Potter County employees stepped outside on Tuesday afternoon to welcome disabled war veterans arriving for this year’s Trout Unlimited Project Healing Waters. After passing through downtown Coudersport, the procession moved on to Sweden Valley Manor and stopped at American Legion Post 192 before continuing through Austin to the First Fork Lodge in Costello. Residents lined up along the roads to welcome and salute the visitors from veterans hospitals, waving flags and otherwise expressing their appreciation. Local vets from World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War rode along on a bus.
Potter County Conservation District recently resumed its multi-year project to rid the county of several unsanitary and unsightly illegal dumps. PCCD 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 the Pa. Dept. of Environmental Resources, townships or boroughs, and Potter County Solid Waste Authority to address the worst of the 56 illegal dumping areas identified in 22 municipalities. They’re filled with tires, furniture, electronics, vehicle parts, household waste and other rubbish. Sites were ranked based on the type and amount of trash, needs for special equipment, safety concerns and potential environmental impact. Among recent cleanups were a dump along Pinneo Hill Road in Oswayo Township; another near Germania Street in West Branch Township, just outside of Galeton; and a dumping area off the old Colesburg Road in Coudersport.
High school students in Potter County are the focus of a new program designed to guide them on their quest to find a career path. A unique partnership between Potter County Human Services and the Potter County Education Council is being implemented in cooperation with the county’s five public school districts as well as Port Allegany. Bob Wicker, retired Oswayo Valley School District superintendent, is directing the Career Vocational Mentor Program. He believes there’s not a similar partnership in the country and Potter County’s initiative may serve as a national model. Six part-time mentors are being hired by the high schools to connect students with job shadowing, internship possibilities, summer employment opportunities, and to organize site visits. They also serve as a liaison between the schools and area businesses and industries to assess their employment needs. Activities are integrated with each school’s guidance department. In many cases, guidance counselors are tasked with responsibilities that limit their time in providing comprehensive educational and career counsel to students. Funding for the innovative program is divided between the partners. Potter County Human Services allotted $30,000 from its state block grant for youth development. Each school district contributed $3,000 and the Education Council committed to a $5,000 payment as well as administration.
More than 100 Potter County military veterans have signed up to receive discounts on products and services from local businesses participating in the first-ever Potter County Veterans Discount Program. The number is growing every day. To register, veterans should provide full name, mailing address, and contact information (telephone and email, if possible) to the county’s Office of Veterans Affairs.
There are three ways to apply:
- send required information by an email address to firstname.lastname@example.org;
- send regular mail to Veterans Affairs, Gunzburger Building, 1 N. Main St., Coudersport PA 16915;
- call 814-274-8290, extension 207, to schedule an appointment or obtain additional information. Office hours are 8:30 to 4:30 on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
Each veteran who registers for the program will receive a membership card that must be shown at participating businesses to qualify for a discount. Veterans will also receive a brochure that identifies participating businesses by name and address, along with the particulars of their discount offer.
Under the program, merchants and professional service providers extend discounts – typically 10 percent or more – to Potter County veterans. Certain restrictions may apply. Businesses wishing to sign up or learn more about the program should call 814-274-8290, extension 207, or send email to email@example.com. The program is being administered by the Potter County Veterans Service Committee. Members are Veterans Affairs Director Will Worthington, Commissioner Paul Heimel, and Executive Secretary Dawn Wooster.
“Homeowners and landowners in Potter County should not be forced to bear the burden because of state lawmakers’ inability to pass a budget.” That sharply worded statement is part of a statewide public relations blitz kicked off this week by the County Commissioners Assn. of Pennsylvania. CCAP is calling for local affiliates across the state to connect with Senate and House members and urge them to work toward a budget settlement.
Failure to do so will result in higher real estate taxes in many counties, which are operating with bare-bones budgets and cannot absorb the increased expenses created by the state impasse.
Counties are trapped because they are required by law to provide critical services for the elderly, mentally ill, addicted, developmentally disabled, endangered children and others in need. State subsidies that support these services are stalled by the budget battle.
“The six-month budget delay that occurred last fall caused our county, like other counties across the state, to implement extremely difficult fiscal and administrative strategies to assure our county residents have access to the human services programs they need,” said Doug Morley, chairman of the Potter County Commissioners. “While we continue to be committed to providing critical services to our residents, another impasse in fiscal year 2016-2017 will be even more difficult for us to manage without impacts to our residents.”
Counties adjusted to the current year’s budget crisis by tapping reserves, taking out loans, stopping payments to providers, reducing staff and other measures. They incurred direct costs that local property owners have to pay, such as interest payments on debt.
Counties put up an average of $12.5 million in local funds – an average of 14 percent of operating budgets – to continue to provide critical services for residents.
In addition, the struggles of the FY 2015-16 budget impasse heightened an already difficult situation for counties that have faced more than a decade of stagnant state funding.
Several years ago, despite rising costs at the county level, the legislature indiscriminately cut subsidies to counties by 10 percent. Funding since that time has remained primarily “flat,” even as county expenses have risen even more.
More information on CCAP’s campaign can be found online at pacounties.org under “2016 Legislative Priorities.”
Pond owners can learn about management tools and related issues during a free workshop to be held from 6-8 pm Thursday, May 26, at the North Fork Dam Recreation Area in northeastern Potter County. It’s sponsored by Penn State Extension and the Potter County Conservation District. Topics will include evaluation and management of fish populations, aquatic plant and algae control, and others. Presenters are Jim Clark and Bryan Swistock, water specialists with Penn State Extension. Workshop site is located on North Fork Road in Harrison Township. To get there, turn of Rt. 49 in Harrison Valley onto Whites Corners Road. Then turn right at the first stop sign. To register or learn more, call Jim Clark at 814-887-5613.
The setting for the May 26 workshop is unique. Potter is one of the few Pennsylvania counties that own a dam. The Potter County Commissioners have been working on multiple strategies to build on the recreational and educational potential of the lake. Most recently, Dominion Resources donated money for pavilion improvements, horseshoe pits, playground equipment and a paved walkway in the small park developed next to the lake, which is open to fishing and boating. County officials say the park has great potential for expansion. However, its core purpose is flood protection. Combining grant funds and local resources, the Commissioners were able to meet federal mandates to rehabilitate the North Fork Dam in northeastern Potter County by stabilizing its earthen core and building a new spillway, control gates and piping.