Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Public works director argues with resident, walks out of meeting while using derogatory term

Public Works Director Ron Miller abruptly left the Public Works and Property Committee meeting in anger last night after a resident directed several comments and questions to him. Upon exiting, he used a derogatory term, apparently aimed at the resident.

Miller seemed resentful of continued questioning by resident Frank Doutrich about highway department equipment and borough road conditions. Tensions came to a head when Doutrich complained about the poor state of borough roads, characterizing them as "unbelievable."  Miller asked, "How many times was that brought up? Fifty!"  Exasperated, Miller said, "I gotta go. I ain't listening to no more." Miller rose, and upon exiting, said, "Retard," which was apparently directed at Doutrich.

Committee member Pam Williams made a sudden motion to adjourn, but two residents insisted that citizen comments be heard, which committee chair Fran FitzGerald allowed. One of the residents, Sharon Lintner, said she was disappointed that Miller left the meeting, and pointed out the derogatory remark made by Miller. FitzGerald said that Miller should not be talked about in his absence, and Lintner replied, "Well, why did he leave? Why did he storm out of here?" None of the committee members replied, and the issue was left unresolved at meeting's end.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018


Everyone is invited to "Coffee (and cookies) with Cops" on Friday, October 19, 2018 at 10:00am in the Columbia Borough Office located at 308 Locust Street.  Coffee with Cops brings police officers and community members together-over coffee-to discuss issues and learn more about each other.  The topic for this session is "Crime Watch".  A brief presentation will be given after which attendees with be able to ask questions and mingle with the police officers.  We hope to see you there!

CHI's proposal for Market House includes food vendors, restaurant, social venue

The Columbia Historic Market House

[Part of this article was published previously on Columbia SpyNOTE: Another proposal for the Market House, from Royal Square Development & Construction, will be presented at a special meeting on Tuesday, September 18 at 6 p.m. before the Public Works and Property Committee meeting.]

At the September Columbia Borough Council meeting, Philip Goropoulos of Catholic Health Initiatives (CHI) presented a proposal for use of the Columbia Historic Market House, which has been vacant since December of last year.

During the hour-long presentation, Goropoulos said CHI’s proposal focuses on four main areas: Food, Restaurant, Social, and Gathering.
  • Food: 9-20 vendors would provide fresh food at custom-built stands Wednesdays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturdays, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.; an “after-market” Thursdays and Saturdays. Vendors who sign on must be there at least 75% of the time the market is open. 
  • Restaurant: Seating for 40-50 people, lunch and dinner, open Tuesday through Saturday; breakfast might be an option, as would “Pay-What-You-Can Tuesdays,” to be underwritten by CHI. 
  • Social: Venue for events, activities, movies. 
  • Gathering: Hub within the community, town halls, large meetings, safe spaces, etc. 

The building will remain the property of the borough, and CHI will be responsible for management and operations. Goropoulos foresees using a management agreement, similar to that used for the operation of Columbia Crossing. The borough will be responsible for restoration of the building.

Goropoulos said the proposal was worked on by committee for about a year to “revitalize and re-energize” the Market House. CHI will equip it and get it set up for operation. Once the equipment is placed in the Market House it will become assets of the borough. CHI will also cover all utilities.
The proposed management agreement calls for the initial term to be for five years, after which it becomes a year-to-year. Within those five years, the structures, market traffic and consumer base will be created, with the focus on the needs of residents. If all goes as planned, the operation will be financially self-sufficient within that time, after which the borough may decide whether to assume operations of the facility. If the borough is not ready, it can decide to continue the agreement with CHI, according to Goropoulos.

All profits made while CHI is participating in the operation will be deposited into a trust specifically for the Market House. When operations are finally transferred to the borough, the funds will also be transferred in order to continue the operation.

Major renovations to the building will be the responsibility of the borough, but CHI will be responsible for renovations for the restaurant. Revenues will be written to CHI, and lease agreements with vendors will come to CHI. CHI would absorb up to $65,000 of losses per year. If losses exceed $65,000 per year, CHI will meet with the borough and report that. “If everything goes badly, you’re still talking about $400-500,000 dollars coming into the borough from CHI,” Goropoulos said.

