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Agenda and notes | July 13, 2015 council meeting

In Everyday Living, Government, In Columbia, Lists on July 14, 2015 at 8:02 am

A three-page agenda greeted the just under a dozen people who came to the Columbia Borough council meeting last night. Seated around the u-shaped table configured at the head of the room were the seven councillors, the solicitor, the former-borough-manager-now-contractor substituting for the acting-borough-manager-who-is-on-illness-leave-following-surgery and the borough’s assistant secretary/treasurer. Only the mayor, of the elected public servants, was absent from the meeting.

The meeting was called to order by the council president at 7:04 pm; it was adjourned at 9:40 pm.

A couple notes on some of the topics discussed follow below:

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  • Three news outlet representatives, including this one, attended the meeting. Columbia news, views & reviews consistently and regularly encourages citizens to attend meetings so they can hear, see and question what’s being said during transactions. Reading reports or listening to second-hand information from someone who may have been at the meeting provides, at best, superficial and selective accounts of what actually transpired or was said. Columbia news, views & reviews does record all public meetings and offers copies of the meetings. If you want a copy of the audio recording, send an email to 17512@mail.com.

Read the rest of this entry »

changes and no changes

In Everyday Living, Government, In Columbia, Lists, Opinions, Opportunities on July 8, 2015 at 6:14 am


NO CHANGES … An armed robbery attempt on one side of town gets no police mention on its facebook page.

Another robbery attempt just outside of the other side of town gets police mention on its facebook page.

But … shortly after 2:00 pm todaythere’s this.

WAIT A MINUTEIsn’t this the Website that the mayor told everyone that the borough police department would be partnered with soon? Didn’t he say that months ago?

MANOR TOWNSHIP and WEST HEMPFIELD TOWNSHIP are on the Website already!

TIME TO TAKE THIS NOTICE OFF THE BOROUGH WEBSITE: “Special Joint Meeting of Columbia Municipal Authority and Borough Council, Monday, July 6, 2015 6 pm to consider approval of an Alternative and Clean Energy Program Digester Project .” [NOTE: the notice has been removed, 6:03, 7/10/15]

WRIGHTSVILLE’s Police Department updates its citizens with facebook posts!

2 CHANGES … There’s a new face coming to Columbia soon. Look for this logo to replace the downtown bank: Susquehanna Bank. NEW LOGO

BB&T Corp. announced Tuesday that state and federal regulators have signed off on the Winston-Salem-based bank’s plans to purchase Susquehanna Bank.

“The $2.5 billion cash-and-stock deal is now expected to be completed on Aug. 1, with the conversion of Susquehanna’s (NASDAQ: SUSQ) accounts, operations and facilities to BB&T (NYSE: BBT) to be completed during the fourth quarter.”

Columbia will back away from $300K grant this time

In Everyday Living, Government, In Columbia, Lists, Opportunities, People on July 6, 2015 at 9:57 pm


Assembled in the Columbia Borough council chambers for the joint meeting of the Columbia borough council and the Municipal Authority were the seven councillors and four Authority members – Ray McCarty was absent. Council president Mike Buery convened the meeting at 6:02 pm; the meeting was convened at 8:12 pm.

Others in attendance for the presentation of information were representatives from Tetra Tech, Columbia Borough’s Wastewater Manager, John Bender, the mayor, the acting borough manager (newly returned from medical leave), the assistant secretary/treasurer and fewer than five citizens. Tetra Tech is worldwide provider of consulting, engineering, and technical services with over 13,000 employees and revenues exceeding $2.5 billion.

After a presentation from three TetraTech employees followed by comments and questions from citizens, councillors, municipal authority members, the mayor, the acting borough manager and the wastewater manager, in separate balloting, the Municipal Authority members and the councillors voted to not pursue the $300,000 grant agreement with the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Finance Agency.

On the separate issue of transferring the proceeds from the sale of the Sewer Collection System, each entity voted to transfer the $8.6 million to the Borough’s Capital Fund.

