Candidates Are Few As Deadline Approaches

February 27th, 2015 Comments off

runofficeWith less than two weeks remaining to sign up, candidates for local government offices being filled in Potter County townships, boroughs and school districts are few and far between. Registered Republicans or Democrats seeking their party nominations for local positions in the May 19 Primary Election have only until Tuesday, March 10, to file petitions bearing at least 10 valid signatures of party members in their voting districts. Offices to be filled include School Board seats in every Potter County district, as well as Township Supervisor, Borough Council Member and Township Auditor. A list of all offices on local ballots and other helpful and timely information can be found on the county’s website, pottercountypa.net (click on Elections/Voter Registration). More information is also available at the Potter County Elections/Voter Registration Office in the Gunzburger Building at 1 North Main Street in Coudersport; telephone 814-274-8467.

Director of Elections Sandy Lewis has issued a reminder of several deadlines related to the May 19 Republican and Democratic Primary Elections: March 10, final day for candidates to file nominating petitions; March 25, deadline for candidates to withdraw; April 20, final day for voters to register, change party affiliation or report change of address; May 12, last day to apply for a civilian absentee ballot; May 15, last day for the county Board of Elections to receive voted civilian absentee ballots.

State Land Tax Fairness Effort Moves Forward

February 26th, 2015 Comments off

Support Tax FairnessListed below are some of the latest developments with the Pennsylvania State Land Tax Fairness Coalition. Updates are being regularly posted on the website, www.pastatelandtaxfairness.com. Those who are interested in following the issue and voicing their support are encouraged to bookmark the site and check back often.

Commissioners from Potter, Clinton, Cameron and Lycoming counties are leading the coalition, which was formed to advocate for a more equitable real estate tax system in areas with a large proportion of tax-exempt state forest, game and park lands. With such a large volume of acreage off the tax rolls, owners of private property bear an unfair burden in supporting school districts, townships and county governments.

Most recently:

  • Tioga County has added its map to the website’s Maps/Charts/Data section, providing a graphic example of the impact felt by nearly 200,000 acres being tax-exempt due to state ownership. Other counties containing a large proportion of state-owned land are preparing similar maps.
  • Governor Tom Wolf’s upcoming budget address will clarify the political challenges that lie ahead in advocating for the mission of the Pennsylvania State Land Tax Fairness Coalition. Insiders say it’s possible that the concepts behind House Bills 342-344 (see below) could be incorporated into broader tax reform packages to be debated in the legislature.
  • State Representative Martin Causer has introduced House Bills 343 and 344, calling on the Commonwealth to increase payments-in-lieu-of-taxes for state-owned land by 50 percent, and to share 20 percent of revenue derived from oil/gas production and timber sales on state land with counties, municipalities and school districts. Rep. Causer held a face-to-face meeting on Feb. 26 with Governor Tom Wolf to discuss the mission of the Pa. State Land Tax Fairness Coalition.
  • Jerry Sasala, acting superintendent of the Austin Area School District, generated support for the cause during testimony before the Pennsylvania Basic Education Funding Commission.

The coalition has attracted widespread support from across the state, with endorsement by the County Commissioners Assn. of Pa., Pa. State Assn. of Township Supervisors, Pa. School Boards Assn., Pa. Assn. of Rural and Small Schools, and many individual members of the Pennsylvania General Assembly. Anyone wishing to provide input or ask questions is encouraged to use the Contact Us section on the website.

County Employees Beat Winter Blues, Hawaiian-Style

February 24th, 2015 Comments off

luauWith the temperature outside barely above zero, Potter County employees got together to beat the winter blues with a Hawaiian-style luau over lunch hour on Tuesday. They were joined by some invited guests, including Irvin Duell of Coudersport, a regular visitor to the Gunzburger Building. He was welcomed by Jeanine Stuckey, a member of the Potter County Board of Auditors. Many employees donned grass skirts and leis.

Resolutions For Veterans Have Potter County Imprint

February 24th, 2015 Comments off

veterans-300x192A resolution that was introduced by Potter County has been adopted by the National Association of Counties (NACo) and now moves to the U.S. Congress for consideration. The measure calls on the federal government to provide funding to pay a portion of the expenses for county-based directors of veterans affairs. It was drafted by Commissioner Paul Heimel, vice chairman of NACo’s Veteran and Military Service Committee, and Potter County Veterans Affairs Director Will Worthington. The resolution was adopted by the committee last weekend during NACo’s Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C.

