Potter County Conservation District is preparing to continue its multi-year project to rid the county of several unsanitary and unsightly illegal dumps. PCCD has engaged the services of the Pennsylvania Environmental Council as liaison between Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company and organizations involved with a multi-agency effort. A lengthy investigation by the Conservation District and other agencies resulted in Tennessee agreeing to pay an $800,000 settlement for environmental violations during construction of a pipeline in the region. Some of the money was reserved for remediating illegal dumpsites and reimbursing conservation districts for their investigation expenses.
PCCD has been working with partners such as the Pa. Dept. of Environmental Resources, local townships or boroughs, and Potter County Solid Waste Authority to choose cleanup sites. There is no shortage of dumping areas to address. One 2013 study identified 56 illegal dumps in Potter County spread out over 22 townships and boroughs filled with tires, furniture electronics, vehicle parts, household waste and other rubbish. Potter County Planning Department sent letters to townships and boroughs seeking information on the location of dumpsites. Sites were then inspected to evaluate the type and amount of trash, needs for special equipment, safety concerns and potential environmental impact.
Two contractors were initially hired to clean up five high-priority sites. Fronk Excavating completed the cleanup at a site in Pike Township and two in Sharon Township. Let George Do It remediated two sites in Bingham Township. Students from Galeton High School cleaned a site in Abbott Township. During a second round, 19 more sites were remediated in the townships of Oswayo, Pike, Roulette, Sharon, Summit, Sweden, Ulysses, West Branch and Bingham. Nearly 10 tons of trash, six tons of scrap metal and 1,100 tires were removed. Cleanups which are planned for late March and early April will require volunteers. Two of the dumps, one along Pinneo Hill Road in Oswayo Township and the other along a creek near Germania Street in West Branch Township, will need a concerted effort. Others on the list include a site in Bingham Township along Rowley Road and another along Old Colesburg Road in Coudersport Borough.
Potter County Historical Society and local professional photographer Curt Weinhold continue work on a project to spotlight many of the historic sites in the county. It will consist of a guidebook and signs at each site to explain its significance. Communities will be asked to identify historic buildings, cemeteries and other landmarks.
Historical Society president David Castano said the registry and an accompanying map would be distributed at lodging establishments, government offices and businesses. Approximately 50 sites throughout the county have been tabbed for inclusion so far. Details will be posted on the Potter County Historical Society and Potter County Visitors Association websites. The organizers hope to begin posting signs on historic sites later this year.
“Elder abuse” is a crime and sometimes an invisible one. The pain and misery of abuse are not always manifested as visible cuts and bruises. Pilfering of Social Security checks or other types of financial exploitation, self or caregiver neglect, and emotional/physical abuse are examples of cases that have been uncovered locally.
Potter County Area Agency on Aging offers Older Adult Protective Services to those 60 years and older who may be at risk of serious injury, death, financial exploitation, abuse, neglect or abandonment. Services are offered which will reduce or remove the risk to the older adult. Calls of concern are strictly confidential and may be made anonymously. Call 1-800-800-2560 or 544-7315 during normal business hours, or call 911 after hours. Potter County recently had its Older Adult Protective Services Program monitored by the Pa. Dept. of Aging and was found to be in full compliance with no deficiencies.
Potter County Elections/Voter Registration Director Sandy Lewis is gearing up for the April 26 Primary Election. Of local interest, registered Republicans will be choosing a County Chairman as well as a committeeman and committeewoman for each voting district. Candidate petitions are available at Director Lewis’s office in the Gunzburger Building and must be filed no later than Feb. 16. Petitions for the chair position require at least 100 valid signatures of registered Republicans. Ten signatures are needed on the petitions for committee seats. The chairmanship and all committee seats have been vacant for some time, and efforts are underway to rebuild the Potter County Republican Committee. No local offices will appear on the Democratic ballot.
Both Republicans and Democrats in Potter County will have a voice in deciding party nominations for President, U.S. Senator, State Senator, U.S. Congress Member, Representative in the Pa. General Assembly, and several statewide offices. Although the April 26 ballot has not yet been finalized, it appears that a statewide voter referendum that raises the mandatory retirement age of judges from the current 70 to 75 will be presented to voters. A separate referendum expected to appear on statewide ballot is a constitutional issue affecting the Philadelphia Traffic Court. More information will be available in the coming weeks on the two referendums.
Voters have until March 28 to register, change party affiliation or report a change of address. Absentee ballot applications, available on the county website, pottercountypa.net, will be accepted through April 19. Ballots must be received no later than April 22. Polls will be open on April 26 from 7 am to 8 pm. Voters who are not affiliated with the Republican or Democratic parties will only be able to cast ballots on any statewide referendums. Anyone with questions should call 814-274-8467.
Supporters of Denton Hill State Park, led by the Potter County Commissioners, were optimistic following last week’s public meeting on the park’s future. Stakeholders Group members have pulled out all the stops in their push to have the park revitalized and its ski resort resurrected. They’ve been using personal appeals to politicians, a marketing and public relations campaign heavily reliant on social media, and other tools. The commissioners initially met with State Senator Joe Scarnati, a leading advocate for Denton Hill State Park, and then assembled the Stakeholders Group to galvanize support. One of the coalition partners, the Potter County Visitors Assn. (PCVA), launched a Save Denton Hill State Park site on the Facebook social media platform and has signed up 2,000 supporters, with tens of thousands of “hits.” PCVA is also soliciting support for the park on its own website, visitpottercounty.com, and through personal appeals. Among other coalition members are the Chambers of Commerce in Coudersport, Galeton and Wellsboro and the Pennsylvania Route 6 Alliance. They’re conferring frequently with elected officials and representatives of the Pa. Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources (both State Parks and Forestry bureaus).
There is a lot at stake. A recent study of the ski resort’s impact found that visitors spent more than $2.74 million on their trips in a single year. Stakeholders see the park in bigger terms, suggesting that it be a hub for tourists that could complement local hiking trails, Cherry Springs and Lyman Run state parks, the Pennsylvania Lumber Museum and other local attractions. The partners would like to see not only restoration of ski operations, but development of the park as a year-round asset. Last week’s meeting focused on the initial findings by Moshier Studio, a Pittsburgh firm that was hired to study Denton Hill State Park and assess issues such as refurbishing the ski area and expanding the park’s operations to an all-season schedule. Among the findings:
- DCNR will need to invest about $12.5 million to accommodate skiing. Snowmaking equipment, lodge repairs, parking and upgrading of lifts and other equipment are among the costlier items. These projects and others would likely take a minimum of three years. (Two ski seasons have already been lost.)
- Statistics reported by the most recent concessionaire operating the ski area show that, from a skier turnout of 13,150 in 2007, the business declined each successive year to approximately 7,000 skiers for the 2013-14 season. About 10,000 skiers would be needed to reach a financial break-even point.
An organic agriculture seminar will be held on Saturday, Feb. 20, at the Genesee Environmental Center. Among its sponsors is the Potter County Conservation District (PCCD). Attendees will learn about topics such as organic no-till crop production to improve soil health, nutrient management, reduction of pollution, marketing opportunities, grazing season extension for ruminant livestock, and others. Lessons will help growers to diversify their operations and increase income with food that’s in demand due to the way it is grown. Rob Thompson, agriculture conservation technician at PCCD, said the seminar is part of an increased focus on organic farming by the district. In addition to running workshops and holding roundtable discussions dealing with organics, PCCD offers assistance with management plans for manure, agricultural tillage and nutrients to help reduce the impact of farming on natural resources. Anyone interested in learning more should call 814-274-8411, extension 4.