During the two hour meeting, a broad array of topics relevant to the proposed “pre-preliminary” presentation about using the current wastewater treatment facility as an anerobic digester system prompted numerous suppositions, claims, questions, suggestions and … well, more questions.

Among the statements, questions and comments heard at tonight’s meeting were these:

  • There was an observation made that a LNP – Always Lancaster reporter had inaccurately reported what was said in this article.
  • The payback period on the estimated $2,327,275 digester system was put at 16 years. This report states, “The typical simple payback for a biogas plant may be about seven years as long as the existing government incentive program is available and biogas energy is produced continuously without interruption except for scheduled regular maintenance. Some experiences in North America show that biogas energy production is often interrupted due to unforeseen maintenance and process related issues.”
  • The anerobic digester would generate an estimated 92 kW per day.
  • Among the benefits of constructing the system: retention of quality jobs
  • The proposed $300,000 grant from the Alternative and Clean Energy Program Digester Project requires a matching $300,000 of borough funds.
  • The feedstock chain for the proposed site was unclear. “Feedstocks refer to the crops or products, like waste vegetable oil, that can be used as or converted into biofuels and bioenergy. Each feedstock has advantages and disadvantages in terms of how much usable material they yield, where they can grow and how energy and water-intensive they are.”
  • Is the anerobic digester program dead? Not yet, more details will have to be provided.

This British Website claims, “The key to a viable and sustainable anerobic digester project is a secure supply of quality feedstock. Common feedstock streams are described below and include:

Columbia news, views & reviews consistently and regularly encourages citizens to attend meetings so they can hear, see and question what’s being said during transactions. Reading reports or listening to second-hand information from someone who may have been at the meeting provides, at best, superficial and selective accounts of what actually transpired or was said.

Columbia news, views & reviews does record all public meetings and offers copies of the meetings. If you want a copy of the audio recording, send an email to 17512@mail.com.

When bad stuff happens in Ephrata, people know it

In Everyday Living, Government, In Columbia, Opportunities on July 6, 2015 at 12:37 pm

This Lancaster Online article begins, “More than a dozen vehicles were broken into in Ephrata Borough overnight Thursday, police said.

Gee, the Police Department even posts notices on its facebook page.

And the department’s Website.

So unlike another place we know, it’s likely to presume Ephrata would have released information if a bunch of cars had slashed tires.

Meanwhile, in Lancaster, citizens actually get to see the council meeting agenda hours before the meeting.

And how about adding an agenda item for an upcoming council meeting? Reinstate the four parking meeters in the spaces that were removed on Fourth Street when the diagnostic center came on the scene. Let’s get that meter revenue reinstated.


And let’s get back those four parking spaces.

Tonight’s joint “special meeting”

In Everyday Living, Government, In Columbia, Lists, Opinions, Opportunities on July 6, 2015 at 7:01 am

It’s right there on the borough Website: “Special Joint Meeting of Columbia Municipal Authority and Borough Council, Monday, July 6, 2015 6 pm to consider approval of an Alternative and Clean Energy Program Digester Project .”

The published legal notice says a bit more: “Notice is hereby given that a Joint Special Meeting of Columbia Borough Council and Columbia Municipal Authority will be held on Monday, July 6, 2015 at 6:00 p.m. in the Borough Hall, 308 Locust Street, Columbia, PA to consider approval of an Alternative and Clean Energy Program Digester Project and any other necessary Borough and/or Authority business. If you are a person with a disability wishing to attend and require an accommodation to participate in the meeting, please contact the Borough Office at 717-684-2467. Georgianna Schreck Assistant Secretary/ Treasurer.”

A couple months ago, a Lancaster Online article  noted that Columbia Borough would be the first in the state to have one like this and would be eligible for a “$1,449,952 loan and a $300,000 grant” to build an “anaerobic digester at its wastewater treatment plant that would use food waste, delivered by truck from area food-processing plants and other sources.”

This Website, though, shows three Pennsylvania municipalities operating “Biogas Conditioning Systems.”

