Friday, April 30, 2021

"Chaos" at borough hall: Who's running the show?

Councillors and other officials were conspicuously maskless at Tuesday's Columbia Borough Council meeting. Inadequate microphone volume, dropouts, and distorted sound once again plagued the livestream. And there were other problems...

Finances, unpaid bills, "chaos"
Councilwoman Sharon Lintner revealed that the borough received a shutoff notice in January for failure to pay its water bill. The water company typically sends such a notice after two months of non payment. She also revealed that a bill for workers compensation for the fire department also was not paid and there may have been a brief lapse in coverage. (The bills were subsequently paid.)

Two representatives of accounting firm BGA&F hired by the borough to sort out its finances noted similar concerns. Peter Barsz, an accountant with the firm, said he discovered unpaid invoices dating to this past January. He described part of the effort to organize borough finances as "chaos." Amanda Gattuso, also of BGA&F, said paperwork was in "disarray" and that she found unpaid invoices stuffed in desk drawers. "It was difficult to find everything," she said. Lintner asked what kind of a plan is in place to make sure bills are paid. Council president Heather Zink said one way would be to have monthly bills paid automatically so they aren't missed. Other options were also discussed.

Barsz also told council that it needs to monitor its finances. He pointed out that the borough suffered a $174,000 loss last year and that such a trend should not be continued. He told council to "keep an eye on it." He also projected that in June, July, and August the borough will have a good indication of how finances will probably end up for the year. Barsz stressed that council needs to watch expenses and do some planning before the middle of the year. 

Abolish HARB?
An application for a certificate of appropriateness for a Locust Street property triggered a discussion about the HARB approval process. [HARB is the borough's Historic Architectural Review Board.]

A contractor told council that a borough official told him he didn't need a permit to replace a damaged door at a property he is renovating at 142 Locust Street. After he replaced it, however, a "stop work" notice was posted on the property, because work was being done to the building without a permit. He explained that when he left a message at the borough office for someone to get back to him, he didn't receive a response.

Councilwoman Lintner cited the incident as one example of why the HARB approval process is flawed. She noted that there are also an increasing number of "after-the-fact" permits being issued to applicants who knowingly or unknowingly circumvent the process. She said council is basically endorsing violations by continuing to issue certificates of appropriateness in such cases.

Lintner added that HARB recommendations are made unfairly and that council should consider abolishing the board. Borough manager Mark Stivers disagreed about the need to abolish HARB but said that if the process is flawed, the borough needs to tighten things up and make sure the process is fair.

[Note: HARB reviews are required only in the borough's historic district. An application for a building permit may trigger the need for such a review. After a satisfactory review by HARB, a certificate of appropriateness is issued by council. In some cases, a review is deemed not to be necessary and administrative approval is given.]

In other business
Council approved a resolution allowing the sale of used borough vehicles at the Manheim Auto Auction, date to be determined.

Council approved a facilities use request for CHI for a "family and food truck day" at the Columbia Market House, with parking locations for trucks to be determined. After a brief discussion on event parking, Stivers said he is looking at plans with the borough engineer for parking around the Market House.

Council approved a revised facilities use request for this year's Bridge Bust, the time being changed to 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. In case the bridge is not approved by the state for such use, the borough is working with the chamber of commerce to find an alternate site for the event.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Warm weather brings people outdoors

Columbia temps reached 84 degrees today.

It was a good day for relaxing outdoors . . .

Or enjoying the river . . .

Or painting the scenery . . .

Monday, April 26, 2021

Firemen investigate DAC alarm, office staff waits outside


The Columbia Borough Fire Department responded to an automatic alarm today at the District Administration Center at 7:38 a.m. Office staff and administrators waited outside as the fire crew investigated the building. After about 15 minutes, employees were permitted to enter the building. Engine 80 and truck 80 responded to the call. The building, at 200 North 5th Street, serves as the administration center for the Columbia Borough School District.

Pizza restaurant is coming to Columbia and it might offer alcohol!

Level Up is coming to Columbia!

