Potter County Coronavirus Summary: THURSDAY P.M. Update

March 30th, 2020 Comments off

Governor Tom Wolf announced this morning that all schools will stay closed for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year.

Potter County Department of Emergency Services has distributed personal protective equipment to all emergency service agencies operating in the county. More than 1,400 n-95 masks, 300 gowns and 800 pairs of gloves have been provided to emergency medical services, quick response services and medics. More than 1,000 n-100 and regular masks and 900 pairs of gloves have been given out to firefighters and fire police. Hand sanitizer has also been provided to emergency responders. A shipment of additional protective equipment from the Federal Emergency Management Agency was received on Wednesday and will be held in inventory.

In figures released Thursday afternoon on confirmed Coronavirus cases across the region, there were no changes in Potter County (3), Cameron (1), McKean (1), Tioga (10) or Elk (2). Cases in Lycoming County rose from 15 to 17; Clinton County, from 3 to 4; Centre County, from 57 to 59. Two neighboring counties in New York State held steady — Allegany County, 21, and Cattaraugus County, 15.

Pennsylvania had 18,228 confirmed Coronavirus cases entering Thursday — up by 1,989 from the previous day. The daily increases were 1,680, 1,579 and 1,830 the previous three days. There have been 338 fatalities. The number rose by 30 since Wednesday. Some 87,374 patients have tested negative. It’s important to note that the numbers that are reported are based on the victim’s county of residence. Roughly 13,000 of the confirmed cases have come from Philadelphia County and other parts of southeastern Pennsylvania. Statewide, 42 percent of confirmed Coronavirus cases have been found in those ages 25 through 49. Other figures are: 50-64, 29 percent; 65 and older, 20 percent; 19-24, 8 percent.

Businesses affected by the Coronavirus have been taking advantage of new tools created by two county departments to support them during troubled times. First of these is an interactive map which shows Potter County businesses that remain open as “life-sustaining” under Gov. Wolf’s mandatory closing and stay-at-home orders. The map also shows locations where public school districts are distributing free lunches. Local residents are encouraged to support their local businesses during this time of economic distress. The map can be accessed here. More businesses will be added daily as the resource becomes more widely known. Business owners are encouraged to provide information on special services they are providing, such as early shopping for seniors, curbside pickup, etc. If you operate a local business and would like your business to be added to the map, please fill out this survey located here . The link can also be found on the left side of the map (see link above). Once completed, your business information should automatically populate on the map.

A second service is the Economic Impact Survey that will be used to guide county leaders in seeking state or federal assistance for local business. It is important for any business that has been affected by the pandemic to participate in this. The link can be found here and can also be found on the left side of the map. These services are a joint project of the county’s Planning/GIS and Community Development Department, under the supervision of the Potter County Commissioners.

Business owners can learn about available federal resources through the “Small Business Owner’s Guide to the Provisions of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.” To access it, click here. Of particular interest is the Paycheck Protection Program which is now open to small businesses. This program authorizes forgivable loans to pay employees and other business expenses during the pandemic. Learn more at https://bit.ly/2R767E3, or download the application: https://bit.ly/2wboIrq. Pa. Dept of Economic and Community Development (DCED) also offers assistance at http://dced.pa.gov.

Pa. Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services has launched a toll-free “warmline” available 24/7 for those who may need to talk with a professional about challenges they may be experiencing during this time. The number is 1-855-284-2494.

Gov. Tom Wolf has placed all of Pennsylvania under a “stay at home order” to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Individuals may leave their residence only to perform certain activities. Details can be found here.

State agencies have established helpful online resources as follows:

  • Pa. Dept. of Health updates and guidance are available here.
  • Enforcement of the state’s ban on the operation of “non-life sustaining” businesses continues by the Pa. Liquor Control Board, Pa. Dept. of Health, Pa. Dept. of Agriculture, Pa. State Police, and local officials. DCED is administering the ban and has provided resources for businesses here. These include waiver request forms, a critical medical supplies portal, support services for affected businesses, and an updated life-sustaining business list.
  • Guidance for essential businesses who are remaining open on how to control the spread of COVID-19 can be found here
  • Unemployment Compensation information can be found here.