What is a Digester? The American Biogas Council explains “How bio-gas systems work.”

Well, digesters are big with dairy farmers, especially since the commonwealth rolled out a grant and low-interest loan program. Dairies, too, have readily available raw materials needed to digest. Cow poop, and pig poop, it appears produce significant amounts of methane, and “Methane is both a potent greenhouse gas and a valuable source of energy,” according to this federal government report.

digesterPennsylvania has 30 dairy digesters, including the one shown at Oregon Dairy, as well as around 5 swine digesters. About 10 of those have been installed since 2010.” – biocycle.net

According to a 2011 Department of Community and Economic Development news release, “These projects also will have a positive effect on the communities surrounding them by diverting waste from landfills to be used as organic fertilizers, and reducing the consumption of electricity from the power grid.” DCED’s Alternative and Clean Energy Program details are listed here.

The same news release revealed, “Yippee Farms will receive $1.1 million in grants and loans from the Alternative and Clean Energy program for the purchase and installation of an anaerobic digester that will produce biogas from manure and food waste to generate electricity at its dairy farm in Rapho Township, Lancaster County.  The digester will provide annual energy production of 3,354,762 kWh, exceeding the farm’s current electrical consumption of approximately 1,200,000 kWh. The total project cost is $2.2 million.”

Obstacles to Further Development or Deployment of Anaerobic Digesters


“Controlled anaerobic digestion requires sustaining somewhat delicate microbial ecosystems. Digesters must be kept at certain temperatures to produce biogas, and the introduction of inorganic or non-digestible waste can damage systems. Performance issues with agricultural digesters in the 1980’s stalled their development and damaged their reputation amongst farmers. Improvements have been made to the current generation of digesters, but questions about long-term reliability still remain.”

Investment uncertainty

“Installation, siting, and the operation of digesters remain costly. When biogas is utilized for energy, agricultural digesters have a payback period of around 3 to 7 years; WWTP digesters have a payback period of less than 3 years, and less if food wastes are also accepted as co-digestion fuel. Financial incentives have helped to catalyze the development of digesters with longer payback periods, but uncertainty about long-term support for digester projects, in the form of tax incentives or subsidies, has impeded development.”

Interconnection with the electricity grid

“While the Energy Policy Act of 2005 required net metering (the ability for electricity consumers to sell electricity generated on-site back to a utility) to be offered to consumers upon request in every state, disparate policy implementation and electricity rates have hindered wide-scale adoption of anaerobic digesters for electricity generation from agricultural sources. California, for example, does not allow utility providers to apply standby charges, minimum monthly charges, or interconnection fees, but utility providers do not buy back excess electricity, leading many farmers to burn-off excess gas rather than to provide the utilities with free energy to the grid. Further hindering adoption are varying limits on the amount of electricity that may be sold back to the grid under net metering rules. The situation should improve as electricity providers gain experience in incorporating anaerobic digesters into the electrical grid.”

There can be personal safety hazards, too. This Penn State report states, “Anaerobic digestion systems and associated manure storage and handling present many safety hazards.”

Ontario’s Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs’ Website has a great deal more about Anaerobic Digestion Basics.

Guess you’ll have to come to tonight’s joint meeting to get all the poop and more answers about the $1,449,952 loan and a $300,000 grant and the intended particulars.


just as the councillor said it would be

In Everyday Living, Government, History and Heritage, In Columbia, Opportunities, The Susquehanna on July 5, 2015 at 9:50 pm

One of the councillors has been railing against the unseen maintenance expenses that would be coming at the River Park. Appears the councillor’s sometime tirades may have some accuracy. Or maybe not.

The beautiful new Columbia Crossings building is loaded with unattractive spider webs loaded with victims. Visitors to the structure will not be impressed with the lack of attention and maintenance.



So if the borough doesn’t maintain the building and allows visitors to see the lack of attention to periodic eradication of spider webs in the structure and on the light and spy camera standards, the borough will will not spend money. If the borough does decide to keep up the building, it will add to labor costs, so the councillor will have been on target.


