Thursday, April 15, 2021

A few takeaways from Tuesday's borough council meeting

From the April 13, 2021 Columbia Borough Council meeting:

Citizen comments

Borough resident Dennis Wolpert asked who will pay the school taxes on the McGinness property if it is sold before tax notices are sent in the fall. Borough solicitor Evan Gabel said the borough is tax-exempt, but school taxes will be prorated. The borough will have to pay school taxes annually from there on out, if the property is purchased. Wolpert noted that a potential sale of the property has been in the works for quite some time but that neighbors never got input from the borough. Borough manager Mark Stivers said the borough sought input at public meetings. Stivers also said the borough hasn't made a final decision to purchase the property.

In answer to a question from resident Mary Wickenheiser, Stivers said zoning permits do not need to be displayed but building permits do.

Resident Frank Doutrich noted that the borough forgot to add the McGinness property into the KOZ program [a few years ago] and time ran out. “I just would have thought the municipality, to get that developed, would have been more involved in helping somehow,” Doutrich said. “They can and they do when they want to.” [KOZ stand for "Keystone Opportunity Zone." According to the PA DCED website: "Keystone Opportunity Zones eliminate specific state and local taxes within specific underdeveloped and underutilized areas.]

New pizza shop/night club?

Mayor Leo Lutz talked about the possibility of a new pizza shop/night club opening on Locust Street. “We don’t know exactly what’s going to 'go on' there.” He said if something goes on that violates borough codes or regulations, the borough will issue a cease-and-desist. “We are going to keep a very close eye on it,” Lutz said. He stated that the borough doesn't want a business or venue in that location similar to a previous establishment where several fights occurred and there were reports of gunfire.

Traffic studies underway
Chief Brommer said a traffic study is underway as a preliminary step to have a stop sign erected at 13th and Franklin, after several complaints were received about the intersection. He also said the intersection at 5th & Maple is of concern, and the department is working with the borough engineer to come up with recommendations. He said more than 30 accidents have occurred there over a 5-year period.

A county health department?
Council discussed passing a resolution to support creating a Lancaster County Health Department. Lutz urged against it, saying, “I think this is a knee-jerk reaction to COVID-19 pandemic.” Council voted 6-1 against the resolution, with Sharon Lintner being the only “yes” vote.

New management position created
After an extended discussion, council voted 5-2 to create a new position titled ”Facilities Manager” and appoint current custodian Wilson Affeld to it. The position includes a $20,000 a year pay increase. Stivers said he created the position but admitted he had not yet formulated a job description for it. Affeld’s vacated custodial position will remain open in case there's ever a need to hire another employee, a move that was requested by the union. Stivers said the job was not advertised because the borough is not legally required to do so and he didn't see a need for it.

New police officer hired

Council unanimously approved authorization to hire police officer Bryce Mowbray, contingent on testing and background checks, to replace Officer Ed Mann, who retired in March.

921 Spruce Street
Council voted unanimously to allow the Lancaster County Land Bank Authority to acquire 921 Spruce Street.

Do you want to be the mayor of Columbia? If so, contact the Columbia Democratic Committee before May 18 to start a write-in campaign

Hi everyone! The Columbia Democratic Party is looking for registered Democrats who would be interested in running a write in campaign for mayor in the May 18th primary! We believe that it is important for Columbia voters to have more than 1 option when choosing their leaders. If you or someone you know is interested, please message or email us! And please share this post to spread the word!!!

Wednesday, April 14, 2021


Jack Ruth and Kelly M. Ruth conveyed property on a public road to Juliana Mento for $160,057.

Erick Shope and Mandy S. Shope conveyed 601 Manor St. to Adam R. Burkhart and Megan E. Burkhart for $65,000.

Johnny L. Hedges conveyed 919 Spruce St. to Carlos R Rivera Colon for $150,000.

The estate of Pauline K. Willingham and The estate of Pauline L. Willington conveyed property on South Fifth Street to Nancy L. Poindexter for $1.

John C. Hibberd & Sherryl A. Hibberd Living Trust, John C. Hibberd and Sherryl A. Hibberd conveyed 130 Perry St. to Lee Z. Allen for $127,500.

Donald L. Hanes conveyed property on Manor Street to Nathanael A. Miller and Shelby R. Miller for $192,500.

Alison Sky conveyed 614 Walnut St. to Shadow 9 LLC for $75,000.

Jazlyn Alexis Herr and Garrison Reese Motter conveyed property on Walnut Street to Gary A. Motter and Julia A. Motter for $173,400.

Yoshifumi Fujii and Michelle Stone conveyed 241 N. Second St. to Awakened Properties LLC for $76,500.