“In Pennsylvania and several other states, county directors of veterans affairs are trained and certified to assist military veterans to access the benefits and services to which they are entitled,” the resolution read. “County directors also provide other services to benefit veterans. It is only fitting that the federal government should bear a portion of the expenses that counties are incurring in supporting the men and women who have served in the armed forces.”

A separate resolution adopted by NACo, also introduced by Potter County, calls on the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to expand its “choice card” program to pay for veterans’ medical services by non-VA providers in cases where the veteran cannot obtain a VA appointment in a timely manner, or does not have access to a VA facility in close proximity to his or her home.

Conservation District Not Resting On Laurels

February 18th, 2015 Comments off

conservdistMittconservdistRobTPotter County Conservation District directors and staff hosted their annual legislative luncheon at the Susquehannock Lodge, detailing accomplishments and ongoing projects while appealing to state lawmakers for support. This year’s luncheon was significant because it marked the kick-off of the 75-year anniversary observance for the state’s first countywide conservation district. District Manager Chris Mitterer (right) spoke highly of the dedication of staffers Jason Childs, watershed specialist/nutrient management technician; Glenn Dunn II, resource conservationist; Rob Thompson (left), agricultural conservation technician; Adam Causer, low-volume/dirt and gravel road project specialist; and Mary Davis, administrative assistant/Chesapeake Bay technician and farmland preservation coordinator.

Mitterer cited a list of 2015 goals and called on the state legislature to support county conservation districts, which are required to implement state-mandated programs while providing numerous other services to promote environmental stewardship, support for agriculture and public education. Among the projects on the 2015 work plan is a coordinated effort to clean up some of the illegal dump sites that have been discovered in Potter County.

Representative Martin Causer, aides for State Senator Joe Scarnati and Congressman Glenn Thompson, and Potter County Commissioners Doug Morley, Susan Kefover and Paul Heimel expressed their appreciation for the Conservation District’s service. Morley, who serves on the district’s board of directors, said Potter County’s location as headwaters for three major watersheds presents an opportunity to lead by example when it comes to protecting water quality under the motto, “It was clean when it left here.”

conservdistKenCKen Comstock (in foreground at right), vice chairman of the district’s board of directors, emphasized the importance of balancing regulations covering agricultural practices and related activities with a recognition of individual circumstances. Dan Vilello (left), a representative of the Pa. Dept. of Environmental Protection, said that agency’s approach toward enforcement and compliance has evolved and the level of cooperation across the region is impressive. Pete Ryan, an associate director for the district, said he’s heartened by the professional development of the organization’s relatively young staff, which bodes well for the future of the district’s mission.

Details on the Potter County Conservation District are available on the website, pottercd.com. Directors are Earl Brown (chairman), Ken Comstock (vice chairman), H. Richard Curfman (treasurer), Doug Morley, Leroy White, Phil Lehman and Jon Blass. Associate directors, who serve in an advisory role, are Eric Peangatelli, Ron Angood, Pete Ryan, Kevin Smoker, David Saulter and Sarah Johnson. A volunteer Quality Assurance Board also advises the district. A separate volunteer board is in place to help administer the conservation easement purchases through the Farmland Preservation Program.

Noted Expert On Shale Gas Draws Full House

February 17th, 2015 Comments off

engelder2A standing-room-only crowd of more than 100 turned out for the Potter County Natural Gas Resource Center public meeting Tuesday, featuring an award-winning geoscientist as guest speaker. Professor Terry Engelder’s presentation, “Utica Shale: Digging Deeper,” was especially timely, with large drilling projects being planned in the region and others in the exploratory stages.

“Testing really has not been done to any great degree, but the stars look like they may be aligned for gas production in Potter County,” Engelder said. Marcellus Shale has been in the headlines for the past several years, but industry leaders say the Utica layer that’s beneath it — more than two miles underground — and other formations could be where the more intense local gas production takes place. Using a geology lesson sprinkled with opinions on some of the national political issues surrounding shale gas, Engelder described how certain sections of western Pennsylvania and Ohio appear to have more productive “sweet spots” for gas production, but early exploration shows Potter County also holds potential.

terryHe said that shale gas has generated more scientific misinformation than any other public issue in his 40-year professional career. Engelder, who was forecasting the national shale gas boom far ahead of his peers, said he believes shale gas will dominate the U.S. energy portfolio for many decades, meeting the nation’s needs while renewable energy options are developed and logistical obstacles are overcome. A video of Professor Engelder’s presentation is now available for public viewing on the internet via YouTube.