited to paint. The grids will then be installed to the wall.

The project is expected to be completed sometime in 2018.

Columbia Spy first reported on this project HERE.

Upcoming Public Input Hearings for Columbia Water Company Rate Increase Request

The hearings, by the PUC's Office of Administrative Law Judge, will be held at the following location and times:

Wednesday, September 27 – 2 p.m. and 6 p.m.
Marietta Borough Hall
Council Chambers
111 East Market St.
Marietta, PA 17547

"The Boss Baby" at Columbia Library Family Movie Night Wednesday, Sept. 27

Columbia Library groundbreaking this coming Sunday, October 1

Another letter writer cites inaccuracies in LNP reporting on Columbia and elsewhere

"I am tired of reading in the paper that a person from, say, Columbia is arrested for an incident that occurs in Columbia, and then when reading the article, being from Columbia, knowing the location is not in Columbia Borough, but maybe West Hempfield Township, Rapho Township or even Manor Township."

Mayor Lutz criticizes LNP in letter to the editor

"This type of negative reporting has a serious effect on the economic development and revitalization efforts of many Columbia Borough residents and businesses."

Sunday, September 24, 2017

About Town

Recent pics from about town...

 Sign down!

 Man down!

 Here we go again.


 Some sort of flag statement?

 Speaking of flags, would anyone salute this abomination?

Chauffeur-driven dogmobile


 This old farmhouse at Cloverton Drive and Kinderhook Road...

 ...has been condemned.

 Signs have been taped to the property...

 ...stating that it's an unlawful structure.



 Heritage Drive has been paved.

 A view from the Union Street end.


 House of Cutz has left the building.

 Newly laid memorial walk at Mount Bethel

 Golden cross at Mount Bethel
Does Indiana Jones know?

 Outta here

 Bug-encrusted old-timey lamp fixture at the Lancaster General Hospital Susquehanna Division - site of the former Columbia Hospital.

 Another one

 Black cat with green eyes on Purples Lane

 Creative use of a skid

 The former mattress store building at Front & Bridge is for sale.

 Like the sign says

 Just one problem - No roof!


 Off to the trail!

 Heron unintimidated by boaters

 A victim of the lug "nut" who's been loosening lugs around town?

 Pressure washing at 4th & Locust

 Trouble right here in River City?
"We've surely got trouble!
Right here in River City,
Right here!
Gotta figger out a way
To keep the young ones moral after school!
Trouble, trouble, trouble, trouble, trouble..."
- "Ya got Trouble" from The Music Man

 Showing off?
Vultures do this to dry and warm their wings and to get rid of bugs and bacteria.

 That's a lot of stick figures.

United Arab Emirates in our airspace.
What could possibly go wrong?

 Long distance shot of a hot-air balloon dangling...a fish?

 Some folks take two parking spaces.
Fortunately, it was a Sunday.
Unfortunately, there were only a few spaces available.

 New sign?


 Cleaning up items at the former Prudhomme's

 Pressure washing


 Formerly Prudhomme's. Before that, the Rising Sun Hotel.


 Columbia loves JLG lifts.
Keep an eye on that tanker truck on the far right, going up Locust.

 There it is, on its way up 441. Instead of using the Route 441 bypass, it wound its way through town via the usual route - right onto Locust, left onto Third - crowding the intersection in the process and rattling homes along the way. 

 At the church/business/...residence? at 6th & Chestnut


In St. Pete's parking lot... 
(submitted photos)