“There’s a buzz that we’re generating in Columbia.” he added. “I think the combination of the hotel project, child care center, other activities in Columbia are starting to create an excitement in the town and in the community that's going to create kind of a wave that I think the market can help ride and bring more people in.”

Councilman Cle Berntheizel was also optimistic about the proposal: “I remember a time - being on council in the 90s - when realtors in Lancaster would say you don’t want to go to Columbia; don’t buy in Columbia. But that has now changed 100%. And some of the top real estate agencies are saying if you’re smart, you’ll look at Columbia.”

Goropoulos did admit, however, that CHI has never undertaken a project like this anywhere before, prompting resident Frank Doutrich to ask him why he thinks it will work here. Goropoulos replied, “I have faith.”

Longtime director of Columbia's Watch & Clock Museum resigns, takes post at Ohio railroad museum | Local News |

Monday, September 17, 2018


Parking Enforcement for Street Sweeping has been suspended on 6th and 7th Streets from Locust Street to Chestnut Street and on the 500 and 600 Blocks of Walnut Street due to road construction beginning immediately and until further notice.

Confused mayflies wreak havoc on a Pennsylvania bridge | Science News

But that bridge, with those lamps, is breaking that path of polarized light, luring the mayflies up to the structure and causing the confused insects to perform their "drop, deposit and die" routine on the road.


Sunday, September 16, 2018

About Town

This week's photos from around town . . .

Egret looking for breakfast


At the southern end of Heritage Drive (shown above), there's nothing between the road and the railroad tracks, not even any weeds. A public safety issue?

A security fence (shown above) was installed along Heritage Drive last year at a cost to taxpayers of $32,000. At last Monday's council meeting, a resident asked what the purpose of the fence is. He noted that there are openings in the fence along the road (seven by our count, some several vehicles wide). The mayor explained that the fence was required by Norfolk Southern for “the sale of the property.” He said the company "apparently approved" the fence. "I think they're more concerned about people going out through the yards than they are going over the tracks," he said.

However, at the November 2017 public works committee meeting, officials said the improvements were needed for privacy and aesthetics, and to resolve trespassing issues. Public Works Director Ron Miller said cottage owners told him that, due to the increased number of visitors to Columbia River Park, people are entering Riverfront Drive, a private road that runs through the tract. He said the new fence was a way to make a boundary. Mayor Lutz added that the fence will also prevent encroachment on Heritage Drive by the cottage owners. “By putting the fence there, that's stopping that encroachment,” he said.

So . . . here’s another “however”: There are seven openings in the fence. How, then, does the fence stop “encroachment”?

Miller also said “They [cottage owners] thought they needed a fence for some privacy or some delineation between the property and the park.” A slightly more expensive fence was preferred over a plain chain link fence for consistency. “I thought it would be pretty ugly to put a chain link fence along there, so we matched up what we had at the parking lot [at the bottom of Locust Street]," Miller said. "It's the same exact fence.” Miller said he decided on the security fence due to the minimal cost difference. The borough paid about $32,000 for the fence, according to Miller. The borough will be responsible for maintaining the fence. 

Miller said the original plan for a fence on the boundary between Heritage Drive and the railroad tracks was nixed because Norfolk Southern, which owns the railroad, didn't want a fence that was only 25 feet from the center line of the tracks. Consequently, the fence was moved to other side of the road, toward the cottages. “I talked with the homeowners down there and the people - they thought it would be great to put it on that side,” Miller said. He added that Norfolk Southern plans to put "riprap" along the bank on the railroad side of Heritage Drive. (Riprap consists of rocks and chunks of concrete used to stabilize sloped areas and prevent erosion.) 

However, as of today’s posting (September 16, 2018 - almost a year later), no riprap appears to have been added, only weeds. At the southern end of Heritage Drive, there aren’t even any weeds. There’s no delineation at all between the road and the railroad tracks.

