Potter County Coronavirus Summary: SUNDAY P.M. Summary

May 27th, 2020 Comments off

COVID-19 coronavirus numbers held steady in all but one of the counties surrounding Potter between Saturday and Sunday. There was one more confirmed case and one more death in Cattaraugus County, N.Y., where the case count is now 88 with four fatalities. There were no changes in Lycoming County, 164 cases and three deaths; Clinton County. 56 cases and three deaths; Tioga County, 17 cases and two deaths; Allegany County, N.Y., 45 cases and two fatalities; McKean County, 12 cases and one death; Elk County, six cases; Potter County, four cases; and Cameron County, two cases.

Statewide, Pennsylvania had 511 new confirmed cases between Saturday and Sunday increasing the overall figure to 71,926. At the same time, there were 18 more fatalities in Pennsylvania, where the death toll stands at 5,555.

The “Green Phase” of Governor Tom Wolf executive order took effect on Friday in 17 counties. Guidance for business operations and other activities covered by the loosened restrictions can be found here. Affected counties are Potter, Cameron, McKean, Tioga, Elk, Clearfield, Warren, Jefferson, Bradford, Clarion, Crawford, Forest, Lawrence, Montour, Snyder, Sullivan and Venango.

Meanwhile, the Potter County Commissioners are planning a phased reopening of the F. W. Gunzburger Building effective Monday, June 1. In compliance with the green phase of Governor Tom Wolf’s executive order, public health and safety measures will be in effect. Access is available be made through the Main Street entrance, where masks and hand sanitizer will be available. Many services are available remotely through telephone or internet access. For county office contact information and online options, click here.

 

‘Revitalize Potter County’ Focusing On Agriculture

May 27th, 2020 Comments off

Next meeting of the Revitalize Potter County Work Group will be held on Friday, June 5. Members will be joined by an agronomist from Penn State University. They’ve already been conferring with working farmers large and small, including organic farmers, to broaden their knowledge. Focus of the meeting will be on strategies to support local agriculture as a foundation of the county’s economy with significant growth potential. Planning/GIS Director Will Hunt and Commissioner Barry Hayman have begun their concerted research, outreach and strategic planning to promote local farm products and advocate for local growers and producers. Also soon to be launched is another Revitalize Potter County initiative, focused on building local tourism and recreation. That will be followed by a concerted focus on other elements of the economy and community revitalization.

Revitalize Potter County was launched this month by Commissioners Nancy Grupp, Barry Hayman and Paul Heimel as “a collaborative strategy to emerge from the pandemic with our economic foundation still in place and a blueprint for community and economic development.” It is being rolled out in phases, the first of which has already been completed:

  • Phase 1: Develop resources for Potter County businesses. Seek funding to provide grants and/or loans for businesses re-emerging from the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Establish a Revitalize Potter County work group to develop strategies to ensure success.
  • Phase 2: Establish an information and referral clearinghouse for local businesses seeking support. (That’s now available on the county website, pottercountypa.net, click on Community Development). Integrate Revitalize Potter County with the goals identified in the County Comprehensive Plan 2020-2029, and the specific mission of Potter County Project 2025 – reversing the county’s population loss and the steady increase in median age.
  • Phase 3: Administer a grant/loan program to assist local businesses. Engage partners from the agricultural, tourism, commercial business, manufacturing, education and other sectors for ongoing implementation of business support initiatives. Identify agencies or organizations to carry out priorities identified by the work group and partners.
  • Phase 4: Close out Revitalize Potter County.

Anyone interested in sharing suggestions or comments can send an email to revitalize@pottercountypa.net. More information is available from Potter County Planning/GIS Director Will Hunt at 814-274-8290, extension 229.

Commissioners Seek Volunteers For Boards/Authorities

April 28th, 2020 Comments off

Potter County Commissioners Nancy Grupp, Paul Heimel and Barry Hayman continue to seek volunteers willing to serve on any of several county authorities, commissions and advisory boards. In an effort to broaden diversity, geographic representation and background knowledge, the previous Board of Commissioners periodically issued a similar call for volunteers. The current board intends to continue building a roster of qualified individuals who have a willingness to serve.

