A work group comprised of the Potter County Commissioners, representatives of the Potter County Association of Township Officials and Potter County Planning Department convened to review applications for funding to support bridge repairs. As a result of the meeting, the team proposed awarding $40,000 grant for the Atkins East Bridge rehabilitation in Roulette Township, and $20,000 for the Erickson Road Bridge rehabilitation project in Ulysses Township.
Each year, the commissioners invite townships and boroughs to apply for a share of the Pa. Act 13 Bridge Improvement Restricted Use Fund received by Potter County through a state fee on shale gas wells. Under Act 13, county commissioners have the authority to distribute the funds as they see fit, as long as they address at-risk bridges. Commissioners Doug Morley, Susan Kefover and Paul Heimel instead developed a system whereby the money is expended according to an evaluation/ranking framework to address the most critical needs, as reported by township supervisors and borough councils. Some other counties have adopted the Potter County system as a model. Under Act 13, Potter County receives $40,000 annually in the Restricted Use Fund.
Potter County recently received a $24,122 check from the state government, covering another overdue installment of the state’s share of District Attorney’s Andy Watson’s salary. The state still owes Potter County some $114,122 for the DA’s salary in 2016.
Act 57 of 2005 obligates the state to pay the 65 percent of a full-time DA’s $175,572 salary. When those payments lag, the county covers the entire cost, a situation that does not sit well with the Potter County Board of Commissioners. Other counties with full-time district attorneys face a similar shortfall. According to a spokesman for the Office of Attorney General, the Criminal Justice Enhancement Account does not have enough funds to reimburse the full amount. As the funds continue to accumulate in the account, the state will make a partial payment for 2015.
“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.
DEP’s Mark Stephens addresses Roulette Township’s Jim Ostrom (left) and Conservation District’s Jared Dickerson.
A research project of historic proportions and the first-ever countywide monitoring of public drinking water sources are both on the plate of the Triple Divide Watershed Coalition. Members moved forward on each of the lofty projects during Wednesday’s quarterly meeting at the Gunzburger Building in Coudersport. Mark Stephens, a geologist from the Pa. Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP), attended to advise TDWC members on logistics. A state grant has been approved to cover the bulk of expenses in a detailed groundwater study across Potter County. When it’s concluded, a database will be available that details where much of the county’s groundwater comes from, as well as its characteristics and movement patterns. The information will be invaluable for public policy-makers, certain industries, regulatory agencies and many others. Through the testing of more than 60 water wells in strategic locations, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) will be able to amass and share detailed data.
“This will be an extremely valuable tool for protecting our water when we’re choosing sites for certain types of development,” said John McLaughlin, TDWC chairman. “There is much we simply do not know about our ground water supplies, movements, and other characteristics.” Well data will be assembled and analyzed in a cumulative fashion, with the identity of individual well owners protected. Confidential findings from the analysis will be provided to each owner. Groundwater can contain a variety of suspended and dissolved substances such as bacteria, minerals and gases. These substances are often naturally occurring, but can also be influenced by activities occurring on the land surface. A comprehensive list of water quality parameters will be analyzed for each well.
Meanwhile, the coalition has been designated to administer a $100,000 payment from JKLM Energy to cover installation of 24/7 monitors on the 11 public water systems in Potter County. Each of the system operators is a member of TDWC. Monitors will log water quality data and serve as an early-warning system in the event of contamination. JKLM paid the $100,000 as part of a settlement with DEP for illegally using a drilling surfactant that migrated into the groundwater via subsurface fractures at a shale gas well pad off North Hollow Road in September 2015.
Potter County’s new director of veterans affairs, Bill Simpson, was introduced during a meeting of the Potter County Board of Commissioners. Simpson, a resident of Oswayo, succeeds Will Worthington. A graduate of Oswayo Valley High School, Simpson served with the U.S Navy for more than 23 years. He recently retired after 30-plus years of service as a communications technician with Frontier Communications. Simpson was recently certified as a county veterans affairs director by the Pa. Dept. of Military and Veterans Affairs. This allows him to file claims with the VA for benefits and services on behalf of local military veterans. He intends to develop close working relationships with veterans service organizations in Potter County and build on the record of service established by his predecessors. Potter County has received multiple excellence awards for its veterans’ services. Simpson’s office is located on the first floor of the F. W. Gunzburger County Office Building at 1 North Main Street in Coudersport. Office hours for appointments and walk-ins will be announced. He can be reached at 814-274-8290, extension 210, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
A historic bell that hangs in the tower of the Potter County Courthouse sounded 11 times on Thursday, highlighting an observance welcoming its restoration. Coudersport Mayor Brenda Whitman conducted the brief ceremony at the courthouse square gazebo at 11 am Thursday. The Potter County Commissioners earlier this year approved a $7,600 contract with Verdin Company to install automatic ringing equipment on the bell. It has been programmed to chime on the hour and can also sound for special occasions. Funds for the work were raised by Mayor Whitman, who has been assisted by machinist Bill Daly and Joe Kurtz, the county’s supervisor of building and grounds maintenance. Precautions have been to assure that the new equipment will not damage the bell or its housing in the clock tower. The bell was donated to Potter County by Timothy Ives. One of Coudersport’s earliest inhabitants, Ives built a general merchandise store, was elected county treasurer and later served as judge. The bell has been programmed to ring on the hour from 7 am to 10 pm. (Bell photo by Curt Weinhold)