Nick Meley: "I think it should be Columbia Borough's motto: 'We can't do anything about it.'"
Meley suggested implementing a progressive surtax on non-resident multiple property owners or progressive licensing, and a "three-strike procedure" for code violations. "Nothing is being done about the real problem," he said. "Make the landlord responsible for the violations, and not the tenants." Meley said he was assaulted in the borough and blamed several factors, notably the fact that "the thugs, the lowlife, the Section 8 tenants know that this town is that kind of place. They congregate here," he said.
Meley noted the previous month's council meeting in which he cited a Michigan township that banned Section 8 and restricted the number of rentals. He said the borough solicitor at the meeting admitted he didn't know what they do in Michigan. "He seemed pretty proud of his ignorance," Meley said. Meley asked what specific statutes prevent council from passing such legislation. Solicitor Barry Handwerger did not answer directly, merely saying that he does not give legal advice without researching the issue.
Meley said that although the renovated library, the trail, and the Columbia Crossing were positives, "It borders on delusional to think that new businesses and new residents are going to come to this town because of a renovated library when the streets are like they are."
Shirley McBride of Perry Street echoed many of Meley's points. She said that when she called the borough about slumlords and trouble on her block, she experienced retaliation: Her car was keyed and her house was egged. "I was threatened. Welcome to my world," she said, noting she has lived in Columbia for 54 years. "This is a nightmare."
She said neighbors scream at two and three in the morning and she was told nothing could be done. "I thought we had a three strikes you're out," she said. "I live in fear." She said her neighborhood is going downhill and compared it to Detroit or Chicago. "Drugs are just rampant in this town," she said. "It's up to you to do something about it. We let this go too long, and now you've got a crisis on your hands. I would not in any circumstances tell someone to move to Columbia because of the slum landlords."
McBride pleaded with council to regulate slumlords. "Please, please, please, please, I'm begging you, do something with the slum landlords. You know who they are. You hear it, and I'll bet you there isn't one person in this borough that can't tell you who they are."
Frank Doutrich of Ironville Pike recommended having a police dog in place in the borough "to let the thugs know." He told council that his house was recently broken into and money was taken. Doutrich has often publicly emphasized the need for a police dog, an assertion the mayor continues to reject. Several months ago, Doutrich hung a banner at his North Ninth Street property, which reads: "FIGHT CRIME AND DRUGS WITH POLICE DOGS!"
[Columbia Spy will continue to post relevant citizen comments. The borough has not posted citizen comments consistently since October 2017. In addition, the borough still has not posted minutes of the July 2018 borough council meeting, as of today's date.]