Farmers Responding To Challenges By Adapting

October 13th, 2019 Comments off

With family farms and dairy operations declining in Potter County, Penn State Extension agronomy educator Nicole Santangelo finds herself as busy as ever. She was among the presenters during last week’s Potter County Local Government Day. It’s an annual gathering hosted by PSU Extension leaders and educators to keep public officials apprised of the organization’s broad range of services and their impact on the citizenry. Santangelo’s presentation touched on a number of steps being taken to help the county’s number one industry to adapt to challenges that range from poor economics and changes in consumers’ habits, to marketing obstacles and a growing wave of consolidation.

She said some agriculturalists have been evolving to “contract farming,” resulting in potatoes, organic corn and other crops being produced for specific buyers. One contract has been signed to lease farmland for solar energy collectors, Santangelo added. She has also been investigating alternative crops that could be profitable to local farmers, from soybeans, carrots and mint, to cucumbers and hemp — although producers might encounter challenges getting the products to market. Meanwhile, Penn State Extension is helping farmers with pest management, crop research, soil testing, cover crops, livestock management and many other topics.

Public Demonstrations Of New Voting Machines Scheduled

October 8th, 2019 Comments off

Potter County Director of Elections Sandy Lewis reminds residents that new voting machines will be in use for the Nov. 5 Municipal Election. More election information is available on the website, (click on Departments/Elections). Members of the public can stop at the Elections/Voter Registration Office in the Gunzburger Building to become familiar with the new machines during regular business hours. They can also attend a public demonstration of the machines at the Gunzburger Building front conference room from 6-8 pm on Tuesday, Oct 15; and Tuesday, Oct. 29.

Federal and state funding have covered a portion of the machines’ price tag, which is upwards of $400,000. After soliciting proposals from state-certified vendors, the Potter County Commissioners purchased the machines and related software and services from Election Systems and Software (ES&S). All Pennsylvania counties must have in place certified voting machines that electronically record each vote and generate a paper ballot as an added level of security. The new machines are expected to last for about ten years, if regulations and changing technology do not require them to be updated sooner.

County Hires New Community Development Director

October 1st, 2019 Comments off

Potter County Commissioners have hired Ellen Russell as community development director. She succeeds Jennifer Rossman, who resigned in July to accept a position with Visit Potter/Tioga. Russell is the daughter of Steve and Nila Gerner of Coudersport and is married to Garrett Russell, a physician assistant at UPMC Cole. She holds a masters of business administration degree from Clarion University and was most recently employed as an office manager at UPMC Cole.

Russell will be responsible for administering the county’s annual federal Community Development Block Grant and supporting community initiatives across the county that are geared toward economic development, job creation, strengthening of aesthetic and cultural resources, population retention and other priorities in the county’s Comprehensive Plan. She’ll report directly to the county commissioners and work closely with the planning department as well as borough and township governments and community leaders. Russell said she is looking forward to developing countywide and regional partnerships to achieve her office’s goals. She can be reached at 814-274-8290, extension 209, or at

Criminal Justice: Potter County Continues To ‘Step Up’

September 25th, 2019 Comments off

Potter County has “stepped up” its commitment to a national campaign to reduce the number of mentally ill men and women behind bars. Three years ago, Commissioners Doug Morley, Paul Heimel and Susan Kefover approved the required resolution to make Potter County a partner in the Stepping Up Initiative, which was launched by the White House in response to major gaps in the criminal justice and penal systems. Through Stepping Up, the National Association of Counties, Council of State Governments Justice Center, National Sheriffs Association, and American Psychiatric Association are supporting public, private and non-profit partners who commit to the initiative.

Counties have been forced into the position of having to provide treatment in their jails. Prevalence rates of serious mental illnesses in jails are three to six times higher than for the general population. Almost three-quarters of adults with serious mental illnesses in jails also have co-occurring addiction disorders. Adults with mental illnesses tend to stay longer in jail and, upon release, are at a higher risk of recidivism than people without these disorders. County jails spend two to three times more on adults with mental illnesses that require interventions compared to those without these treatment needs. Without the appropriate treatment and services, many people with mental illnesses continue to cycle through the criminal justice system, often resulting in tragic outcomes for these individuals and their families.

