Area jobless rates continue to decline. Potter County’s unemployment rate fell from 7.6 in August to 6.5 percent in September. Labor analysts point out that the jobless rates are seasonally adjusted and require a number of qualifiers. For instance, they do not include a substantial number of people whose unemployment compensation benefits ran out, nor those working part-time and/or working off the books. Pennsylvania’s jobless rate was 5.7 percent in September. The national rate was 5.9.
Boys and Girls Club of Potter County is slated to reopen in January at the Alliance Barn in north Coudersport. A three-on-three basketball tournament, obstacle course at downtown festivals and sidewalk chalk art contest are among fundraisers launched by the afterschool club’s directors since operations were suspended in February 2013 following an 18-month run. Solicitations brought donations from businesses, service clubs and individuals.
Final piece of the puzzle fell into place when the Boys and Girls Club secured a $14,400 grant from Potter County Children and Youth Services. The money will go into a fund that will help low-income families pay the modest membership fee that will be charged for participating children. More details on the opening date (tentatively Jan. 5), fee structure and other particulars will be announced in the coming weeks.
Boys and Girls Club is a safe environment where children can come together to better themselves academically, physically and socially. They get help from volunteers with their homework, play games, learn about life skills and the community, and work on projects. About two dozen children were involved with the north Coudersport club at its peak. Members made birdhouses and Christmas tree ornaments that were donated to Christmas House, an organization that helps disadvantaged families during the holiday. A bus run from Coudersport’s schools delivered many of the kids shortly after 3 and the club remained open until 6.
Among top priorities now is the hiring of an executive director and a part-time assistant. Donations should be sent to BGCA of Potter County, P. O. Box 322, Coudersport PA 16915. More information on the club has been posted on the Facebook social media site.
A collection of photographs at the Potter County Historical Society museum in Coudersport has been shrouded in mystery for a matter of decades. Today, the organization is turning to social media, its quarterly newsletter and other communications tools in an effort to shed some light on these archival pictures. They depict dozens of people — many of them either Potter County residents or people connected to local families — who remain unidentified after all these years. Certain clues are available. For instance, the group photograph here is a Coudersport family. The pensive girl with long, flowing hair is a total mystery.
At least a dozen portrait photographers offered their services at around the turn of the century. Galeton, Cross Fork, Hector, Oswayo, Austin, Coudersport, Roulette and Shinglehouse all advertised portrait photography in a gallery setting with full darkroom techniques available. A number of the studios were on the upper floors of buildings to take advantage of skylights and salon windows. Some pictures in the collection come from the E. H. Kimball studio that operated in Coudersport and Austin prior to 1911. Others are from Gallagher, Bliss and Lynde, among others.
Members of the public are encouraged to view a sampling of the photographs on the Potter County website, pottercountypa.net (click on “Who Are These People” on the site’s landing page). Those pictures and many others are on display at the Historical Society useum on North Main Street.
Verizon Wireless marches forward with a project that will expand cellphone coverage to include almost 90 percent of Potter County, according to county officials. More than two dozen tower sites have been approved so far and others are in the permitting process. Many are under construction. Company officials still can’t say when the broadened service will be available.
Each site will be a 200′ x 200′ plot upon which a lattice tower as well as a small pre-cast concrete equipment shed are built. Extensive engineering work has already gone into the selection process for each site to assure reliable service and maximum coverage. Most of the sites are being leased by Verizon from private landowners. The towers will be no more than 200 feet tall. Verizon said the extended construction period had been anticipated at the start of the multi-million dollar project. Steep terrain has been a big challenge at some of the tower sites. Additionally, access roads have to be built and, at some of the sites, forested areas need to be cleared.
The first three defendants to successfully meet all requirements of Potter County’s new “specialty court” system formally completed the program in a ceremony attended by family members, court officers and invited guests. It’s part of a long-term commitment to a new style of dealing with lawbreakers who suffer from addiction and/or mental health disorders.
The three men completed requirements of the specialty courts’ first phase — a rigid, closely supervised DUI Court. Senior Judge John Leete presides over the court. Each was facing incarceration for a crime related to alcohol abuse. All three stayed sober, connected with family and community support resources, and took other steps to get their lives in order. They’ll remain subject to probationary supervision.
President Judge Stephen Minor presented a detailed overview, citing the positive impact the specialty court movement is already having on individual lives, public safety and the county’s bottom line for criminal justice expenses. “It’s definitely not for everybody,” Judge Minor emphasized. “It’s a very selective and very intensive program. Most of these men and women have been stuck in a revolving door between freedom and incarceration, and we’re hoping to stop that cycle.”
Specialty courts are growing across the country. Potter is the first county in northcentral Pennsylvania – and one of the few rural counties nationwide – to embark on that path. Judge Minor said national studies show that 80 percent of defendants with addiction or behavioral disorders who go through the traditional criminal justice system end up back in jail, compared to just over 20 percent of those whose cases are handled through specialty courts. In the first year the DUI Court has been in operation, there were 2,850 jail days avoided, Minor reported. Some of those were female inmates who would have been sent to Smethport, Lock Haven or another jail at a fee to the county of $60 or more per day. About a dozen offenders involved in the specialty courts so far have devoted 1,880 hours to community service.
It was launched with a $70,000 grant from PennDOT that covers many of the expenses of the special court over the first three years. A team of drug/alcohol treatment specialists, law enforcement officials and experts in related fields determines who is accepted. Defendants charged with violent crimes and certain other offenses aren’t eligible. Those selected must participate in the “12-step” sobriety program often associated with Alcoholics Anonymous, undergo intensive counseling, work community service hours, meet with Judges Leete or Minor at least twice monthly, and make a concerted effort to find employment and expand their education. They also meet regularly with Laurie Harrier, who manages the compliance and counseling elements for the Potter County Probation Department. An ankle bracelet that detects any ingestion of alcohol must be worn and defendants undergo numerous substance abuse tests per month. Penalties are in place and strictly enforced for violation of any provision. Defendants are subject to having their cases referred back to the traditional court system.
Latest edition of Shale Gas Roundup is now available. It’s the quarterly newsletter of the Potter County Natural Gas Task Force and features timely, locally relevant news about shale gas development and related topics, Among highlights of this edition:
- Reports on significant Utica Shale developments affecting Potter County.
- Updates on pipelines and shale gas tax policies.
- Steps being taken to protect Potter County’s water resources.
- Forecasts of shale gas-related jobs.
To access the Oct.-Dec. 2104 edition as well as all past editions, visit the website pottercountypa.net (newsletter icon is found on the cover page). Copies are also available at the Commissioners Office in the Gunzburger Building (first office on right inside Main Sreet entrance), or by contacting Dawn Swatsworth at 814-274-8290, extension 207.