Thursday, October 18, 2018

Residents demand action on property issues - public and private

Several residents demanded action on various property issues - public and private - at last week’s Columbia Borough Council meeting.



Tom Feltenberger expressed frustration about an ongoing water leak and scum problem along Grinnell Avenue, between 10th and 11th Streets. The source of problem is reportedly water flowing from an outlet pipe from a basement sump pump at a residence near at Grinnell and 11th. (Columbia Spy previously reported on the issue HERE.)

Feltenberger said that due to the water on the street, cars are sliding and people are falling. He said he got the runaround from several agencies, having contacted the national office of the EPA, who referred him to its state office, who told him to contact “Harrisburg,” who sent him back to Columbia Borough, which “sent him nowhere.” He said he then called State Representative Dave Hickernell, but “he does nothing.” He said he then talked to a “street superintendent,” who told him there are legal problems “out there.” When asked what the plan is, the superintendent allegedly said, “I don’t know the plan,” but admitted the borough has known about the problem for years. Feltenberger said he then called the highway department but got no calls back. “This is a very serious problem,” he told council.

Borough Manager Rebecca Denlinger said the borough is aware of the problem and that the next step is to identify that the water is coming specifically from a "homeowner’s home." The borough will then determine what role, if any, it has in fixing the problem. 


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Gerald Hawn, who owns a building at 501 Walnut Street, said water is running into his property from a neighboring property. He said a code enforcement officer responded to his concern “but nothing ever happened.” He said he has called the borough office several times but got no results.

Hawn also said that drain pipes were improperly installed on the 500 block of Walnut Street during a recent road and sidewalk reconstruction project. He cited one example in particular, in which a drain line leading from a building to the storm sewer was two inches lower than the sewer inlet. Hawn said he pointed out the problem to a job foreman who told him the curb would be replaced. Instead, workmen jack-hammered through the curb to fit the pipe in, according to Hawn. “A lot of the drains have been put in wrong,” he told council.

Hawn also said that drain lines leading from downspouts are supposed to have a “positive grade,” but water in some pipes doesn’t make it out to the curb due to an incorrect grade. Hawn also said elbows have been added to some lines that don’t line up with the hole in the curb, which increases the likelihood of clogging. In other cases, lines were run crooked, Hawn said. He said the engineer is supposed to inspect all the forms and all the drains. “My sidewalks look pathetic, and nobody is checking them,” he said.

Council President Kelly Murphy said that if it is found that the job has not been done correctly, it will have to be redone. “We’ll look into it,” he said.


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Nick Meley once again reminded council of ongoing issues with slumlords in the borough as he has at several recent meetings. He said there have been three recent tenant changes at rentals in his neighborhood and asked if property inspections are on hold, claiming none of the properties were inspected after tenants moved out. He said one property in particular has bathroom problems.

Code Enforcement Manager Steve Kaufhold explains procedures.

Code Enforcement Manager Steve Kaufhold told Meley that inspections are still being done but that he was unaware of the tenant changes. “If you had called me, we would have come out,” Kaufhold said. “I only heard about it now.” Meley responded that the borough can’t count on a concerned citizen monitoring all the slumlords in town. “You have to get out in front of these things,” he said. He told council it must make it uncomfortable for slumlords to be in this town. He said the borough must “hammer them” and enforce the three-strike rule. “I’d like you to do something about this,” he said.

Kaufhold said that if the codes department finds out that a new tenant has come in, the landlord will be notified of an upcoming inspection and a $250 fine will be imposed for any new tenant who moves in without a proper inspection of the rental. 


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Joanne Fritz told council about problems with an Air bnb in her neighborhood. She has been vocal about the issue at several recent borough meetings. She said the borough is allowing a business to operate in a low-density residential neighborhood and said the house at 1102 Locust Street is supposed to be rented out as a single family home. She cited an incident from the Friday before Labor Day, in which raw sewage was running down the street from the house and said the issue wasn’t addressed by the homeowner until Sunday. She said people are still renting the house – most recently four women from Florida, who she said are not a single family. Fritz also cited noise problems associated with visitors at the property. 


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Frank Doutrich cited an improperly installed drain line at his property on Lancaster Avenue that he said he had to fix. He said contractors sometimes do work incorrectly and it is not checked afterwards. “When they come to do a job, they just get the job done,” he said. “They don’t care.” He agreed with Gerald Hawn that the borough engineer is responsible for inspecting jobs when they are completed. He blamed council for signing off on jobs without proper follow-up. “Is it wrong for the citizens of this town to ask that they be done right?” he asked.