A pizza restaurant is coming to Columbia, and it might offer alcoholic beverages. The restaurant, "Level Up," will soon open its doors for business at a venue at 237 Locust Street. Out front stands a sandwich board with a message touting the business's name and a need for service help. (That's right - they're hiring!) In addition, a bright orange liquor license application is displayed on a window. The restaurant was previously located at 316 Honeysuckle Drive in Marietta. An online menu from that location includes pizza, stromboli, lasagna, and taco salad, so a similar bill of fare could be offered here. 

Level Up is another of the businesses that have flocked to Columbia recently. Obviously, the pro-Columbia vibe that borough officials and business leaders have put forth is working. 

The business will soon open at 237 Locust Street.

A liquor license application is prominently displayed on one of the front windows.

A sandwich board out front displays the business name and a need for kitchen and service help.

Level Up's previous location (now closed) at 316 Honeysuckle drive in Marietta

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Happening this morning (Saturday, April 24, 2021)

Chicken bar-b-q at the Hambones:

Yard sales on the 1200 block of Manor:

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Family member confirms remains found Wednesday are that of Linda Stoltzfoos; officials have not yet confirmed

A family member confirmed that remains discovered Wednesday are that of Linda Stoltzfoos, but investigators have yet to make an official identification.

Mervin Fisher, who is Stoltzfoos' uncle, said the family has been told the remains recovered are Linda's.

"All of us have been hoping for closure. It's not the news we wanted, but progress is moving forward to bring Linda to rest," he said.


Fuzzy goslings mean it's spring, but you wouldn't know it by today's weather

Fuzzy Canada goose goslings like these at Columbia River Park often mean springtime is here, but you wouldn't know it based on today's cold and windy weather. To make matters worse, overnight temps will take a plunge, possibly to freezing. Lets hope Mom and Pop Goose take the kids somewhere warm.



Agenda - HARB Meeting - April 21, 2021


Download the meeting packet HERE.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Agenda - Columbia Borough Planning Commission Meeting - April 20, 2021

Download the 33-page meeting packet HERE.

Committee members say Columbians are negative, officials want to "manage the message"

Jamie Widener thinks the problem with Columbia is that it's full of Columbians. He offered that sentiment during a brainstorming session at last night's ad hoc committee meeting. Widener, a committee member, said a question was posed at a CEDC meeting a few years ago where Mayor Lutz was also in attendance. When attendees were asked what's wrong with Columbia, Widener replied, "The problem with Columbia is it's full of Columbians." Widener said at first he thought Lutz was going to punch him until the mayor laughed and said, "You're absolutely right." Widener's comments can be heard in the video below. Several committee members nodded, commented, or murmured in agreement.

Other members also discussed what they see as the negativity of Columbia residents - while making negative comments about Columbia residents. [Note: Several of the committee members are not borough residents.]

"I hear more negativity from the residents of this borough than you do from people when you go outside of this borough," resident Mary Wickenheiser said.

"A lot of the people that live here are the biggest naysayers,'' said an unidentified attendee.

"If you are going to play this role in our community you should be held entirely responsible on how you promote it," committee member Alison Liebgott said. She pointed to "negative naysayers" on social media. "That's a big, big problem," she said.

Borough manager Mark Stivers said he sees a need for the borough to control the message: "We have to manage the message and change the story." He said that the newly hired advertising firm, Gavin, is one way to do that. "We are actively pursuing positive messaging here in the community," he said. "Instead of letting people say what we are, we're telling them what we are." He admitted, however, that "Part of that is honestly owning our weaknesses."

Committee members think that a positive message will bring more people into the borough, a perceived need since residents do not "carry the downtown," as Stivers put it. He said little shops along Locust Street and people coming into town do that. "The residents don't really carry the downtown," Stivers said.

Monday, April 19, 2021

Agenda - Comprehensive Plan - Ad Hoc Committee Meeting - April 19, 2021


Deeds Recorded - Columbia Borough - April 19, 2022

Patricia A. Duvall and Patricia A. Holt conveyed 434 N. Fifth St. to Patricia A. Holt and Ted D. Holt for $1.

