Local Group Pushes For Four-Season Denton Hill State Park

July 3rd, 2015 Comments off

June6DentonHillMembers of a stakeholders’ committee formed to advocate for the resurrection of Denton Hill State Park as the centerpiece of a broader tourist promotion strategy will reconvene in the coming weeks. The committee is working as a liaison with the Pa. Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources. Members see the park as the centerpiece for a broader strategy – open as a year-round attraction and a link to other state parks and attractions in the region. Potter County Visitors Association and the Pennsylvania Route 6 Alliance are among the stakeholders. Lyman Run State Park, the expanded Pennsylvania Lumber Museum, and trails in the Susquehannock State Forest are among the other attractions that would be linked.

Consulting firm Moshier Studio of Pittsburgh landed a state contract to study Denton Hill State Park under a plan that would refurbish the ski area and develop other facilities and attractions. Equipment such as lifts, snowmakers, groomers, lighting, safety padding and rentals will need to be either upgraded or acquired in order for skiing to return. State officials have made no commitment to having the ski area open for the 2015-16 season. The park will reopen for two archery festivals this summer, but beyond that it will remain idle for the foreseeable future.

Shale Gas Impact Fee Allotments Announced

July 3rd, 2015 Comments off

impact_feeLocal governments now know how much money they’ll get this year as a result of the “impact fee” on shale gas drilling. Potter County’s allotment is $231,457, as well as another $25,000 that can be used only for certain recreational and environmental projects. Potter County’s West Branch Township will get $77,064 and Pleasant Valley Township is slated to receive $37,877. Other Potter County municipal allotments are: Abbott, $6,447; Allegany, $30,722; Austin, $3,837; Bingham, $8,520; Clara, $38,418; Coudersport, $21,301; Eulalia, $7,743; Galeton, $7,159; Genesee, $7,189; Harrison, $13,627; Hebron, $8,780; Hector, $9,608; Homer, $5,027; Keating, $23,129; Oswayo Borough, $596; Oswayo Township, $5,339; Pike, $3,482; Portage, $1,421; Roulette, $8,839; Sharon, $9,879; Shinglehouse, $3,240; Stewardson, $1,761; Summit, $2,875; Sweden, $19,375; Sylvania, $13,072; Ulysses Borough, $1,935, Ulysses Township, $7,176; and Wharton, $26,030.

Amount of each allocation is based on gas production that took place in 2014. Total impact fee payments going out to all counties and municipalities in the state add up to $223.5 million, a slight decrease from last year’s $226 million. Those figures include $18 million in payments to County Conservation Districts, Pa. Conservation Commission, PUC, DEP, Fish and Boat Commission, Emergency Management Agency, Dept. of Transportation and Office of State Fire Commissioner.

Under Act 13, 60 percent of the total fees collected go to counties and local governments and 40 percent to the state. The state’s portion is to be used for emergency response planning, training and other activities; water, storm water, and sewer system construction and repair; infrastructure maintenance and repair; as well as environmental initiatives. County and local governments can use the funds for preservation and reclamation of water supplies; improvements to local roads and bridges; construction and repair of water and sewer systems; delivery of social services; local tax reduction; housing; conservation districts; emergency preparedness and flood plain management.

The 60 percent of the fees not retained by the state are distributed as follows: 36 percent to county governments with wells subject to the fee; 37 percent for host municipalities with wells subject to the fee; and 27 percent for all local governments in counties with wells. Both the PUC and the Pa. Dept. of Environmental Protection have posted information about the Act 13 impact fee and related topics on their websites.

State Makes Four More Land Buys, Gutting Tax Bases

June 30th, 2015 Comments off

???????????????????????????????????????????????????????Another day brought another acquisition of private property by a state, removing additional acreage from county, school district and municipal real estate bases. On Tuesday, June 30, the Pennsylvania Game Commission purchased 300 more acres for the State Game Lands system. PGC bought 231 acres in Howard Township, Centre County, from a private owner for $325,000. Also, the agency purchased 63.5 from a private estate in Saville Township, Perry County, for $150,000. Earlier in the month, some 430 acres were acquired by the Pa. Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) in Clinton County, at a cost of $776,000. Additionally, DCNR has acquired the 3,053 acres near Mocanaqua in Luzerne County and added it to the Lackawanna State Forest. Previously, DCNR announced that it had purchased 17,000 acres in McKean County’s Norwich and Sergeant townships.