Since the resolution was passed, the Potter County Criminal Justice Advisory Board has adopted Stepping Up as a top priority. A planning team has been meeting to guide the process. Most recently, Commissioner Heimel and Human Services Administrator Jim Kockler participating in a statewide training and peer-sharing session in Harrisburg, sponsored by the new Pennsylvania Stepping Up Technical Assistance Center. They not only learned of effective reforms being implemented in other counties, but also shared the progress being made in Potter County. Among those elements:

  • development of a re-entry specialist position to work with jail inmates who are returning to society so that they are less likely to commit other crimes;
  • a multi-county partnership to establish a treatment facility for the mentally ill;
  • completion of a nationally heralded training session, Sequential Intercept Mapping, to help members of the county’s criminal justice system work as team to improve outcomes.
  • establishment of a DUI Treatment Court, Drug Treatment Court and a Pre-trial Diversion Program which helps people stay out of jail by offering alcohol/substance use disorder treatment and related services.

Above: Shown during a break in this week’s training session today in Harrisburg on opportunities for improving criminal justice outcomes for the mentally ill and/or addicted are, from left, Dr. Alison Martin, director of the Pennsylvania Stepping Up Technical Assistance Center; county human services administrators Jim Kockler (Potter) and Nancy Clemens (Tioga), and Commissioner Paul Heimel.

County Names ‘Complete Count Committee’ For Census

September 19th, 2019 Comments off

Potter County has established a formal “complete count committee” to partner with the U.S. Census Bureau and encourage participation in the 2020 Census. Committee members are Commissioner Paul Heimel, Human Services Administrator Jim Kockler, and Planning Department representatives Will Hunt and Deb Ostrom. As the county’s population continues to fall, local officials say it is important for everyone to complete the census survey when it is received. Census numbers have a direct impact on grants as well as government representation. Data are used to distribute funds for more than 50 programs, including education, transportation, health and human services, housing, criminal justice, employment services, agriculture, community infrastructure and environmental protection. For each uncounted citizen, a county will lose an estimated $20,000 in federal benefits during the decade.

The Potter County Planning Department has been working with township and borough officials to support an accurate result from the census. The county’s Emergency Management and Assessment offices are also involved in identifying new homes and verifying mailing addresses. Committee members report that there will be part-time job opportunities to conduct fieldwork and door-to-door assessments. Anyone interested in potential employment can find information as well as apply online at More information is also available by calling toll-free 1-855-562-2020, Census questionnaires have been reduced from 10 pages to 10 questions. Forms will be mailed to area residents in early 2020. Census-takers’ non-response follow-ups begin in May 2020. In this photo, a copy of the resolution creating Potter County’s Complete Count Committee is presented to Census Bureau representative Heather Conrad (second from left) by Commissioners Susan Kefover, Paul Heimel and Doug Morley.


Constitution Day Observed Locally With Bell-Ringing

September 12th, 2019 Comments off

Constitution Day (Tuesday, Sept. 17) was celebrated in Potter County with the Daughters of the American Revolution taking charge of the observance. Members of the Allegewi Chapter held a ceremony at the courthouse square, followed by a ringing of the courthouse bell at 4, recognizing the time of the ratification of the Constitution on Sept. 17, 1787. Local churches also sounded their bells, as communities, schools, churches, and individuals joined the Bells Across America tribute to the Constitution. At their Sept. 12 business meeting, the Potter County Commissioners passed a resolution commending the Allegewi Chapter and designating Sept. 17-23 as Constitution Week. Shown with Commissioners Susan Kefover, Paul Heimel and Doug Morley are DAR members Sue Halloran (left) and Barbara Heimel.