Friday’s news items [Giant opens today; council meeting notes; & more] – 11/8/2019


Today | Giant Foods will open in the former Musser’s Store site in West Hempfield Township’s Shoppes at Prospect this morning at 8:00 am.

Not able to attend last night’s council meeting? | You can watch the video here.

Notes from the meeting | • Citizen and Parks & Recreation committee member Susan Love pitched the idea of a Hemp Festival. The festival is an idea that will charge vendors to display and participate in the festival. Parks & Recreation committee “lead councilperson” Pam Williams injected several seemingly rehearsed  comments and questions about the festival. The proceeds for the Hemp Festival will be awarded to the borough. Councillor John Novak observed that the borough is asking groups asking for streetscape events to consider other venues rather than the public street. • Last night’s meeting included a jousting match with Columbia QRS / Lancaster EMS (LEMSA) and Susquehanna Valley SMS. Columbia QRS in engaged in the pursuit of a merger with LEMSA and is seeking status as the borough’s preferred emergency medical services provider. • A touch of class was observed after the meeting as councillor John Novak congratulated Heather Zink on her election as a councillor. Newly elected councillor Howard Stevens also posted this at his facebook page: “I want to thank Councilman Novak who came to me after the meeting and congratulated me on being on the next Council.”

EMS Certification Levels | Introduced into the EMS discussions last night was the subject of emergency medical services staffing. Many people use EMS staffing position interchangeable; there are several levels of EMS Certification in the Commonwealth of PA.

“To Influence Local Politics | Showing Up to Vote Isn’t Enough”Route Fifty

Lancaster Online poll | The news site wants to know, “Tell us your favorite place to get coffee in Lancaster County.” 

Political “Mad Max” | “How the 2019 election could be a preview of voting issues we might face in 2020”Salon

“Lately, a different pattern has been playing out in just about every statewide election | Republicans win in red states, Democrats win in blue states.” – CityLab

It’s growing | “The Suburban Backlash Against the GOP”The Atlantic


  1. It is really easy to make a Congratulations post. It takes real class and strength of character to look someone in the eye and shake their hand. I applaud John for putting aside past differences and offering his hand.

  2. Commenting On The Borough Meeting:

    After the Gordian presentation, Columbia’s favorite cantankerous curmudgeon asked,
    “Who can we cut?”
    I understand the perception that the borough is overloaded with middle management that saps money from our beleaguered taxpayers, but this reactionary mindset is absolutely destructive…

    Technology such as this Gordian software will help “streamline” processes—which, in theory—should allow our borough manager and staff more time to concentrate on other business.

    For the new council members, understand that cutting positions will alleviate some immediate financial constraints—or, appease your voters—but, in the long term, the COST for those positions/people/expertise goes UP.

    Short-term’ism is not only destructive when it comes to running a business, but Government costs as well.

    Also, regarding Mr. Helm’s retirement:

    This is a perfect example—as it was explained by the mayor and borough manager—of a position that requires experience, education and expertise.

    Yes, Mr. Helm is often the whipping boy for borough residents, but I don’t think it was Mr. Helm or the position itself that was the problem, but that he was OVERWORKED. There always seems to be a lack of communication between his department, the council and borough manager.

    Since Heather has already posted in this thread, I wonder if she feels the same… I think there is some opportunity to maybe consolidate/streamline/assist Mr. Helm’s department and successor.

    Also, with Columbia having grown, his scope has been over-extended, and maybe there is just isn’t enough in the budget to hire that department assistance…?

    I dunno.

    • I do agree this is the perfect time to shuffle things around with Jeff’s responsibilities to make it more efficient. That was the intent behind my questions at last night’s work session. I fully appreciate that his position does require a certain skill set and that is the rationale for the salary. I disagree that the position requires the title of manager because the position has a secretary attached to it. In keeping with the idea of shuffling duties, could the secretary be moved to a different department and the job title be changed to zoning officer or lead or something else. This is where I say I dunno but believe it is worth looking into.

      • A few months ago, at a borough council meeting, there was talk of hiring a 6month consultant to revamp/modernize borough operations…? Does anyone remember that? We all know “consultants” cost money, so I don’t know if it was cost prohibitive or it would be seen as more “wasteful spending.”

        I’m not sure if this actually within council members scope, but there appears to be a HUGE opportunity to properly codify policy and procedures, citizen requests…all that. The ongoing argument of charging for photocopies is a great example of this. It’s nearly 2020, why the heck is this not down in black and white?

        Attending/watching borough meetings in my time living in Columbia, I’ve seen a lot of “oh shit” and “blank stare” moments from council members… This is often interpreted as trickery or back door dealings by citizens. I actually don’t think so. I think it’s just a lack of communication and operational standards.

      • Mr./Ms. Just an Observer: Wonder whether you’re referring to the borough’s consenting to contract “Kathy McCool for Human Resources Professional Services in a 7-0 vote on June 11, 2019?

        That’s the only consulting scenario we recall.

        Columbia Spy, in this post ( wrote: (Council President Kelly) “Murphy said the HR person will be on board for three months to complete all the required duties at $75 an hour with an estimated total of $20,375.

  3. We dunno’ know either. Everyone has their own opinions on how to run a business, household or Cub Scout troop. People fashion decisions based on education, training, and experience operating within the system they function.

    In our experience working in private sector, we had to justify expenses and expense projections each year – sometimes in a zero-based budget model. If we could not justify, we could not expend on anything: capital or personnel. If revenues failed to match the anticipated numbers, we would revise the budget and eliminate planned expenses – sometimes at the cost of reducing personnel.

    This we know, however, Columbia is not growing in population. Here are the US Census numbers since the 1990 Census:

    1990 … 10,701
    2000 … 10,311
    2010 … 10,400
    2018 … 10,369 (estimated)

    • Here is where we venture into that tricky territory/discussion/opinion:

      Should Government Be Run Like A Business?

      Does the ole motto, “You Gotta Spend Money To Make Money!” apply?

      Does Keynesian Deficit Spending work?
      (The Washington DC Thinking Class sure thinks so!)

      But, for an economically depressed area like Columbia, that does need “growth” (ie businesses/long term home ownership etc) to invigorate and stabilize its tax base, does one take a short term or long term view? I think the current council always had a long term view, but at some point it, they lost “balance.” Which is pretty critical for your business/government…

      Also, in my earlier career in the “business world” I experienced the same, so I completely agree, but, it also goes back to the question of “Should Government Be Run Like A Business?”

      I think that deserves another, I Dunno… Ha

      (Also, on the Columbia Borough Election Commentary Facebook page–yes, trigger warning–there is a screenshot from a Jonathon Lutz comment that sums up the short-term/long-term argument quite well.)

      Also, I misspoke on the “Columbia growth…”

      Growth as in: more HARB issues/meetings, code enforcement, code violations, buildings being condemned, buildings being refurbished…has that taken from Mr. Helm’s department/focus?

      I was recently on City Data looking at the latest statistics for Columbia, I was surprised to see that the population has remained relatively stable.

    • There was no REPLY button to your response about hiring the consultant:

      Yes! That was what I was referring to.

      Thanks you.

      Also, it’s Mister.


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