Potter County’s historic courthouse is getting a facelift to improve its appearance and structural integrity. The county’s maintenance department, under the direction of Joe Kurtz (right), is using a rented 80-foot lift to begin the project on the courthouse’s front side along East Second Street, facing south. The surface will be sanded, repainted and sealed. Work should be completed by early August. Cost has been estimated at about $10,000. Peeling paint is most noticeable on that side. Eventually, the other three sides of the courthouse will be addressed in the same manner. Employees will also be repairing cosmetics and window casings, while looking for other signs of structural deterioration. Several years ago, the commissioners investigated a proposal to remove the multiple layers of paint applied to the original brick surface and preserve/restore the bricks. It was deemed too expensive, partly due to the added cost of disposal for a large volume of lead-based paint. The courthouse was built in 1851-53 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Buildings. Its Greek Revival style, blended with later Victorian elements, and its setting in the open town square create a stately appearance. (John F. Domaleski photos)
Thousands of dollars paid in “impact fees” by companies drilling for shale gas are coming to two Potter County townships for bridge repairs. Commissioners Doug Morley, Paul Heimel and Susan Kefover recently approved two separate $40,000 allotments to fix the Whitney Hill Bridge on Rt. 407 in Genesee Township, and the Simmons Hollow Bridge on Rt. 552 in Bingham Township.
Pa. Act 13 requires energy companies to make annual impact fee payments to the Public Utility Commission based on each deep gas well that is drilled in the state. A portion of the revenue is distributed to counties in a “restricted use account” for local bridge projects. In Potter County, the commissioners and the Planning Department formed a review panel that includes representatives of townships and boroughs to rank bridge repair applications based on several criteria. The Genesee and Bingham township bridges scored the highest in the first round of assessments. More funds will be coming and the review panel will reconvene to decide future allotments. Potter County’s process for distributing the funds – which total about $40,000 annually – is being viewed as a model by other counties across Pennsylvania.
Photo– One of the grants for local bridge repairs was awarded to Bingham Township in a short ceremony at the Potter County Commissioners office in the Gunzburger Building. Accepting the check from Commissioners Susan Kefover and Doug Morley were Bingham Township representatives Cheryl Young and Mike Young.
Potter County Tax Claim Bureau (TCB) has been working with property owners who have failed to pay their real estate taxes, while preparing for the last resort in handling delinquent accounts — annual “upset sale.” That’s a public auction that’s required by state law to sell those properties on which taxes for 2012 or earlier have not been paid. It will be held at 10 am on Monday, Sept. 8, in the Gunzburger Building auditorium in Coudersport. A list of the properties that are subject to sale by auction will be posted on the Potter County website, pottercountypa,net (click on Departments/Tax Claim). Officials advise those whose names appear on the list that they may be able to avoid having their properties posted with tax sale notices if they make immediate payment.
TCB has implemented a series of changes to make things easier for those who have fallen behind on their taxes, including a monthly installment option (owner-occupied properties only) and a credit card payment system. Those payments are accepted online only, through the Tax Claim Bureau website at pottercountypa.net. The credit card payment option is limited to overdue taxes (2013 and earlier). Deadline to pay the 2012 and prior real estate taxes by credit card is Aug. 31. Tax Claim Bureau office is located in Suite 111 of the Gunzburger Building, 1 North Main Street, Coudersport PA 16915; telephone (814) 274-0488, Option 1.
Three environmental improvement projects have been approved for Potter County using a portion of the settlement from a train crash and lye spill near the juncture of Potter, Cameron and McKean counties in June 2006. Grants across the region that were announced this week by the Pa. Fish & Boat Commission included funding for local projects that have been actively pursued, or recently developed, by the Potter County Conservation District, Trout Unlimited and other agencies or organizations. Among the grants:
- Potter County Conservation District (PCCD), $88,000 for its Fish Habitat Improvement and Stream Restoration Program. This will improve natural functions of streams and riparian areas to ensure they are supporting aquatic and riparian wildlife communities. It will be accomplished by streambank stabilization and fish habitat structures. Applicant was Jason Childs, PCCD watershed specialist.
- Trout Unlimited, $81,000 to improve brook trout habitat in the Potter County portion of the Kettle Creek watershed. This will be accomplished by reducing erosion caused by substandard dirt and gravel roads; stabilizing eroding streambank; restoring forested riparian buffer; training volunteers to assess stream-crossing sites at roads to determine potential to be barriers to aquatic organism passage; and designing barriers that better accommodate aquatic organism passage. Applicant was Jake Tomlinson (TU/Lock Haven).
- Potter County Conservation District, $42,000 for a project that opens stream corridors through the use of “bottomless culverts.” PCCD has already inventoried some bridges and culverts to determine which ones are blocking migration of fish and other organisms. The grant will allow this work to continue and help launch a long-term project to replace culverts with structures that allow greater passage of aquatic organisms. Applicant was Chris Mitterer, PCCD manager.
Potter County Education Council (PCEC) has launched a new program linking employers and schools to better prepare students for local jobs. Bob Wicker, former Oswayo Valley School district superintendent and principal, is spearheading the program in the part-time position of business and education liaison. Wicker has been involved with PCEC for many years and brings his own business experience to the job. Among partners in the project are the Seneca Highlands Career and Technical Center (formerly vo-tech school) and its 10 public school district affiliates. One of Wicker’s goals is to expand that partnership to local employers, who can benefit from an influx of trained job applicants. His focus will not be solely on local schools; an adult education element is also part of the plan, as is an outreach to the current workforce development agencies in the region. Ideas in the works include an industry advisory council, career fairs in local schools, and “educator in the workplace” programs. Wicker welcomes input from the public, particularly local employers and educators, guidance counselors or administrators. He can be reached at the PCEC office on Water Street in Coudersport, telephone 274-4877.
For many years, visitors to the Freeman Run Valley and passersby on Rt. 872 have marveled at the tall, broken concrete columns stretching across the valley floor and tried to piece it all together in their minds. They’ve yearned for more information and some interaction with knowledgeable people to help put things in perspective. Austin Dam Memorial Association has responded with the opening of a Welcome Center/Gift Shop at the Austin Dam Memorial Park. Staffed during peak visiting hours by volunteers, the center provides free handouts and airs a running video about the flood of Sept. 30, 1911.
Items for sale include history books, DVDs, T-shirts, hoodies, engraved glass mugs and glasses, post cards, photographs, cookbooks and others. Soft drinks and snacks are available and cash donations are accepted. Most importantly, people are on hand to answer questions and direct visitors to other information sources and points of interests. Visitors are encouraged to sign a guest book, which gives the directors an idea of how far people have traveled to see the dam ruins. Welcome Center/Gift Shop hours through Labor Day are noon to 3 pm on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Among other recent additions to the park are an expanded dirt road that loops the town of Austin to the park’s northern entrance; a campground; electrical service; free wi-fi service; a “wall of history” with photographs to tell the story of the 1911 flood; a stone memorial erected by the E. O. Austin Historical Society to recall the known victims of the flood; running water; picnic areas, and rest rooms with flush toilet service. The accompanying photo was taken during the rest room construction. Potter County Trailblazers fanned out over the park last summer to lay the groundwork for the rest rooms, clear land, cut out trails, paint signs, stain the building’s siding, and collect stones for landscaping.