Columbia Columbia Market House.jpg

Columbia Borough is partnering with CHI St. Joseph Children’s Health to revamp the Columbia Market House building and reinstate a farmers market with a restaurant. The farmers market that previously operated in the building closed in 2017.

When: Council meeting, Aug. 13.

What happened: Council voted to issue requests for proposals for five different professional services contracts, including the borough solicitor and auditor, two positions that have been filled by the same firms for several decades. Council also voted to advertise for requests for proposals for a new parking meter technician, a firm to do work on a survey of a proposed expansion of the borough’s historic district, and one to conduct a study of parking in the downtown area. Council also approved a proposal to retain Capital Construction Management to provide a cost estimate on proposed interior renovations to the Columbia Market House.

Why it matters: The requests for proposals are being issued as part of the budget planning process for 2020. Some of the services being sought are due to specific projects. For example, the historic district survey is a required step in the process of getting the state to approve expanding the district. The parking survey is to help the borough decide on how to best utilize a $1.75 million state grant awarded to help make parking improvements to support downtown revitalization efforts. The parking meter technician, who will replace a retiring current vendor, will help keep the borough’s old parking meters operational while the borough decides on how to replace the obsolete current meters, for which spare parts are no longer being manufactured. The solicitor is the borough’s legal counsel, and the auditors provide the state-mandated annual review of the borough’s books.

Background: While the new contracts are no surprise, the decision to issue requests for proposals for auditing and legal services could mean the end of relationships with firms that have served Columbia for decades. Council President Kelly Murphy said Sager, Swisher and Co. has been Columbia’s auditors for “nobody really knows how long, 35 or 40 years.” Zimmerman, Pfannebecker, Nuffort & Albert has been the borough’s solicitor even longer, dating to before the firm was founded. Robert L. Pfannebecker, the firm’s managing partner, served as Columbia’s solicitor for several years prior to joining the firm more than 45 years ago.

Quotable: “It is not a knock on the current auditors or solicitors. Nothing precludes them from submitting a proposal. It’s just a smart thing to do to review these services every once in a while,” said Rebecca S. Denlinger , the borough manager.

What’s next: All of the requests for proposals will be posted on the borough’s website and advertised in LNP. Denlinger said the borough will also solicit proposals from known, responsible, firms. Once the proposals are received, council will review them and award contracts. Plans call for all those decisions to be made by November so that council has up-to-date numbers to use in final adoption of the 2020 budget.