To top it all off, there is a chain link fence running along the unpaved section of Heritage Drive that is fairly close to the railroad tracks. So why is this "cheap," ugly fence all right here, so close to the railroad tracks when it wasn't all right further down on Heritage Drive? Why was it even installed, when there's a length of road further down with no delineation at all between the road and the tracks?


 Not a scene from West Side Story, just South 3rd Street stories

 Someone lost her head and fell over.  She must have just opened the school tax bill.

 Lichens and the like on a piece of a fallen limb along the sidewalk next to Locust Street Park

 Same here, on the 700 block of Locust

 Rooftop spindle about to let go

 The one next to it already did.

 Avenue sign

 Unique grave marker at Mount Bethel Cemetery

 They cut down an old oak tree, and all we got was this lousy tree stump.

 Behind CVS

 Screw loose

 At the former Catholic War Vets building

(And save on those T's. We may need 'em later.)

 Caving in, in Avenue H?

 What you might see in an alley

 Two sticks . . . for a double whammy

 Flooded again

 Watching the waters rise

 Someone was watching here, too, at the Civil War bridge pier.

 It's a private viewing spot.

 Three at once, with an interloper flying in at the top left

 Bridge in the background

 Some folks like to sleep in.

 The sparrow convention is in town.

 No Parking . . . or maybe there is

 And this is why these hedges need to be removed and a sidewalk installed (North 4th).

 30-something-year-old graffiti bleeding through from March 1985 - 
(Do you think Jody and Shane are still together?)

 Bridge lost in the fog

 The fog lights are on.

 Civil War bridge piers

 These Canada Geese flew a few feet over the Veterans Memorial Bridge and continued upriver.

 They went thataway.

 Columbia Crossing was covered.

 And the river disappeared.

Keep the faith - The bridge really does continue out there.

 Coming down (and heading up) over 441

 Two to light up your life

 Rest your butt on this concrete bench.

 A brief history of Columbia

A brief history of the Lincoln Highway

 A few more details of Columbia's famed architecture

 Nothing captures the spirit of Columbia like this sign.
We're a feisty bunch 'round here.

 Uh . . . no


 Susquehanna Glass still has a facility in the 700 block of Avenue H.

 Products are shipped from there via truck.  Tractor-trailers routinely exit the alley onto 8th Street.

 The trouble started when residents on 8th Street were recently cited for broken sidewalks which they say were caused by the trucks turning onto 8th from Avenue H.

 Drivers must negotiate a tight turn and their trucks often run onto the sidewalks, damaging them, residents claim. Shown above is a view of 8th Street, looking east on Avenue H. Note the "No Trucks" sign.

 Here's a photo of a damaged corner of the sidewalk at 8th Street and Avenue H.

Shown above is the area where Avenue H meets 8th Street. At last week's Columbia Borough Safety Committee meeting, the facilities manager of Susquehanna Glass met with committee members to try to find a solution to the problem. Ideas ranged from doing a traffic study to using smaller trailers to using tandem trailers. The issue was not resolved at the meeting.


 Meanwhile, over at CVS...

 Damn GPS!
The driver eventually got his truck out of there, with some fancy maneuvering.
It took just 15 minutes or so.

 Hung up

Hung up

 Splashes of color at 7th and Poplar

You don't see many of these nowadays.

 Instant mural . . . just add water.

 Heron or egret?

 Crossing the tracks

 Signs for ONE WAY, REGULATIONS - COLUMBIA RIVER PARK, and something about PARKING...maybe (?) 

 Down at Lloyd Mifflin's place

 Deer on Laurel Hill Road

 Just coated - 4th and Chestnut

 Some sort of contraption holding some sort of contraption

 Fog again

The mayor said, “The gutters in Columbia are not open trash cans, and we need to do a better job of picking up that debris in our community.”

Ready for the big dig on the 600 block of Walnut

Here's a photo of a sunset from Chiques Rock, submitted by Todd Stahl.

And last, but certainly not least, the following two submitted photos of a Re-Bath worker working in the rain (which seems somehow appropriate, if you think about it)...