Monday, March 8, 2010

Borough council notebook

Zoning change delayed

The council will hold a special meeting on March 23 at 6 p.m. to discuss a change to its zoning ordinances concerning highway and commercial issues.
The change was to be voted on at Monday’s meeting because of some late changes made to the ordinance.
A number of people had packed the meeting to discuss the changes, but left when Council President Mary Wickenheiser said the vote would be delayed.
One person who did stay and address the council was Eric White, who owns a property at 14 Lancaster Avenue. He said he spoke to a number of people who had attended previous meetings who were not in favor of the proposed changes.

Council invited to Relay for Life
Borough Council was invited to attend and participate in a Relay for Life event at Elizabethtown High School, June 25-26.

River Park project is questioned
Resident Tony Mosteller questioned the council on the River Park project, which hasn’t been worked on because of the weather.
“We are going to have to spend more money on this park to make it right,” Mosteller said.
He was told that construction would resume this week.

Questions about festival
Frank Little Bear, representing a Native American Pow-Wow, held in June and October at the Columbia Consolidated Fire Department, 10th and Mifflin streets, spoke about the two upcoming events and who he would speak with about getting concerns addressed.
He was told to meet with Jeff Helm, the borough’s code enforcement officer.

Engineer change is questioned
Former Councilmen Vern Detz questioned why the borough changed engineers last month at its previous firm, Arro Consulting to C.S. Davidson.
“I have a problem with that,” Detz said.
The former councilmen said Arro had representatives at three meetings in January and appeared to have no idea that they were going to be replaced.
“We had some issues with Arro and they were aware of it,” said Mary Wickenheiser, council president.
“C.S. Davidson offered us better services,” Norm Meiskey, borough manager said.
Detz also asked if the proper documents were sent to Lancaster County for the borough to get some money back for its recent snow removal efforts and if borough employees were getting both overtime and comp time as the result of the recent snow.
Meiskey said the proper documents were submitted for the snow removal reimbursement and employees could either take the overtime or comp time, but not both.

Route 441 paving is upcoming
Resident Heather McDonald questioned why various areas of Locust Street were marked with paint.
She was told its part of PennDOT’s plan to resurface Route 441 through Columbia down to Route 999 in Manor Township.

New way to communicate
Mayor Leo Lutz asked residents to check out the borough’s new communication tool at He said the tool will allow the borough to post messages on the site and communicate with residents via a text message on their cell phone or via email on their computer.
“Without a newspaper anymore, it puts us in an awkward position in being able to communicate with residents,” Lutz said.
The system started working this past week when the borough was able to post for residents it was time to remove their parking aides used during the snow storms to save parking places.
Lutz also reminded the council there is a workshop on March 26 for the 2010 Urban Enhancement Fund program.

In other business:
* The council awarded a contract for street materials to Highway Materials in the amount of $193,225.
* Approved a request from the Holy Trinity Parish to close the 400 block of Cherry Street, Junt 9-12 from 6-9 p.m. for its annual festival.
* Appointed Jamie Hess to the Zoning Hearing Board.
* Announced that the annual Columbia Spring Clean-up will be held Friday, April 16 from 7 a.m. to noon. Information on the event can be obtained at the borough office.
* Announced Sahd’s Salvage will hold its annual Earth Day celebration on Saturday, April 24.
* Issued a letter of support for the Rivertownes USA plans to light the Veteran’s Memorial Bridge.

Turkey Hill deadline extended

Monday night, Columbia Borough Council approved an extension of a deadline to settle on the property that will become the Turkey Hill Experience at Third and Linden streets.

The deadline, which was to be March 15, was extended Monday night by borough council until no later than March 31.

Council has an agreement with the Columbia Economic Development Corporation to sell the former Silk Mill property to Museum Partners, who will create the Turkey Hill Experience.

During the citizen comment portion of the meeting, Frank Doutrich asked the council is they had seen a signed contract with Turkey Hill and if the borough would be open to receiving another offer for the land.

