Potter County received special recognition at the annual meeting of the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania (CCAP). During an awards ceremony at the Lancaster County Convention Center, CCAP presented Potter County with the 2014 County Newsletter of the Year Award for the quarterly publication, Potter County Veterans News. CCAP described the publication as “an effective communications tool for sharing information on available benefits and services for veterans, while raising public awareness of veterans’ issues and special events.” Several other Pennsylvania counties have expressed an interest in using Potter County Veterans News as a model.
In accepting the award from CCAP President Jeff Haste, Commissioner Paul Heimel (left) said, “This is not really about a newsletter. This is about fulfilling our obligation to the men and women who served our country. A large proportion of military veterans across Pennsylvania are not receiving the benefits and services that they’re entitled to, and many of them are not even aware of them. I’d like to suggest that each of you work with your county’s director of veterans affairs for a concerted effort to reach out to your veterans.”
Copies of the current edition (July-September 2014) of Potter County Veterans News and all past editions can be downloaded from the county’s website, pottercountypa,net. Copies can also be obtained by contacting Dawn Swatsworth at 814-274-8290, Ext. 207. For more information on veterans’ services, contact Potter County Veterans Affairs Director Will Worthington at 814-274-8290, Ext. 210.
Water, water everywhere . . . but where does it come from, and what are its components? Those timeless questions are about to answered across much of Potter County if an ambitious partnership between the Potter County Board of Commissioners and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) moves forward. Details were shared during Wednesday’s meeting of the Triple Divide Watershed Coalition. USGS hydrologist Jeffrey Chaplin (right) said the “baseline groundwater quality monitoring project” would provide valuable data for public policymakers.
About 75 well owners would benefit by receiving a detailed analysis of their water – which would cost upwards of $4,000 if they contracted for it – at no charge. Most importantly, USGS and others would learn more about the characteristics of groundwater on a broader scale. “We are scientists, not regulators,” Chaplin said. “We provide the data and the information that helps people make informed decisions.”
Coalition chairman John McLaughlin explained that the information collected by USGS would be a critical component in the ongoing effort to better understand groundwater movement patterns and create maps that depict them. “That would be an extremely valuable tool for protecting our water when we’re choosing sites for certain types of development,” McLaughlin said.
Chaplin emphasized that the well data would be assembled and analyzed in a cumulative fashion, with the identity of individual well owners protected. According to the USGS project summary, purpose of the study is “to characterize the quality of groundwater from freshwater aquifers used by private domestic supply wells. Water can contain a variety of suspended and dissolved substances such as minerals, gases, and even bacteria. These substances are often naturally occurring but can also be influenced by activities occurring on the land surface. A comprehensive list of water quality parameters will be analyzed for each well as part of the study.”
Potter County Planning Commission has applied for $250,000 state grant to help cover the costs of the study. USGS would provide an additional $100,000 and oversee the field work and water sampling. Other partners may be recruited, including Charles Cole Memorial Hospital. USGS recently launched a similar study in Lycoming County. Among partners are Geisinger Health Systems and Susquehanna Health. Chaplin said his team is also working with officials in Wayne County to launch a similar study there.
Mark Stephens, regional geologist for the Pa. Dept. of Environmental Protection, said the studies would complement decades of ongoing research and add invaluable information to the scientific community’s understanding of local water resources.
Royal Dutch Shell has announced a series of shale gas deals bringing it drilling rights on 155,000 acres in Potter and Tioga counties, including active wells flowing about 100 million cubic feet of gas daily and the potential to drill for more. Energy companies have been tapping gas reserves in the Marcellus shale, about two miles underground, for a half-decade. The deep-pocketed Shell became the first operator to make a serious attempt to harvest gas from another shale layer, the Utica, found even deeper. Discovery of a gusher, yielding eye-opening gas flows, in Tioga County has been the talk of the industry. Here’s how the deal works:
- Shell subsidiary SWEPI LP, which controls about 900,000 acres in Pennsylvania, has been developing Marcellus gas in northeastern and central Pennsylvania under a joint venture with Houston-based Ultra Petroleum Corp.
- The two companies also have a joint venture in the Pinedale Anticline, another gas-rich formation in Wyoming.
- Shell is selling its Wyoming assets to Ultra for $925 million and gaining the 155,000 net acres in the Marcellus and Utica shales in Tioga and Potter counties.
- Shell is also selling all of its Haynesville shale assets in Louisiana to Vine Oil & Gas LP and Blackstone for $1.2 billion.
- Lastly, Shell has agreed to sell to State College-based Rex Energy Corp. some 208,000 acres in Venango, Butler, Armstrong, Beaver, Lawrence and Mercer counties in Pennsylvania, and in Columbiana and Mahoning counties in Ohio, for $120 million.