Renewed Concepts LLC, Wayne C. Nauman, Patrick B. Reardon, JP Real Estate Development LLC and Joseph A. Dougher conveyed property on North Seventh Street to Ethan H. Byers and Stephanie C. Hopper for $274,000.

Edna M. Wakefield and Edna Wakefield conveyed property on a public road to Kirk J. Wakefield for $1.

Mark H. Troutman conveyed property on Ironville Pike to Kevin H. Troutman for $117,000.

Jeffrey S. Groff and Joan M. Inman conveyed 26 S. Fourth St. to Dennis L. Kemmick Jr. for $75,000.

Eric W. Quinn and Sarah E. Quinn conveyed property on Poplar Street to Sarah E. Quinn for $1.

COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic at Columbia Market House - Lancaster General Health | Penn Medicine

Register for the April 18th vaccine clinic.

Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health recognizes that communities of color continue to be disproportionately affected by COVID-19.

We are working with the Columbia Ministerium and the Columbia Borough to bring to bring the vaccination to you!

Be prepared for your vaccination:

  • Masks are required.
  • Please wear a short-sleeved shirt, or wear a short-sleeved shirt under a sweater or jacket that can be easily removed. The vaccine will be administered in the upper arm of your choice. 
  • This is the Pfizer vaccine.  For full benefits of the vaccine, you must receive a 2nd dose. Your appointment for the second dose will be on May 16th, 2021 at Columbia Market House at the same time as your first dose appointment. 

Please review information about the vaccine and FAQs at


Lancaster City Council calls for 'prompt' creation of county health department (but Columbia Borough Council votes 6-1 against it)

Bibliomaniacs to meet on library terrace Wednesday, April 14


The McGinness project - What's going on? (Part 2)

Borough manager Marks Stivers wants Columbia Borough to buy the 58-acre McGinness property at 1020 Manor Street and develop for business and recreational use. At last week's council work session, he laid out the purported financial benefits that the development will bring to the borough. What he didn't dig into was the upfront cost to taxpayers. 

Here are a few figures: The purchase price is expected to be $1,495,000.  Add to that, $144,000 for environmental tests currently underway. If everything checks out and the purchase goes through, the borough will still need to construct roads, run utilities, and carry out other projects related to site development - the costs of which are unknown at this point but could easily run into hundreds of thousands. (By the way, if test results are unsatisfactory, the $144,000 will have been wasted.) 

And the return on our investment? At this point: a feeling that businesses will flock there to set up shop, build structures, offer jobs, and thereby help stabilize our tax base. After the land is developed, borough officials hope to sell the property.

Borough taxpayers will be responsible for paying school taxes on the land, which might increase as structures are built.  [As a reference, the former No. 1 fire company on Front Street costs the borough about $27,000 a year in school taxes. The newly renovated market house could potentially cost tens of thousands in school taxes when the building is reassessed.]

Where's the money coming from? According to Stivers, the borough will apply proceeds from the sale of its sewer treatment plant towards this purchase. [NOTE: LASA paid $8.6 million for the conveyance system in 2015. The borough still owns the building.] Also according to Stivers, there is a line item in the state budget of $3 million dollars in RACP funds earmarked for the borough. [RACP stands for "Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program," and is a state grant requiring dollar-for-dollar matching funds.] 

Stivers said the $1.75 RACP grant the borough was awarded [in 2019] came from the earmarked funds. Over $1 million of this grant was spent on market house renovation, and the remainder will be used for parking projects. 

Stivers claims there is an additional $1.75 million in state money earmarked for the borough. If that money is indeed available, there's still no guarantee the state will approve it for this project, but if awarded, the grant will still require matching funds [1:1] from the borough. If all "goes well" and the borough acquires and develops the property, it hopes to first lease plots and then sell the entire development in 5 years.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Engineering firms a no-show at McGinness, but there was a herd of goats

Engineering firms were once again a "no-show" at the McGinness property this morning, even though yesterday was supposed to be the beginning of the due diligence period for a possible purchase of the land.  A herd of goats did show up, however, and were seen trespassing there.

Columbia's Watch & Clock Museum Is Among Those Waiting Out the Pandemic, Managing to Keep Busy - The New York Times

In the United States, the National Watch and Clock Museum in Columbia, Pa., actually is owned and operated by its more than 10,000 members, who annually pay fees starting at $80 for individuals and $175 for businesses. "The memberships keep coming in throughout the year, so we were able to keep above water," said James Campbell, the acting curator.

The museum is one of North America's largest horological collections with more than 13,000 objects, including an 1814 gold Breguet pocket watch with a push quarter-hour repeater owned by Napoleon's sister, Caroline Bonaparte Murat, the queen of Naples, Italy.

Mr. Campbell, who said about a third of the holdings were displayed at any time, described how one gallery area was being redesigned to show public timepieces like street clocks and tower clocks when a lockdown was ordered last spring. Now, he said, "we are hoping to have some volunteers and members to come back," possibly this spring, to continue the work.


