Saturday, September 30, 2017
Friday, September 29, 2017
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.
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
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.”
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.
Wednesday, September 27, 2017
It's an opportunity for the borough. Right now, there's no medical marijuana facilities set to come to Columbia, but officials say it's about being proactive.
Tuesday, September 26, 2017
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
The project is expected to be completed sometime in 2018.
Columbia Spy first reported on this project HERE.
Marietta Borough Hall
111 East Market St.
Marietta, PA 17547
"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."
"This type of negative reporting has a serious effect on the economic development and revitalization efforts of many Columbia Borough residents and businesses."