Attorney General Focuses On State’s Drug Epidemic

January 17th, 2018 Comments off

State Attorney General Josh Shapiro spent much of Tuesday in Potter County as part of his statewide travels to enlist local support in the fight against a growing drug epidemic that has spread into rural Pennsylvania. Shapiro pledged his office’s support for a multi-faceted approach to bring under control a surge in the abuse of opiods, a growing number of heroin overdoses, and a resurgence in the use of methamphetamine. “This has been and will continue to be a law enforcement issue, but it even more of a public health crisis,” he told invited guests from Potter County who included police officers, members of the criminal justice system, treatment specialists and the county commissioners.

To symbolize the bipartisan nature of the mission, Shapiro, a Democrat, was flanked by veteran House of Representatives members Matt Baker and Martin Causer, both Republicans. “We all have to work together,” he emphasized. “I’ve been encouraged by the leadership on this issue demonstrated by lawmakers from both sides of the aisle.” He detailed a series of steps that the Attorney General’s office and partners statewide have taken to combat the drug epidemic, including regional law enforcement strike forces that target drug dealers. “That’s where the enforcement effort should be and it has been working,” Shapiro said. “Over the past year we have arrested an average of 4.4 drug dealers per day, and these aren’t your small-time neighborhood dealers.” When it comes to drug addicts, he called for additional government resources to provide treatment services and alternative criminal justice programs that steer habitual users toward rehabilitation.

Potter County has taken many strides in that direction, District Attorney Andy Watson and Senior Judge John Leete were quick to point out. They cited the county’s DUI and drug treatment courts, a pre-trial diversion program and a new protocol embraced by the law enforcement community that allows drug addicts to turn to police for help. Shown from left are Rep. Martin Causer, Attorney General Josh Shapiro, Rep. Matt Baker, District Attorney Andy Watson, and Deb Rudy, district aide for State Senator Joe Scarnati.

Counties Unveil Priorities For Legislative Action

January 8th, 2018 Comments off

Potter County plays an active role with the County Commissioners Assn. of Pa. (CCAP), which recently completed selection of legislative priorities to be addressed in the new year through registered lobbyists and other advocacy activities. Members of the Potter County Board of Commissioners have seats on CCAP’s Courts & Corrections, Human Services, Assessment and Taxation, Veterans Services, and Economic Development committees, as well as its Natural Gas Task Force.

The counties’ priorities are led by a call for the General Assembly to address human services funding and system reform, highlighting the need to restore human services funding to historic levels in the face of increasing mandates and service demands, as well as the restoration of the 10-percent cut that the legislature made five years ago. Counties further call for a commitment of full state and federal funding for additional mandates and new program requirements imposed on counties, as well as better planning and integration of services. When mandates are not accompanied by adequate funding, the costs are unduly borne by county taxpayers.

Preventing substance abuse and drug overdose remains a priority. Counties continue to seek ways to effectively address the opioid epidemic through additional state resources, implementation of best practices and collaboration on a comprehensive response for those affected. Counties will also be seeking to maintain the shale gas impact fee and all current distributions under Act 13 of 2012, regardless of any potential discussion to place a severance tax on the natural gas industry for other purposes.

Another CCAP priority is to address the shortage of psychiatric, or forensic, beds in state hospitals for county inmates who have mental illness and developmental disabilities. Prisons are not the place for many of these individuals, and there is a need to expand resources to allow more options for care and treatment outside the prison system. Counties further support, as priorities, additional federal and state resources to assure services are adequate for veterans, as well as resources to address growing voting system replacement needs. Finally, counties have emphasized the need to re-engage the General Assembly on the state-county partnership in service delivery. The priority includes re-examining county mandates currently in place and seeking a commitment by the state to work together with counties so that any new or expanded programs are property structured and funded.

More information about the counties’ priorities is available at www.pacounties.org by clicking on Priorities under the Government Relations tab.

Commissioners Seek Support from Senator Scarnati

January 7th, 2018 Comments off

Sheriff Glenn Drake and Chuck Dillon during a lighter moment at last week's meeting.Chuck Dillon (right), an aide to State Senator Joe Scarnati, attended last week’s meeting of the Potter County Board of Commissioners to seek input on state government issues and related matters. Funding for 911 emergency communications and for state-mandated programs provided by Potter County Human Services were among the priorities the board asked Dillon to share with the senator. The commissioners also asked Dillon to convey their appreciation for his support of higher payments-in-lieu-of-taxes for state-owned forest and park land, and his advocacy to include new curbs as part of PennDOT’s Rt. 6 reconstruction project through downtown Coudersport. Also at last week’s meeting, Potter County Sheriff Glenn Drake’s (left) restructuring of his staff got the green light. Changes in job descriptions and salaries will better reflect the duties and requirements of the positions. Drake detailed his deputy sheriffs’ job duties, training requirements and potentially dangerous assignments in support of his requests. When the restructuring is complete, the sheriff’s office will be staffed by Drake and Chief Deputy Larry Goodwin, as well as two full-time deputies and an administrative aide.