Monday, April 12, 2021

Borough of Columbia Bill List - This is where the money's going

Download the 9-page list HERE.

Borough condemns house damaged in hit & run

 The Columbia Borough Codes Department condemned a Columbia house this morning, after it was struck overnight by a hit & run vehicle. The house, at 458 Cherry Street, sustained serious damage to its front wall, causing the borough to deem it an "unsafe structure." 

According to the police report, "a wall partially collapsed onto a couch in the living room of the first floor apartment. The striking vehicle left the scene. A man and young child were asleep on the second floor of the building and were not injured. The striking vehicle was probably a Lexus and has damage to the front end."

Anyone with information regarding the crash is asked to contact the Columbia Borough Police at 717-684-7735.

The McGinness project - What's going on? (Part 1)

Two borough trucks were parked at the 12th Street entrance to the McGinness property late this morning.

At last week's Columbia Borough Council work session, borough manager Mark Stivers said environmental studies of the McGinness property at 1020 Manor Street would begin today (Monday, April 12, 2021), but as of late morning no engineering vehicles or equipment were to be seen. There were, however, two borough trucks at the 12th Street entrance to the property. The borough hired two firms to conduct the studies during this "due diligence" period, which is projected to last through May. Stivers wants the borough to purchase the property in early July of this year, if all goes well. The property was recently listed at $1,495,000. 

At last Tuesday's meeting, Stivers presented this timeline (excerpt):

  • May 2021 – Complete Due Diligence process
  • June 2021 – Final Determination to purchase property
  • July 2021 – If approved, purchase land and begin development process

Columbia Borough considered purchasing the property once before, in 2017. As part of the process, a study of the property was done, the results of which are not publicly available. Only one small excerpt was revealed at the July 24, 2017 council meeting and is the first of three contradictory explanations presented by borough officials on why that purchase was canceled. According to the minutes of the meeting, council nixed the purchase because "environmental and/or subsurface conditions of the property are unacceptable to the borough."

Excerpt from the minutes of the July 24, 2017 Columbia Borough Council meeting

Councilman Todd Burgard contradicted that statement, though, at the October 13, 2020 meeting, stating that the deal was canceled because of price, not contamination. Interestingly, at last week's meeting, Stivers contradicted both explanations by saying the sale was canceled because "We decided at that point that we didn't have a solid plan." 

[MORE TO COME . . .]

The McGinness property, as seen from South 9th Street this morning

Hit and run to occupied building | Columbia Borough Police Department

At 11:10 p.m. on 04-11-2021, a car struck an occupied building at 458 Cherry St. in Columbia Borough. The impact caused significant damage to the building making it unsafe for habitation. A wall partially collapsed onto a couch in the living room of the first floor apartment. The striking vehicle left the scene. A man and young child were asleep on the second floor of the building and were not injured. The striking vehicle was probably a Lexus and has damage to the front end. 

Anyone with information regarding the crash is asked to contact the Columbia Borough Police at 717-684-7735.   

Date:  Monday, April 12, 2021 - 4:15am

Sourced via CRIMEWATCH®


Sunday, April 11, 2021

About Town - April 11, 2021

This week's photos of Columbia

(Click on photos to see larger, sharper images.) 

[NOTE: This is the last weekly installment of "About Town." In the interest of timeliness, photos will now be posted on a day-by-day basis, as issues and items crop up.]

Coexist Gallery on Locust just got these two new signs (above).

Hate has no home here, but it does reside in a few other places in Columbia.

Community dinner on Wednesday evenings

Columbia skyline

A sliver of the river . . .

. . . and a smidge of the bridge


A solar-powered van?

Well, why not?

Not a swimming pool, just the water company's reservoir

Trailer on Bridge Street

Apparently, it sometimes holds alpacas.

At the town square:


Shadows on 462

Coming up . . .

Watching the train go by

Looks like a shipment of aluminum

A comment on Columbia corruption?

Bursting forth

The last day will be June 2.

Remnant of Columbia's legendary past

Slab and debris

Not a box turtle, but an old-fashioned vent pipe cover

To be discussed at this month's zoning meeting?

Someone got the boot.

Have a seat, any seat.

One could surmise that Columbia lies along a flight path:


Working hard

Fixing the golden arches

Nest-building time - 
It's a good thing the toilet paper shortage is over.

Movin' in at 237 Locust

Healthy Columbia meals

Don't look now, but there's a giant rooster behind that door.

Shawnee Run is bounded on both sides by private property, but FERC boundaries, the Public Trust Doctrine, and Riparian rights suggest it can be accessed by the public.

Wounded signpost at 4th & Manor

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