As I am sure you are aware, UGI is “upgrading” its underground services under various streets, and on numerous private properties, within this Borough. I own several commercial Business properties (in Columbia) which are being affected by the upgrade. I attempted to speak at (a recent) Council Meeting and was denied the floor, and was personally assured by the Mayor and Council members that they “had already discussed the matter and everything was under control.”
When I am assured that everything is under control in this borough, it just means that the Council is clueless as to what is happening on the street, and in this case, the State Legislature. Be aware that:
- UGI rushed into Columbia to begin street work because of new PA legislation which has already passed the State Senate, and will soon pass the House; that legislation sets down new rules for citizens to become connected to gas services. The bill is Senate Bill 738 and is known as the “Natural Gas Consumer Access Act,” intended to “help expand natural gas service to unserved and underserved areas of the state.” By rushing ahead in Columbia – UGI will likely avoid the new state rules which are designed to help ALL property owners, and small business owners (Senate Bill 739) obtain gas service at reasonable hook-up fees.
- UGI is not “stubbing-out” gas service to every building on our street, only to existing and active gas users. Some residents who asked for new service have been denied. In all new development projects in the state, UGI MUST provide gas connections to every street address in most Boroughs. This Borough could demand the same of UGI to avoid digging up every street, every year.
- Because of (2) above, UGI will continue to dig up the street anew, every time someone seeks to be added to their grid. In the last two years this street has been assaulted at least five times for gas hookups – one of them was mine, so I know what I am talking about. Next year we can expect this block will, if the average is continued, be dug up 3-5 more times. UGI confirmed that such digging would likely occur as soon as they have finished their current work.
- It is also my understanding that all WATER mains will next be dug up to comply with new regulations next year.
- The contractor for the current UGI work is from Indianapolis, Indiana and so they have no stake whatsoever in the timing or quality of the work being done in Columbia.
- The quality of the work being done to Locust Street sidewalks by UGI contractors is atrocious. Most of these sidewalks were just newly replaced and paid for directly by homeowners themselves as part of Lincoln Highway renovations about five years ago. Business with ADA access had to fight to keep their ramps open to the public. Contractors are making small and ugly cuts at every outside connection they are adding, rather than replacing the entire segment of sidewalk they are damaging—obviously this is cheaper for UGI, but disastrous for homeowners.
- I have closed my business to the public during the busiest time of the tourist season here, when two major historical street activities are being carried out, in part because of confusing police street signs and lack of supervision of the project by Borough personnel. I also closed the business because of (a) daily onslaughts of dust from construction, on an already dirty street, (b) ongoing noise which makes habitation difficult, and business impossible, as well as (c) daily stop and start demands for reconfiguring my personal property to suit UGI’s contractors so they do not have to pay for damages caused on my property.
- I understand that permit requests for this street work were held at Borough offices for months, with no action taken until the last minute—homeowners and public event planners were not advised when and how this work was to begin. In short, there is no evidence Columbia Borough has exercised any planning or management of its street’s destruction and certainly not their rebuilding.
- I cannot speak for any other businesses, but I for one will likely remain closed permanently, and am actively seeking sites elsewhere—or I will move my operation back overseas, where we flourished for more than 20 years. Clearly Columbia is not a place to do serious business. Its behavior confirms Pennsylvania’s rightful place as the U.S.’s 39th worst state to do business, a state moving down the list about seven states each year – PA may soon make it the top worst place to do business in the US.
- Two hours of my precious time was wasted at the last council meeting while the group spent at least half its meeting time trying to decide what actions they had approved in prior meetings. Doesn’t the Borough own ONE laptop? This is a sad excuse for governance and one I am no longer prepared to waste my personal time in this setting.
A citizen and business owner