Dog Licenses Available Online, By Mail, Or In Person

December 28th, 2017 Comments off

Pet owners are reminded to renew their dog license for 2018. All dogs three months of age or older must be licensed in Pennsylvania as of Jan. 1, either on an annual basis or with a lifetime license. Annual license fees vary from $6.50 to $8.50, with fee reductions for senior citizens and those owners with disabilities. Lifetime licenses, which cost $31.50 or $51.50, are available for dogs that carry identifying microchips or tattoos. These must be purchased in-person at a county treasurer’s office. All license applications require owner contact details and information about the dog’s name, age, breed and color.

In Potter County, licenses are available through the county’s website, pottercountypa.net (click on Departments/Treasurer’s Office), or at the Treasurer’s Office in the Gunzburger Building. Applications printed from the county’s website should be filled out and mailed with payment to County Treasurer, 1 N. Main St. Suite 202, Coudersport PA 16915. There is a $2.00 fee for online orders, which are usually processed within one to two working days. Police agencies and dog law enforcement officers have access to the online system to facilitate return of lost dogs through license numbers. The site also offers a free service through which owners of lost pets can upload a picture and information.

Under Pennsylvania state law, owners who fail to license and/or immunize their dogs could face fines up to $300 per violation for each dog three months of age or older. In addition, owners of non-vaccinated pets may be fined up to $300 plus court costs.

Collaborative Continues To Fill Local Jobs

December 28th, 2017 Comments off
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Bob Wicker

now-hiringBridging the gap between local schools and employers in the region who are seeking certain skills is one of the top priorities for the Northern Tier Educational Collaborative, which will continue into the new year. Area school administrators and other collaborative members who are involved in local education and job training meet regularly at the Potter County Education Center to implement the program. Bob Wicker, former Oswayo Valley School District superintendent, has been spearheading the program. Among partners are the Potter County Education Council, Seneca Highlands Career and Technical Center, 10 public school district affiliates, and local employers seeking to benefit from an influx of trained job applicants.

An adult education element is also part of the plan, as is an outreach to workforce development agencies in the region. Projects that have been implemented so far include an industry advisory council, career fairs in local schools, and “educator in the workplace” programs. A related program uses career mentors to work directly with students at area schools.

Wicker welcomes input from the public, particularly local employers and educators, guidance counselors or administrators. He can be reached at the Potter County Education Center on Water Street in Coudersport, telephone 274-4877.

An economic/employment profile of Potter and six other counties in the region reinforced the need for improvements. North Central Workforce Investment Board conducted the study, which showed that employers prefer to hire locally, but have been frustrated by the lack of qualified job applicants. It calls for improvements in the use of government resources to address the opportunities for job growth locally in the oil and gas industries, finance, administrative support, waste management, real estate, tourism, health care and social assistance sectors.

Inspection Finds County Jail In Full Compliance

December 21st, 2017 Comments off

A state inspection of the Potter County Jail conducted in mid-November found the facility to be in full compliance with standards for operations and facilities. Christopher Oppman, deputy secretary of administration for the Pa. Dept. of Corrections, reported, “Warden Glenn C. Drake II, Deputy Warden Angela Milford and the Potter County Jail staff deserve credit for their efforts in operating this facility in accordance with statewide correctional standards, with no deficiencies or citations to report.” Inspector Stephen V. Noll had reviewed policies and procedures prior to his visit and advised jail administrators of deficiencies which were corrected prior to the inspection. He also acknowledged that the administration had addressed all non-compliance citations and deficiencies identified in the 2016.

Noll’s evaluation on Nov. 14 focused on personnel, admission/release, orientation, inmate rules, staff procedure, classification, housing, clothing, bedding, food services, personal hygiene, medical/health services, visiting, telephone communications, mail, work programs, access to legal services, religion, recreation, commissary/other funds, inmate discipline, security, statistical information reporting, treatment services, incoming publications, deaths, sexual assaults, notifications, and sanitation/maintenance/safety.

The jail was built in 1869. It underwent extensive renovation and expansion in 1995. Its exterior facade of stone masonry was left intact for historical preservation. The jail has an approved capacity of 73 inmates. There were 25 being held there on the day of the inspection. The jail is not equipped, nor is it staffed, to accommodate female inmates.