SUNDAY P.M. Update: More Vaccinated As Case Count Grows

January 24th, 2021 Comments off

There were 468 more COVID-19 coronavirus cases and eight more deaths related to the virus across the region between Friday and Sunday. Eight of the new cases were in Potter County. The county’s active case count stands at approximately 100, with the largest infestations in the Coudersport, Shinglehouse and Austin areas. Pa. Dept. of Health considers a case to be “active,” and the victim contagious, if a positive test result occurred over the past 14 days. A recent U.S. Centers for Disease Control model has found that the actual number of COVID-19 infections in a locale could be as much as eight times higher than the detected cases. See details here.

Between Friday and Sunday, there was a surge of 168 cases and another death in McKean County; 25 more cases and one death in Tioga; four more cases and one death in Cameron; 111 cases and three deaths in Lycoming; 27 cases and one death in Elk; 19 cases and one death in Clinton; 79 cases in Cattaraugus County, N.Y.; and 27 cases in Allegany County, N.Y. Entering Sunday, overall case counts since the virus was detected stood as follows: Potter, 799 cases and 17 deaths; Tioga, 2,209 cases, 88 deaths; McKean, 2,547 cases, 53 deaths; Cattaraugus, 3,607 cases, 62 deaths; Allegany, 2,485 cases, 75 deaths; Clinton, 2,426 cases, 46 deaths; Elk, 2,058 cases, 31 deaths; Cameron, 228 cases, 7 deaths; and Lycoming, 7,760 cases, 196 deaths.

Pa. Department of Health recently added two additional categories of individuals to receive the COVID-19 vaccine part of as Phase 1A, the highest priority. Added to 1A are all individuals 65 and older, and individuals ages 16-64 with certain medical conditions that increase the risk of severe illness from the virus. These conditions are outlined by the CDC here . The updated plan is available here. DOH indicates that eligible individuals can use Pennsylvania’s Vaccine Provider Map, accessible here, to find a place to schedule their vaccine directly with the provider. However, supply of the vaccine remains limited. A set of frequently asked questions and answers to them can be found here. Entering Sunday, 180 Potter County residents have received the first dose of the vaccine and 269 have received both doses. Majority of those are front-line health care providers, residents of skilled care home and emergency responders.

Three testing sites for the COVID-19 coronavirus remain available in Coudersport. In addition to the testing site at UPMC Cole for physician-referred patients, tests are also being administered at Buchanan Brothers Pharmacy (visit the website here or call 1-800-635-8611 to complete an eligibility assessment) and Rite Aid Pharmacy (visit the website here or call 814-274-0439).

While some of the temporary health and safety mandates implemented by the state government in mid-December expired earlier this month, many restrictions remain in place:

  • Child care providers must comply with conditions
  • Congregate care restrictions in place
  • Prison and hospital restrictions determined by individual facilities
  • Schools subject to CDC and commonwealth guidance.
  • Telework must continue unless impossible
  • Businesses with in-person operations must follow updated business and building safety requirements
  • Masks are required in businesses
  • All in-person businesses may operate at 75% occupancy, except where noted
  • Self-certified restaurants may open at 50% capacity for indoor dining; restaurants that have not self-certified are at 25% capacity for indoor dining
  • On-premises alcohol consumption prohibited unless part of a meal; cocktails-to-go and carryout beverages are allowed
  • Serving alcohol for on-site consumption must end at 11 pm, and all alcoholic beverages must be removed from patrons by midnight
  • Personal care services (including hair salons and barbershops) open at 50% occupancy and by appointment only
  • Indoor recreation and health facilities (such as gyms and spas) open at 50% occupancy with appointments strongly encouraged; fitness facilities directed to prioritize outdoor activities.
  • All entertainment (such as casinos, theaters, and museums) open at 50% occupancy.
  • Construction at full capacity with continued implementation of protocol.
  • Hospitals are still being monitored to determine if elective procedure reductions should be ordered regionally.
  • The out-of-state testing requirement is still in place.
  • Local governments may still have stricter guidance in place.
  • Gatherings limits determined using maximum occupancy calculator.
  • Face coverings are required to be worn indoors and outdoors if you are away from your home.
  • Unnecessary travel should be limited.