As vacancies arise or incumbents’ terms expire, the commissioners will rely on that these rosters to determine potential appointees for agencies such as:

Potter County Planning Commission. Administers subdivision and land use/development regulations; countywide comprehensive plan; regional advocacy on transportation funding priorities and other initiatives; GIS services; reliable resource/liaison for township and borough governments.

Potter County Redevelopment Authority. Economic development; support services for business and industry; administration of federal/state grants and loans for economic development.

Potter County Housing Authority. Administration of programs meeting needs for safe, healthy and affordable housing.

Potter County Human Services. Multiple advisory boards to guide administrators on meeting local social service needs.

Potter County Solid Waste Authority. Operation of transfer station/recycling center in Gold; administration of state-approved solid waste management/flow ordinance.

Potter County Hospital Authority. Public agency assisting UPMC Cole in acquisition of funds for capital improvements and implementation of long-term planning objectives.

Farmland Preservation Board. Responsible for purchase of development rights to preserve agricultural land.

Local Emergency Planning Committee. Coordinates activities of firefighters, emergency medical services, fire police and related responders; liaison with Potter County Department of Emergency Services for training, funding opportunities, drills/exercises to test preparedness.

Those wishing to be considered for appointment should contact Danielle Gietler, executive secretary to the Potter County Commissioners, at 814-274-8290, ext. 207 or pcexecsec@pottercountypa.net.

Conservation District Looks Back On Impactful Year With Pride

March 10th, 2020 Comments off

Energy companies have zeroed-in on Potter County for an infrastructure construction spree — and there’s more coming. It translates into a heavy workload for the Potter County Conservation District. However, even as their duties expand, county conservation districts likely face a fourteenth consecutive year of a funding freeze from the state legislature. Those were among the themes emerging from the annual Potter County Conservation District Legislative Luncheon, held at the Susquehannock Lodge. It brings together farmers, environmental stewards, district directors and public officials to review the PCCD’s activities and candidly discuss its issues and challenges.

Representatives for State Senator Joe Scarnati and State Assemblyman Martin Causer confirmed that the current draft of the state’s 2020-21 budget does not call for funding increases. In response, Brenda Shambaugh, executive director of the Pa. Assn. of Conservation Districts, encouraged lawmakers to step up their efforts on county districts’ behalf and suggested that citizens also weigh in. PCCD Director Jason Childs (above) concurred that budget limitations can hamper the district’s mission.

Another PCCD staffer, resource conservationist Glenn Dunn II, detailed the energy infrastructure issues that have kept the staff busy with permit inspections. Among these are a wind energy generation facility that involved a high volume of earth disturbance near high-quality waterways in the county’s northeast corner. Shale gas development, which slowed in the latter half of 2019, has required PCCD to oversee construction of wells, pipelines, compression stations and other infrastructure. At the same time, electric companies are upgrading their equipment, new wireless communication towers are being constructed, a major solar energy installation is on the drawing board in Hebron Township.

Andrew Mickey, road specialist, detailed and a highly successful program to help local governments improve dirt, gravel and low-volume local roads. In 2019, some 14-plus miles of substandard road sections were improved, at a cost of nearly $1.3 million. On a related note, PCCD staffers paid tribute to Dr. Peter Ryan, an associate director for the district, for the major role he and other local Trout Unlimited leaders played in persuading the state government to fund the local roads initiative. Repairing the roads has greatly reduced pollution in nearby headwater streams, equating to hundreds of miles of streams being more habitable to sensitive aquatic life.

Jared Dickerson, watershed and nutrient management technician, pointed out that the district continues to be involved with landowners for compliance with Chesapeake Bay nutrient load requirements, streambank restoration and habitat improvement projects. Emily Shosh, outreach and communications advisor, summarized an active year in public education, including many activities for children, promoting environmental conservation and nature education.