Doutrich also complained about both street sweepers often being out of operation at the same time, claiming the problem is due to mismanagement. He also cited a weed and grass problem at 1020 Ironville Pike, where the weeds are over six feet tall. He said a neighbor of the property told him she came to the borough office three times to report the problem, because she couldn’t see above the weeds to back out of her driveway safely. Allegedly, an employee at the borough office told her to back into her driveway so that she could see to pull out onto Ironville Pike.

23 comments:

  1. And yet they still give out quick tickets to senior citizens for chipping paint!

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  2. look at the weeds at the hole in the ground on locust st appartments

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  3. The person who pumps water onto the street should pump it in to the sewer in his home , it would be cheaper than the whole way out to the street. Common sense goes a long way, but now the borough is involved.

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    1. It is against sewer regulations to pump this water into the sewer system. The only water going to sewer should only be from sinks,tubs,toilets,and clothes washers.

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    2. I find it hard to believe a spring has sprung on such a high ground as Grinnell Ave. If you put a gallon of the water in a jug, wait a while, bubbles will form and smelling it will prove the water is coming from a busted LEAD (Pb) water main. CWC will not be fixing it, cause they'd haveta tear up an redo the whole boro

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    3. That is correct. LASA has a fact sheet about this. Due to the volume of water, it could cause back ups in the sanitary sewer system.

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    4. So why is it a borough problem???? Ron Miller wants to pipe it out of there!

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    5. Call in the state , Columbia won't do any thing , if it is the water company they will have to do something then.

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    6. The first comment said it all , the owner should have pumped down the sewer and never told the borough any thing . The borough is so laxed when it comes to something like this is the reason they (Helm) did selective inforcment for 25 years, look at the hole in the street at 320 s 2nd street they are acting like pre schoolers. Look at the retaining basin @ cloverton drive that they got money to maintain and used the money else where ( maybe the money pit ) . Columbia needs new (transparent) management not the same like is and has neglected the town but has dumped hundreds of thousands of dollars in to the money pit and trail. Columbia Borough needs to be audited by the state to see where our taxes really went. Post note the zoning / health/building inspector/ emergency coorindator/ code official lives 1 BLOCK AWAY , GEZZ can we see what is and has going on here, and a new borough manager sees this all and does NOTHING, CLEAN HOUSE before our taxes go up more to fix there lack of proformance.

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  4. Mr Meley NOT all land lords are slumlords so watch how you direct your words, do you want vacant houses all over this town? Some people who own rentals take pride in the homes they rent and are very strick with there tennets , so how about the borough letting the new appartments be a hole in the ground and no side walk, lets talk about that. Direct the problems at the people who are doing the wrongs not at the general population.

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    1. Most landlords in Columbia are slum lords!

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    2. Mr. Meley was very specific in who he complained about. His words were well directed.

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    3. WHY didn't Nick name the person who rents out these houses?

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    4. tell the borough

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    5. I believe that Mr. Meley did say the name of the landlord, in fact, he did so repeatedly at more than one meeting.
      More importantly, it's NOT his job to report to codes. Mr. Meley is paying for the operation of the code department and now he has to do their job too.

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    6. So why call all owners slumlords?

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    7. Call when you see a violation , it takes less time than going to a meeting , and will get action. REPORT A VIOLATION how hard is that.

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  5. the water being drained onto grinnell ave SHOULD be the owners responsibility. NOT the Boroughs.
    not sure what the hey is wrong with these people complaining about an air b and b. they SHOULD be thanking the owners. IF they turn it into a rental you;ll wish you never complained. its awesome and a great way to bring outsiders into town. no transient is going to pay $200 a night to stay there. people, wise up. educate yourselves. this is a wonderful ting!

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    1. This wonderful "ting" must not be in your backyard. The folks at the meetings are educated on the subject. The people renting these places out are not playing by the rules/regulations of the borough, if we're going to have rules everybody needs to be held accountable.

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    2. rules??? why in the heck would you rather have transient tenants who don't give a shit about NOTHING? then you'll be crying because you're dealing with drug addicts, or megans law offenders or just dirty people who don't give a damn about NO ONE. these kind of people DONN"T pay $200.00 a night to stay anywhere! again, educate yourself. it IS in my backyard and I do NOT have a problem with it. It makes perfect sense.

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  6. How can weeds get 6 feet tall , the mayor goes by the house on the ironville pike every day and the zoning officer is up there several times a week , SLECTIVE ENFORCMENT again.

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  7. The MAYOR and borough knew about 320 s 2nd street for over two years and nothing is done, they are to busy at the money pit. Pics like the hole really make people and business come to town , President council Murphy can you do anything about this childish stand off , or don't it matter to you either? I am going to send a pic to the watch dog in the lnp and see what kind of line of ---- youall give them.... PLEASE GROW UP AND FIX THE HOLE .

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