The flotsam that’s accumulated by one of the floating docks, too, presents the same issue. Clean it or let it go. It depends on the message that the borough wants to present to park visitors.

Noticed these visitors at the Park on Sunday afternoon. But they did not use any of the very scarce parking spaces in the park.


Nice to see the pavilion being used; but a pressing issue turns up when Columbia Crossing visitors, pavilion guests and others look for parking.


Parking on the grassy area is for overflow parking vehicles with trailers. The reality of having your cake and eating it too is that the majority of parking spaces at the River Park, aka boat launch or marina, are for vehicles with trailers. Visitors to the park, well, you’re on your own.


Visitors may have to exercise their creative expertise and park along the access road to the grassy area behind the gated access point to the huge grassy area just beyond the kayak rental place. But once they find a parking space, the majesty of the River or the breathtaking splendor of the Bridge provides truly awesome photo opportunities.


Fish-for-Free Day (tomorrow) is great way for families to “catch” the fun of fishing!

In Everyday Living, Government, In Columbia, Opportunities on July 3, 2015 at 7:26 am


Tomorrow is one of Pennsylvania’s Fish-For-Free days: “Fish-for-Free Days allow anyone (resident or non-resident) to legally fish on Pennsylvania waterways on the designated days with NO FISHING LICENSE REQUIRED (Trout/Salmon and Lake Erie permits are also NOT required). All other fishing regulations still apply.

Have you noticed? Daylight hours are getting shorter; sigh, winter’s coming.

from the little read, back of the paper, small print “Legal notices”

In Everyday Living, Government, In Columbia, Lists on July 1, 2015 at 7:25 am

Property seizure: $685.00 seized 10/11/13 at 137-141 Locust St.,Room 202, Columbia, PA.

LEGAL NOTICE Notice is hereby given that a Joint Special Meeting of Columbia Borough Council and Columbia Municipal Authority will be held …

Well done, CPD!

In Everyday Living, Government, In Columbia, Opinions, Opportunities, People on June 30, 2015 at 5:52 am

This picture (below) is posted at the “You know you’re from Columbia if … ” facebook page. It is, in fact, a page from the “community policing” textbook. And the Columbia Police Department has posted more facebook posts in the past three days that for the previous 27 days of the month.

cpd hoops

“Community policing is a philosophy that guides police management style and operational strategies. It emphasizes establishment of police-community partnerships and a problem-solving approach that is responsive to the needs of the community.

“One of the major objectives of community policing efforts is to establish an active partnership between the police and the community that can analyze problems and design and help implement solutions and services that are truly community-based. This requires the police to make a conscious effort to create an atmosphere in which community partners actively and willingly co-operate with the police.” – SOURCE: University of California at Irvine Police Department

community policingEngaged law enforcement departments actively and consistently use social media to connect and communicate with its citizens. For instance, the East Lampeter Police Department posts regularly about finding a mission elderly man, crime incidents in the township and more.

Monday’s council meeting of the whole | a l-o-o-n-n-n-g one.

In Everyday Living, Government, In Columbia, Lists, Opinions, Opportunities, People on June 23, 2015 at 6:36 am

The monthly council meeting of the whole took up the entire night last night as the borough’s elected public servants proved their mettle during discussions of a myriad of agenda and non-agenda items. Six of the seven councillors were in attendance (Mary Barninger was not), as was the mayor, the contracted surrogate for the acting borough manager who is on illness leave and the borough financial officer. (NOTE: Though Ronald L. Miller’s name appears on the agenda as the Borough Manager, his title is “acting” Borough Manager.)

The meeting lasted four hours and 50 minutes. At times throughout the night as many as a dozen people filled the gallery chairs, though when the adjournment gavel was tapped at 10:50 pm the gallery chairs were nearly empty.