Pennsylvania State Land Tax Fairness Coalition leaders sprung into action in response to news that another 20,800 acres have been added to the state’s holdings, stripping it from the tax base of the affected school districts, counties and municipalities. “For as much work as we have put into our mission, it appears that the state itself is making the case for us,” said Potter County Commissioner Paul Heimel, one of the coalition leaders.

The organization responded to the four separate acquisitions by immediately renewing contacts with state Senate and House members. They’re making sure lawmakers are aware of the purchases, as they seek support for an increase in the annual payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILT) for each acre of tax-exempt, state-owned land. The rate stands at $1.20/acre for each of the three taxing bodies. One bill (HB 344) would boost it to $1.80. Another measure (HB 1224) would double to rate to $2.40/acre.

“These latest acquisitions raise the question we have been asking all along – how much tax-exempt, state-owned land is enough?” Heimel said. “Whenever acreage comes under state ownership, all other property owners are forced to pay more and that land is locked up in its current use. There are some benefits to that, for sure. But we as a populace need to decide when we have reached the point where the state owns enough land. The total always goes up, but never down.”

New Mental Health Crisis Hotline Now In Place

June 30th, 2015 Comments off

mentalPotter County Human Services has announced that a new After-Hours Mental Health Crisis Hotline is now in place, in cooperation with Concern Crisis Intervention Services. Trained staffers are available to provide crisis intervention, consultation, referrals and immediate mental health assessments with the goal of ensuring personal safety of the caller and promoting wellness. Services are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, regardless of whether or not callers are covered by an insurance provider. There is no fee. Due to state regulations, parents of callers under age 14 must be notified if their child contacts the hotline seeking help. For assistance, contact Dickinson Center Inc. at 814-274-8651 during normal business hours, (Monday-Thursday from 8-5 and Fridays from 8-4). For after-hours crisis intervention, call toll-free 1-877-724-7124.

Potter County Human Services has contracted with Dickinson and Concern to assure a qualified first point of contact for callers. After an assessment, the caller is then directed to specific service providers, which could range from law enforcement and drug/alcohol intervention to child protective services and emergency medical personnel. Referrals can also be made for homelessness, eating disorders, domestic violence services, in-patient mental health hospitalization and suicide prevention services. Potter County residents are advised to place the contact numbers near each telephone in their homes. Anyone with questions should contact Potter County Human Services at 1-800-800-2560 or 544-7315.

County Auditors Release Report On 2014 Finances

June 22nd, 2015 Comments off

auditPotter County Auditors Pauline Kleintop, Margo Germino and Jeanette E. Stuckey have completed their review of county financial records and posted their 2014 audit report on the county website, pottercountypa.net (click on Departments/Auditors). Under the County Code of Pennsylvania, in each county where the office of controller has not been established, three county auditors shall be elected every four years to audit the fiscal affairs of the county. Certain state and federal government programs also require counties to retain the services of independent/certified auditors for review of fiscal operations through a process known as a “single-county audit.” Potter County has contracted with Zelenkofske Axelrod LLC of Harrisburg.

County Receives Partial Reimbursement For DA Salary

June 22nd, 2015 Comments off

scalesPotter County recently received an $83,000 check from the state government, covering a portion of long-overdue reimbursement of District Attorney’s Andy Watson’s 2014 salary. The state still owes Potter County more than $29,314 for 2014 and $114,122 for 2015. Act 57 of 2005 obligates the state to pay the 65 percent of the DA’s $175,572 salary. When those payments lag, the county covers the entire salary, 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 another payment for 2014.