Many Taxpayers Missing Out On ‘Homestead Exemption’

January 21st, 2021 Comments off

taxexemption-300x300Potter County homeowners who qualify for the “homestead exemption” receive a credit on their school taxes, reflecting a discount for owner-occupied homes. School districts are reimbursed from money the state receives from licensed gambling establishments.

Austin Area School District homeowners had a reduction of $337 in 2020. In Coudersport, the tax cut was $186. Tax credits in Galeton were $221; Oswayo Valley, $159; Northern Potter, $202; Port Allegany, $214; and Keystone, $234.

Many homeowners in local school districts have not applied for the homestead exemption since the program was introduced. Those who may qualify and are not enrolled are notified by mail. They have until March 1, 2021, to apply for the reduction on their 2021-22 school tax bills.

An application form is available on the county website, pottercountypa.net (click on Departments and Assessment/Tax). In most cases, those who are already registered will not have to apply, but there may be exceptions in some school districts. To verify that you are registered, it is best to call the Assessment Office at 274-0517.

Future tax reductions will fluctuate, based on the amount of revenue the state derives from gambling operations. School tax bills are mailed out in July. Taxpayers will receive a two-percent discount if they pay their bill by Sept. 30. A penalty is applied to payments made after Nov. 30.

Applications Now Accepted For Firefighters Grants

January 5th, 2021 Comments off

Applications are now being accepted for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Assistance to Firefighters Grants program. Since 2001, the funding has helped firefighters and other first responders obtain critically needed resources necessary for protecting the public and emergency personnel from fire and related hazards. Funds are available to help volunteer fire departments and other eligible organizations to:

  • Enhance a fire department’s/safety organization’s ability to protect the health and safety of firefighters and the public.
  • Assist fire prevention programs and support firefighter health and safety research and development.
  • Increase or maintain the number of trained “front line” firefighters available in communities.

For more information, including eligibility criteria and application deadlines, click here. FEMA also offers assistance by phone at 1-866-274-0960, or email at firegrants@fema.dhs.gov. The agency is also sponsoring a series of webinars for hands-on assistance. Deadline to apply is Feb. 12.

County Approves Economic Development Incentive

January 1st, 2021 Comments off

Potter County Commissioners Nancy Grupp, Barry Hayman and Paul Heimel put the stamp of approval on a measure designed to create jobs and support economic development during their year-end meeting on Wednesday. A new ordinance creates tax incentives for construction or expansion of commercial properties. They could qualify for a temporary reduction of county real estate taxes. Under the county’s ordinance, qualifying property owners would receive a 100-percent tax abatement in year one, 80 percent in year two, 60 percent in year three, 40 percent in year four, and 20 percent in year five.

A 1977 state law, the Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance (LERTA) Act, authorizes the tax incentive program to support business expansion and job retention/creation. The ordinance applies only to the county portion of real estate taxes. However, school districts, boroughs and townships could also implement a LERTA.

During a public hearing, Potter County Education Council Business and Education Liaison Bob Wicker expressed support for offering the tax incentives, citing the negative impact of the county’s steady population loss and economic recession on school districts and communities countywide. Potter County Community Development Director Ellen Russell said she believed the LERTA tax incentives would complement her office’s efforts to support businesses in the county. The commissioners also received a letter of support from the North Central Penn Board of Realtors.

To obtain a copy of the ordinance, call 814-274-8290, ext. 207.

‘Revitalize Potter County’ Sets Ambitious 2021 Agenda

December 25th, 2020 Comments off

The Revitalize Potter County (RPC) Steering Committee convened last week to review its early progress and develop its 2021 work plan. Committee members have initially focused on helping small businesses cope with the coronavirus pandemic. The group is also engaged with other elements of the economy – boosting agriculture, tourism, local manufacturing, job training and community development among them. RPC was launched in May 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.” They’ve assigned Planning Director Will Hunt and Community Development Director Ellen Russell to spearhead the initiative.