Prior to adjournment, Earl Brown, retired vocational agriculture educator, spoke proudly of the conservation district’s evolution. Brown serves as chairman of the PCCD board of directors. He has been engaged in district activities for 52 years. “The district is now staffed with ambitious, young professionals who all have a good education and are very dedicated to their work,” Brown said. “We have a proud history. As you could see today, we’ve come a long way and we’re in good hands with this team.” Potter County Commissioner Barry Hayman, recent appointee to the PCCD board, echoed the chairman’s comments and said he and Commissioners Nancy Grupp and Paul Heimel appreciate the work of the district’s staff.

 

 

Bigger Tax Base For Schools, Municipalities, County

February 23rd, 2020 Comments off

Potter County Tax Assessment Office added nearly $4 million to the county’s tax base in 2019, due in large part to field work taking place across the county to locate new construction and property improvements, Chief Assessor Jacob Ostrom reported that the county’s real estate tax base increased by $3,900,000 in assessed value, translating to about $12.5 million in added market value. Real estate taxes levied by school districts, boroughs, townships and the county government are applied to a property’s assessed value. As a result of the tax base additions, the county government will receive an additional $71,500 in taxes this year. School districts and municipalities will also see higher tax revenue.

Ostrom’s job grew harder several years ago when the state legislature eliminated the position of township and borough tax collector. In prior years, these elected officials were responsible for finding and reporting new construction and improvements. Today, the Assessment Office relies primarily on building permit records and visual inspections to update tax records.

County’s ‘Project 2025’ Charges Out Of Starting Gate

February 23rd, 2020 Comments off

A strategy to address two of the most serious challenges facing Potter County has moved quickly into the implementation stage. “Project 2025” was unveiled last month by Commissioners Nancy Grupp, Paul Heimel and Barry Hayman. It’s a blueprint to reverse the steady descent of the county’s population, coupled with the growing outmigration of young adults. These trends have serious implications for the future vitality and quality of life in Potter County. Most recent U.S. Census Bureau figures reflect another 5-percent drop in population, from 17,462 in 2010 to 16,622 as of June 2019. At the same time, the county’s median age has gradually risen to 47 years, far above the statewide median of 41. The commissioners have assigned two of their department heads, Planning Director Will Hunt and Community Development Director Ellen Russell, to develop and implement Project 2025. Its lofty goal is to assemble stakeholders, conduct intensive research, and implement a strategy to reverse the population loss and median age growth by the end of 2025. Some of the options are spelled out in the 2020-29 Countywide Comprehensive Plan. That document reflects input provided by hundreds of community leaders, business owners, conservation advocates, education and tourism officials, and others with an interest in the county’s future. A website will be developed to serve as a clearinghouse for Project 2025. It will include progress reports, links to helpful resources and other features.

Director Russell shared some details as guest speaker at the Feb. 17 Coudersport Rotary Club meeting.  “Project 2025 is going to require a real team approach and some changes in culture,” she explained. “Too often we hear the words, ‘because we’ve always done it this way,’ and that is a mindset that will have to change if we are going to succeed.”

Among the initial objectives that have been identified are:

  • more effectively seeking input from teens and young adults on the future of their communities;
  • encouraging a complete count in the 2020 U.S. Census (each resident equates to about $21,000 in federal and state funding coming to the county during the new decade);
  • capitalizing on the emergence of high-speed internet service in marketing Potter County as a place to live and start or expand a business;
  • enhancing promotion of state parks, attractions, and natural resources for tourism and relocation to the county;
  • implementing business and economic development strategies (on March 12, the Project 2025 team is hosting a Small Business/Entrepreneur Workshop at the Gunzburger Building)
  • developing innovative strategies to enhance career exploration for both high school students and adults.

(Here, Coudersport Rotary Club President Ruth Sallade, left, welcomes Ellen Russell to the Feb. 17 meeting.)