Oswayo Valley Senior Center in Shinglehouse held an open house to celebrate its selection as Pennsylvania Senior Center of the Year by the Pa. Dept. of Aging. The award was based not only on the center’s services and activities, but also on its members’ active involvement with community affairs and volunteer organizations. From left, Suzan Paisley, district aide for Rep. Martin Causer, joins center director Mary Jones in cutting the cake while Commissioners Susan Kefover, Paul Heimel and Doug Morley look on. Jones said the award was a team effort, with many of the center’s members volunteering their time and talents. Barb Kiel from the Potter County Area Agency on Aging detailed the criteria that was used by Department of Aging to select this year’s winner from among many nominees.
Boys and Girls Club of Potter County is slated to reopen in January at the Alliance Barn in north Coudersport. A three-on-three basketball tournament, obstacle course at downtown festivals and sidewalk chalk art contest are among fundraisers launched by the afterschool club’s directors since operations were suspended in February 2013 following an 18-month run. Solicitations brought donations from businesses, service clubs and individuals.
Final piece of the puzzle fell into place when the Boys and Girls Club secured a $14,400 grant from Potter County Children and Youth Services. The money will go into a fund that will help low-income families pay the modest membership fee that will be charged for participating children. More details on the opening date (tentatively Jan. 5), fee structure and other particulars will be announced in the coming weeks.
Boys and Girls Club is a safe environment where children can come together to better themselves academically, physically and socially. They get help from volunteers with their homework, play games, learn about life skills and the community, and work on projects. About two dozen children were involved with the north Coudersport club at its peak. Members made birdhouses and Christmas tree ornaments that were donated to Christmas House, an organization that helps disadvantaged families during the holiday. A bus run from Coudersport’s schools delivered many of the kids shortly after 3 and the club remained open until 6.
Among top priorities now is the hiring of an executive director and a part-time assistant. Donations should be sent to BGCA of Potter County, P. O. Box 322, Coudersport PA 16915. More information on the club has been posted on the Facebook social media site.
A collection of photographs at the Potter County Historical Society museum in Coudersport has been shrouded in mystery for a matter of decades. Today, the organization is turning to social media, its quarterly newsletter and other communications tools in an effort to shed some light on these archival pictures. They depict dozens of people — many of them either Potter County residents or people connected to local families — who remain unidentified after all these years. Certain clues are available. For instance, the group photograph here is a Coudersport family. The pensive girl with long, flowing hair is a total mystery.
At least a dozen portrait photographers offered their services at around the turn of the century. Galeton, Cross Fork, Hector, Oswayo, Austin, Coudersport, Roulette and Shinglehouse all advertised portrait photography in a gallery setting with full darkroom techniques available. A number of the studios were on the upper floors of buildings to take advantage of skylights and salon windows. Some pictures in the collection come from the E. H. Kimball studio that operated in Coudersport and Austin prior to 1911. Others are from Gallagher, Bliss and Lynde, among others.
Members of the public are encouraged to view a sampling of the photographs on the Potter County website, pottercountypa.net (click on “Who Are These People” on the site’s landing page). Those pictures and many others are on display at the Historical Society useum on North Main Street.
Another critical piece of the puzzle has fallen into place for development of the Austin Dam Memorial Park into an even more attractive tourist attraction. Pa. Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources recently approved a $62,200 grant for site improvements. Bulk of the money will be used for road work. Smaller portions will be used for handicapped accessibility, signs and other projects. Earlier this year, Austin Dam Memorial Association (ADMA) qualified for funding from the Potter County Conservation District to level and stabilize a portion of the looping road. The project includes a crushed limestone surface that will curb soil erosion and sedimentation entering Freeman Run, a designated high-quality waterway. The road extends from the park’s northern gateway off Rt. 872 to its southern entrance in Austin Borough. Keeping the passageway navigable for park visitors has always been a challenge for ADMA. Among recent additions to the park are a campground; electrical service; free wi-fi service; a “wall of history” with photographs to tell the story of the 1911 flood; a stone memorial erected by the E. O. Austin Historical Society to recall victims of the flood; running water; picnic areas; rest rooms with flush toilet service, and a heritage apple orchard.
About 40 county commissioners and others with an interest in tax fairness from across Pennsylvania gathered for a strategy session at the Gunzburger Building in Coudersport. Many rural counties in Pennsylvania find themselves stressed by the high proportion of real estate that is owned by the Commonwealth and is thus tax-exempt. The relatively few property owners who remain responsible for paying real estate taxes at the full market value of their homes and acreage are facing an unprecedented burden that is clearly disproportional and unfair.
Earlier this year, the Potter County Commissioners proposed formation of a statewide State Land Tax Fairness Coalition to support two tax relief measures. The coalition has since garnered support from more than two dozen counties, as well as influential organizations such as the County Commissioners Assn. of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania State Assn. of Township Supervisors and the Pennsylvania State School Boards Assn. The coalition is dedicated to:
- An increase in the in-lieu-of-taxes payments on state-owned land for each of the three taxing bodies (school districts, counties and municipalities).
- A sharing of the revenue the state derives from future gas/oil leases and timber sales on state forest land with the same three taxing bodies.
Potter County was held up as an example. Of the county’s total acreage (691,985), some 291,128 acres, or 42 percent, is state-owned and thus tax-exempt. All told, when other government property, churches and other tax-exempts, as well as “Clean and Green” preferentially assessed properties, are added to the equation, just 15 percent of the total real estate in Potter County (shown in white) is subject to taxation at its market value. By law, school districts, municipalities and the county government depend on the real estate tax for the bulk of their necessary operating revenue. With such a relative few property owners having to carry the entire burden, the system is in a serious state of disrepair.
After two workshops and a roundtable discussion, the group meeting in Coudersport reached consensus on a political strategy. Among the elements is the production of maps that graphically depict the high proportion of state land and reduced-assessment real estate in each county, municipality and school district. These maps will be accompanied by a user-friendly layer of data spelling out the financial impacts on each local government unit. The material will be readily available to county officials, state lawmakers and their staff, statewide lobbying organizations, the media, and anyone else with an interest in the topic. They will be designed to be used in House and Senate hearings, during meetings with lawmakers and others, or in news conferences or other public events.
Area jobless rates continue to decline. Potter County’s unemployment rate fell from 7.6 in August to 6.5 percent in September. Labor analysts point out that the jobless rates are seasonally adjusted and require a number of qualifiers. For instance, they do not include a substantial number of people whose unemployment compensation benefits ran out, nor those working part-time and/or working off the books. Pennsylvania’s jobless rate was 5.7 percent in September. The national rate was 5.9.