“We’re going through an unusual time and there’s a lot at stake when it comes to the future of Potter County,” Hunt explained during a meeting of the county commissioners. “We are identifying partners and we plan to make the ‘Revitalize’ project a high priority.” RPC directly supports the county’s Project 2025, an ambitious plan to reverse the trends of steady population loss and increasing median age across Potter County.

Team members have already begun research, outreach and strategic planning to promote local farm products and advocate for local growers and producers. They’ve been conferring with multiple farm operators, including organic growers, to broaden their knowledge and sharpen their focus. The RPC team is also pulling together partners to work on a blueprint to boost tourism in Potter County, working with Visit Potter/Tioga, local business owners and community leaders.

Here are some highlights from this month’s RPC meeting:

1 — Year In Review

–Release of 2020 annual report is scheduled in mid-January. Highlights will include Small Business/Entrepreneur Workshop; CARES Act small business grants; small business/school drop-off survey and mapping; launch of multi-functional Revitalize Potter County website; Work Group structure; and Project 2025 Kickoff – a reminder of the mission to reverse population loss and steadily rising median age.

2 – Ongoing Working Initiatives

Market Village. Public input to be solicited on architect’s rendering and proposed implementation plan. Officials from Tionesta Village will be invited to speak. Looking to engage Pa. Wilds, Pa. Dept. of Community and Economic Development, other potential funding sources.

Broadband Initiative. Signal strength/coverage survey (Potter/Tioga) continues through Dec. 31; nearly 500 of the responses so far out of the total 1,000-plus from both counties are from Potter. Survey responses being plotted on Revitalize Potter County website. Continue working on strategies to support expansion of services into underserved areas outside of Tri-Co Connections footprint.

Small Business Grants. Several options being investigated, based on availability of state or federal funding.

3 – Next Steps

Partnerships. Engaging with Potter County Housing/Redevelopment Authorities, Planning Commission, Potter County Education Council to incorporate Revitalize Potter County into their work plans. Outreach with other established agencies and community organizations will follow.

–Website/Communications. Focus in November/December has been on broadband survey. Website will continue to be further developed and promoted as the focal point and primary information source for Revitalize Potter County. Facebook page, newsletter and other communication tools will be investigated.

Networking. Commissioner Heimel reaching out to rural peers and investigating best practices through state/national connections.

Professional Consulting Service. Our mission is very broad and complex. We need to consider engaging professional consulting services to guide us.

Entrepreneurship/Small Business Training. This and other options to help small businesses will be investigated in the coming year.

Work Groups. This process has been delayed, due in large part to the pandemic. Proposed work groups include: Agriculture/Forest Products (Comm. Hayman as lead); Commercial/Economic Development (Comm. Grupp as lead, Potter County Education Council has offered to assist); Tourism/Recreation (Comm. Heimel as lead); Arts & Culture (Comm. Heimel as lead); Education/Training (TBD), Broadband Expansion (Will Hunt/Ellen Russell as leads) and Health Care (TBD).

Anyone interested in sharing suggestions or comments can send an email to revitalize@pottercountypa.net or call 814-274-8290, extension 209.

Emergency Planning Committee Announces 2021 Schedule

December 16th, 2020 Comments off

LEPCPotter County Local Emergency Planning Committee has announced its public meeting schedule for 2021. Sessions will be held at 11 am in the county’s emergency operations center on Feb. 10, May 11, Aug. 10 and Nov. 9. LEPC is a public safety organization that was formed to coordinate activities and assure readiness for an efficient and effective response to local emergencies. Firefighters, emergency medical service providers, fire police and related responders confer with Potter County Department of Emergency Services for training, funding opportunities, drills/exercises to test preparedness. Those interested in local emergency services and preparedness are welcome to attend the meetings. To register, call 814-274-8900.