“I feel council wants Turkey Hill to go in there and they are not pressuring Turkey Hill to get it done,” Doutrich said.

Doutrich was told by Councilmen Mike Beury that the borough is close to an agreement with Turkey Hill, holding two of his fingers about an inch apart.

“It would be ignorant and stupid to look for someone else at this point,” Beury said.

Council President Mary Wickenheiser said the extension was needed to settle some soil issues with the Department of Environmental Protection.

“They should be settled later this week or next week,” the council president said.

Another former member of the council, Vern Detz, also questioned the extension.

Sweeper running, sort of

The street sweeper, which has been out of action since last year was out and about over the last few days.

However, the sweeper isn’t running its regular routes yet, but residents should be aware the sweeper is starting to come around and move their vehicles as posted.

The running of the sweeper was questioned by Frank Doutrich and Heather McDonald, a resident of the 100 block of Locust Street.

Council President Mary Wickenheiser said the borough is working on a new schedule for the sweeper.

Skateboarding concerns stil exist

Columbia Borough Council at its meeting Monday night had some more questions about skateboarding in the borough.

Shirley McBride also thanked the mayor for his recent “Letter to the Editor” to the Lancaster Newspapers explaining the borough’s position with skateboarding in the borough.

But, she suggested those wanting to be involved in a skate park get together at a dinner table and discuss it over coffee. Then, they could come to the borough with a design and the borough would listen.

She also said at the same time, she would start calling police because of a pending “nightmare” on Perry Street where she lives involving between 12 and 15 young people and their skateboards.

“They are very rude and would rather harass the neighbors,” she said. “We can’t handle these kids.”

McBride said she knows there is still money available for the construction of a skate park.

Another resident, Frank Doutrich said he wished Lutz would have taken his letter a little farther and explained that when there was a skate park in Columbia, the borough had to spend hours cleaning up.

“Council had the opportunity to eliminate skateboarding in Columbia, like Marietta, but they didn’t do it,” Doutrich said.

Conduct reports increase

Mayor Leo Lutz reported there was a recent meeting between himself, the police department and code enforcement officials with the Lancaster County Housing and Redevelopment Authority concerning housing regulations, particularly in Section 8 units and how they are abusing the system.

“Since Aug. 2, we have written 60 disruptive conduct reports and there have been four evictions because of violations of our three strike policy,” Lutz said.

Also, the mayor said in four cases, the Section 8 status of the people have been revoked because of abuse of the system.

“The authority is very happy with Columbia that we are clamping down on the abuse and its getting some attention,” the mayor said.

Citizen comment changes not well received

When borough council reorganized in January one of the things they looked at were ways to improve the flow of their monthly meetings.

Last month, borough council changed some of the rules how they will entertain citizen comments at the beginning of the meeting. In the past during that portion of the meeting, there was debate among members of the council, staff and Mayor Leo Lutz and citizens. With the change, council will wait until after a citizen speaks and if they (the council) wants to answer a citizen’s question and make a comment, they can, or just move on.

It was a topic of conversation at Monday’s meeting between citizens and members of the council.

The citizens, who spoke didn’t like the change and some on the council said they weren’t sure about the change, but were willing to give it a chance to see if it works.

“We don’t want this (citizen comments) to turn into a question and answer session. If at the end, if staff and the council want to respond, they can,” said Mary Wickenheiser, council president.

The first to speak against the change was Tony Mosteller, a resident of the 800 block of Locust Street.

“That is something else,” Mosteller said, adding there is an election next year and a number of residents will be voting for him on the ballot.

Two former members of borough council also spoke on the issue.

Frank Doutrich said he’s not against the change “as long as everybody is for it.”

“I like the open dialogue,” Doutrich said.

Doutrich said he felt the change was allowing the council to “be selective on who they wanted to speak (at meetings) and what and who you want to answer too.”