Neighborhood Properties Solutions LLC, Antonio Munoz and Denise M. Keyser conveyed 628 Plane St. to Brian Michael Culp and Michelle Lynn Culp for $189,900.

Erin E. Cramer and Keith L. Cramer conveyed 836 Locust St. to High Impact Realty LLC for $231,000.

Norwood Realty Investments LP and Norwood Realty Investments LLC conveyed property on Locust Street to Timothy D. Slaymaker for $310,000.

Megan Seibert conveyed property on South Eighth Street to Gary Cleveland for $153,000.

Paul B. Esh and Fannie S. Esh conveyed 473 Locust St. to Aaron K. Esh and Sadie S. Esh for $140,000.

We need a serious discussion about a Lancaster County public health department, and with more than the usual voices [editorial]

The Manheim Township Board of Commissioners voted unanimously March 8 to approve a resolution supporting the creation of a county health department and calling on the Lancaster County commissioners to create one. That board sent its resolution to the county's 60 municipalities and 17 school districts seeking their elected officials' support for such an agency. 

The boards of Columbia Borough, Christiana Borough, Conoy Township, Bart Township, Quarryville Borough and Strasburg Township are among ones that have rejected the idea. Denver Borough Council is among the boards that supports the idea, as does Marietta Borough Council. And Lancaster City Council passed a resolution last Tuesday in support of the "prompt" establishment of a county health agency.

Interest grows for potential business park at former McGinness airfield in Columbia

Columbia almost bought the property in 2017 but canceled the deal because of a lack of interested tenants.

"What's changed is that we have viable plans to fill this park," Zink said.

Police: Argument leads to fatal shooting in Mountville

A Lancaster County woman is facing homicide charges after a shooting in Mountville Friday night.


Marietta council votes in support of creating a county health department


When: Marietta Borough Council meeting, April 13.

What happened: Borough Council voted unanimously in support Manheim Township's resolution to create a Lancaster County health department. Council members said they favor the idea upon introduction, but they are interested in more information about what the department could do for the county.

Quotables: Council member Bill Dalzell said, "I think the past year has made it pretty clear that this is something that our county needs. We need to tell the county to begin to do this research." Similarly, Jeff Marsh lauded potential uses of a countywide department. "The county could take charge of setting up the vaccination clinics and tracing people with infections. I think it's a positive thing," Marsh said.

Columbia Borough Council rejects resolution calling for county health department

When: Columbia Borough Council meeting, April 13.

What happened: Borough Council voted against approving a resolution calling on Lancaster County Board of Commissioners to create a county health department. Officials also announced a one-day COVID-19 vaccination clinic and listened to resident comments about a proposed industrial park development.

Health department: Sharon Lintner was the only yes vote on the resolution, which Manheim Township approved last month and sent to every municipality and school district in the county. The document supports creating a county health department. Council did ask Borough Manager Mark Stivers to work with other municipalities as well as the county to research options on what tasks a county health office would cover and who could perform these duties.

Quotable: "I think this is a knee-jerk reaction to the COVID pandemic," Mayor Leo Lutz said of the resolution initiated by Manheim Township. "I can't support another layer of government." Council member Peter Stahl expressed a similar opinion.


Covid-19: On Capitol Hill, Top Health Officials Urge Americans to Get Shots - The New York Times

A third dose of the Covid-19 vaccine will "likely" be needed within a year of vaccination, followed by annual vaccinations, Pfizer's chief executive said.


Here's how Lancaster County townships, boroughs stand on a county health department

Columbia Borough

Borough Council voted against approving a resolution calling on Lancaster County Board of Commissioners to create a county health department at their April 13 council meeting.

"I think this is a knee-jerk reaction to the COVID pandemic," Mayor Leo Lutz said of the resolution initiated by Manheim Township. "I can't support another layer of government." Council member Peter Stahl expressed a similar opinion.


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 approving a resolution to support creation of 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 plant. LASA also assumed $12 million of the borough's debt, as part of the sales agreement.] 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.