Among the items discussed were these:

  • Call center on hold – In an “oh, yeah” moment, the mayor said that none of the five bids for the Lancaster County call center were accepted and a re-bidding process will begin. Appears the new bid opening date is July 6.Someone suggested that there may be an element of “favoritism” in the process. The mayor said that the state elected public servants who represent Columbia had sent letters of support of the Columbia developer’s bid to the governor’s office.
  • There’s now one – The councillors beamed as Jay Barninger reported that the borough will have one fire department. In practice, he said, personnel and other resources of Columbia No. 1 and Susquehanna Fire and Rescue and the Columbia Fire Police have begun to merge will merge personnel and other resources and will operate as a single municipal fire fighting resource. The Columbia Borough Fire Department will complete the final documentation processes over the coming weeks. Columbia will have one fire department.


  • Not yet Paris, but it’s a start – Council did a “hurry-up” assessment of the Columbia Kettle Works request for outdoor, sidewalk seating as it ran the discussion through the seated members of the council public safety committee and ultimately voted to allow sidewalk seating. The borough’s code allows for outdoor dining (“A new Section 8-201.20, Outdoor Dining, shall be added:”). Last night’s vote approved six feet of the 12 foot wide sidewalk to be used for sidewalk dining. Under the banner of “economic development,” the mayor and the councillors endorsed outdoor dining as a positive move. Hinkle’s already has outdoor seating on Locust Street, though no outdoor server is serving food at the tables there.
  • “We’re dying,” gasped someone, a provider of services, in the public gallery during the conversation whether to allow sidewalk dining. Despite the recent editorial optimism, the reality of adding sidewalk dining is seen as a step towards economic development.
  • London Bridge is not the only thing that’s falling down. The structure at 210 Locust Street has been in disrepair for years some said. The building has “no beams in the basement” and is being supported only by the walls. A neighboring building owner said that “two boys and not a certified contractor” had done the alleged mitigation on the structure. And there’d been “insufficient plans for over two years.” Lots of discussion about this building and the one at 421 (rear) Walnut Street ensued. Apparently the residents living at 421 Walnut who are impacted by the back of the building will be asked to leave by Friday as the building will be condemned. 421 Walnut Street property owner.210 Locust Street property owner.

stop sign

  • More stop signs coming? Council approved a motion to have traffic studies accomplished to determine whether four-way stop signs are merited at a bunch of Columbia intersections: 10th and Chestnut – 10th and Manor – 4th and mill – 8th and Chestnut.
  • Save the dates: August 4 – National Night Out. Citizens will be asked to bring food to “fill a police car.” The food contributions will be contributed to the Columbia Food Bank. September 12 – Columbia’s Yard Sale.
  • Sewer sale profits. Susquehanna Bank – soon to be BBNT folks were at the meeting pitching the councillors to invest the sewer sale profits to capture more yield with their “wealth management” companies. They touted their investment philosophy that included Certificates of Deposit and government agency bonds and their “relationship” style.   [NOTE:  One of the members of the Municipal Authority is a branch manager with Susquehanna Bank.] Will other financial entities with Columbia footprints make presentations, too? Wells Fargo? Union Community Bank? Norwest Savings Bank? Others?
  • Another bid to manage Columbia Crossing. Chris Vera, executive director of the Columbia Historic Preservation Society, delivered a presentation that would have him and Daisy Pagan be the management entity for the new building at the River Park. Pagan is the principal of Perfect Settings. Showing a presentation on the wall (one that was mostly not legible to the gallery), he made a presentation touting their plan to manage the facility. The councillors approved a motion to have them vetted as a provider of professional services. In Pennsylvania, professional services contractors are asked to provide scope of work details and credentials including proof of delivery and educational / background competence. This serves to “invite competition, to guard against favoritism, improvidence, extravagance, fraud and corruption in the awarding of municipal contracts, and to secure the best work or supplies at the lowest price practicable, and are enacted for the benefit of property holders and taxpayers, and not for the benefit or enrichment of bidders, and should be so construed and administered as to accomplish such purpose fairly and reasonably with sole reference to the public interest.”
  • And, yeah, there’ll be a new police car.

Agenda page one

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Agenda page two

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