“The format sucks,” Doutrich said.

He also questioned why the meetings are no longer tape recorded. He was told that because of the new public records law, meetings haven’t been taped in more than a year.

Wickenheiser after Doutrich spoke defended the change.

“This was how it was when I first came on council back in 2000,” she said. We should try to do this again.”

Councilmen Mike Beury said, “I am not happy with it either, but I am willing to give it a shot.”

Mary Barninger, council’s vice-president said she was vocal about the change.

“I am not convinced it is right to provide the citizens with answers that might not be what they need or want to hear,” Barninger said.

Another member of council, Kelly Murphy, said he was also “not comfortable” with the change, but it shouldn’t become an issue at every meeting.

Another former member of the council, Vern Detz said during his questioning of the council said he didn’t like the fact that he would ask a question and may not get an answer.

Please stop ringing the bell!

Resident Shirley McBride asked borough council at its meeting why when she goes to Market a bell gets rung.

“It’s very annoying,” she said.

She said when she was younger if someone rang a bell “you better show up” or it was “time to eat.”

Borough Manager Norm Meiskey said the bell ringing is “a customer satisfaction bell,” rung when a customer receives satisfactory service.

Police regionalization moves forward

Mayor Leo Lutz said at Monday’s borough council meeting that a meeting was held last week with six municipalities in western Lancaster County to discuss regionalization of police services.

At the meeting, which was the second held, Lutz said the municipalities discussed issues ranging from sharing services to a complete regionalization of police.

Lutz, who did not identify those municipalities who attended the meeting, but did say a representative from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development was also in attendance.

He said that letters of intent have been sent to the municipalities involved and once those letters are signed and returned, DCED will begin a feasibility study that could take up to one year to complete.

“The results will be reviewed and we can take out of that what we want,” Lutz said.

Being discussed are the sharing of services to include a major crash investigation unit, truck weighing and inspections and the standardization on firearms and ammunition.

“We want to see if we can offer a better level of service or if the level of service will remain the same,” Lutz said.

One thing the group did agree on was not to make any purchases or do any projects while the talks are ongoing.

“Things are going well and we want to keep things moving,” the mayor said.

“We are learning to work together and I’m really excited about this,” Lutz said.

“We are being very open and knowledge sharing so that there are no surprises,” Lutz said.

Break-ins are reported to police

The West Hempfield Township Police Department  is investigating a number of vehicle break-ins and thefts between March 6 and 7.
The vehicles entered were reported in the 500 and 600 block of South 16th Street and all were unlocked.
Taken in one of the break-ins was a Garmen GPS unit.
.Anyone with information is asked to contact the West Hempfield Twp PD at 285-5191.

Attention Mountville residents

The Mountville Borough Neighborhood Crime Watch will be meeting on  Tuesday, March 9 at 7 p.m. at the Mountville Area Community Center.
The highlights of the meeting will include “Meet and Greet” with members of the West Hempfield Township Police Department as well as a presentation of Mountville Borough anticipated “Facebook” sight to be demonstrated by Borough Mayor Phil Kresge.
“The West Hempfield Township Police Department started patrolling the Borough on Jan. 1 and believe that it is important for the residents of the Borough to have an opportunity to meet our officers.” stated Chief Mark Pugliese, “We will also give a short presentation on what our department and our officers have to offer as well as give those in attendance the opportunity to ask questions.”
The importance of Neighborhood Crime Watches Program is to teach the residents how to recognize
suspicious activity and how to report it. Crime Watch programs also teach individuals ways to reduce their
risk from becoming a victim of a crime. Additionally they also provide the opportunity for neighbors to get
to know each other as well as build relationships between residents and their police department.
Upcoming meetings have been tentatively scheduled for June 8 where the topic of discussion will focus
on Computer, Internet and Social Networking Safety and for Sept. 14 where the topic of discussion
will be on self defense.
All meetings are to be held at the Mountville Area Community Center.