“We have strong individual well production rates from our initial exploration wells (in Tioga and Potter counties), and those numbers have remained stable for several months,” said Shell representative Destin Singleton. “In fact, our early results are on par with some of the better Utica wells in the emerging dry gas sweet spots in southeast Ohio.”
Potter County Tax Claim Bureau (TCB) has been working with property owners who have failed to pay their back taxes, while preparing for the last resort in handling delinquent accounts, which is the annual “upset sale.” That’s a public auction 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 has been posted on the Potter County website, pottercountypa.net (click on Departments/Tax Claim). The list is updated from previous postings to reflect only those properties that have not yet been redeemed. Officials do expect that the majority of those who are affected will make payment and have their property removed from the list prior to the sale. Bidders are advised that the properties that are placed on the auction block may be subject to liens, mortgages, judgments or other title attachments.
TCB in recent years 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.
Potter County Conservation District has welcomed Adam Causer to its staff in the new position of dirt, gravel, and low-volume road project specialist. District Manager Chris Mitterer said Causer will be responsible for administering projects designed to protect Potter County’s waterways in partnership with townships and boroughs. The Dirt and Gravel Road Program provides funding and technical assistance to reduce soil erosion, sedimentation and other discharges into rivers, creeks and streams. Much of the pollution can be reduced or eliminated altogether through the use of road materials and drainage tools supported by the Conservation District program.
Potter was the first Pennsylvania county to establish a conservation district. Potter County is also considered the birthplace of the state’s dirt and gravel road program, which grew out of a campaign by God’s Country Chapter of Trout Unlimited. TU’s Dr. Pete Ryan was a founding member of the dirt and gravel road program, and he chairs the conservation district’s Quality Assurance Board. The board recently welcomed John McLaughlin as its newest member. A retired Pa. Dept. of Environmental Protection employee, McLaughlin chairs the Potter County Planning Commission and the Triple Divide Watershed Coalition.
With Causer’s arrival, resource conservationist Glenn Dunn II will now be able to concentrate more of his efforts on the district’s broader erosion and sedimentation control program. He and agricultural conservation technician Rob Thompson will be involved in the dirt and gravel road program during Causer’s training. Causer, a resident of Turtlepoint, is a recent environmental studies graduate of the University of Pittsburgh. He was most recently employed with the Allegany (N.Y.) State Park as a naturalist and environmental educator. He previously served as an engineering intern at International Waxes of Farmers Valley.
“Adam is a valuable addition to our team,” Mitterer said. “He is eager to establish a rapport with township and borough officials, as well as others who are interested in protecting the county’s water resources through sound management practices for our many dirt and gravel roads.” For more information on the Dirt and Gravel Road Program, contact Causer at (814) 274-8411.
(Above, from left, John McLaughlin, Chris Mitterer, Adam Causer, and Commissioner Doug Morley, who sits on the Conservation District board of directors.)
Plans are now in place for the memorial service recognizing a Coudersport High School graduate who perished in an Air Force cargo plane crash more than six decades ago. National publicity is expected. A representative from the Defense Department said Lt. William Turner’s body will be returned to the area for burial with full military honors on Sept. 20 at Gilmore Cemetery, located near Sinnemahoning State Park near the Potter/Cameron county border.
Members of Lt. Turner’s family will be at the Buffalo Airport when the lieutenant’s remains arrive with appropriate Air Force decorum. A military escort is planned to transport his remains back to Coudersport. A service will be held at the Park United Methodist Church, under the direction of the Fickinger Funeral Home.
Organizers are attempting to arrange for an Air Force flyover at the cemetery. More details will be announced. Local arrangements are being handled by Mike Wennin in Cameron County, on behalf of the Gilmore Cemetery, and by Veterans Affairs Director Will Worthington and Commissioner Paul Heimel in Potter County.
In June 2012, an Alaskan National Guard Blackhawk helicopter crew spotted wreckage from the 1952 crash site of a C-124 cargo plane that killed all 52 servicemen onboard. Several months later, a task force returned to the site and was able to identify 17 sets of remains, one of those being Lt. Turner’s. The plane had struck a mountainside as it flew from Tacoma, Wash., to Elmendorf Air Force Base. Weather conditions made recovery impossible and the shifting glacier covered the wreckage. Searches for the remaining 35 passengers and crew continue.
William Turner was the son of Willis E. and Pearl Caldwell Turner of First Fork (today’s Sinnemahoning State Park). He was a 1946 graduate of Coudersport High School. Classmates recalled him as a quiet student with a strong interest in science. Most of the plane’s occupants were servicemen who had been in Washington on leave and were returning to duty. (Above: William Turner is shown at lower left in the 1946 Coudersport High School yearbook with classmates Robert “Bud” Toombs, Eleanor Austin Russell and the late Lucy Yannie White.)