Potter County Planning/GIS Department is updating a map tracking the confirmed cases statewide. It includes information related to the virus, provided by the Pa. Dept. of Health and Penn State University. To access it, click here.

Pennsylvania’s primary election has been postponed from April 28 until June 2. All public schools will remain closed until further notice. It’s possible that students will not return to classes until the 2020-21 school year starts in September. Deadlines for filing both federal and state income tax returns has been extended to July 15.

The Pennsylvania CareerLink office in Potter County is closed. To reach a staff person, call 814-590-6837. For unemployment compensation issues, call 1-888-313-7284, or visit the website here. For general inquiries, go the Pa. CareerLink website here.

The National Assn. of Counties has set up an informative COVID-19 resource page here. To combat misinformation being circulated about the pandemic, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has unveiled a fact-check website. The website can be found here. Reliable information can also be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website here.

Potter County elected officials and department heads continue to implement measures to continue operations of the county government. A list of online options and telephone numbers can be found at pottercountypa.net.

At Potter County Human Services, Protective Services, Child Welfare, Crisis, and On-Call staff remain available for emergencies. Caseworkers are regularly conferring with clients by phone to check on their welfare and offer assistance. The Medical Assistance Transportation Program continues to operate. Potter County Drug & Alcohol Services is conducting assessments by telephone. Inpatient referrals can still be made and outpatient providers are making therapy available by phone. More information is available online at pottercountyhumansvcs.org.

The Potter County Treasurer’s Office is closed. Dog licenses can obtained by mail or online at pottercountypa.net (click on Treasurer’s Office). Fishing licenses can be purchased online at gonefishingpa.com.

Potter County Director of Veterans Affairs Michael Pepper remains available to assist veterans at 814-274-8290, ext. 210. The VA has closed its Coudersport clinic. Those who need labs or face-to-face visits will need to go to the clinic in Wellsboro. VA is encouraging veterans to use the virtual care modalities to get the care they need. More details are available on the Military Veterans of Potter County page on Facebook, or from Director Pepper.

Potter County Assessment Office/Tax Claim Bureau is accepting tax payments through a drop-box accessible in the parking lot of the Gunzburger Building (corner of Water and West streets). Delinquent tax payments can be made online by clicking here or by mail to: Potter County Tax Claim, 1 North Main St., Suite 111, Coudersport, PA 16915. Arrangements are being made to accept stay-of-sale agreements by mail. Many forms and applications can be found online at pottercountypa.net (see Tax Claim/Tax Assessment tabs). For assistance, send email to jostrom@pottercountypa.net, or call or text 814-203-0761.

Potter County Planning/GIS office is closed. The online Tax Parcel Viewer has printing capabilities at no cost. Online mapping services can be found at www.pottercountypa.net. Also found on the website is a digital Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance application form. If an in-person appointment is needed, call Will Hunt at 814-274-8290, ext. 229. Potter County Planning Commission has cancelled its April meeting.

Conservation District Looks Back On Impactful Year With Pride

March 10th, 2020 Comments off

Energy companies have zeroed-in on Potter County for an infrastructure construction spree — and there’s more coming. It translates into a heavy workload for the Potter County Conservation District. However, even as their duties expand, county conservation districts likely face a fourteenth consecutive year of a funding freeze from the state legislature. Those were among the themes emerging from the annual Potter County Conservation District Legislative Luncheon, held at the Susquehannock Lodge. It brings together farmers, environmental stewards, district directors and public officials to review the PCCD’s activities and candidly discuss its issues and challenges.

Representatives for State Senator Joe Scarnati and State Assemblyman Martin Causer confirmed that the current draft of the state’s 2020-21 budget does not call for funding increases. In response, Brenda Shambaugh, executive director of the Pa. Assn. of Conservation Districts, encouraged lawmakers to step up their efforts on county districts’ behalf and suggested that citizens also weigh in. PCCD Director Jason Childs (above) concurred that budget limitations can hamper the district’s mission.

Another PCCD staffer, resource conservationist Glenn Dunn II, detailed the energy infrastructure issues that have kept the staff busy with permit inspections. Among these are a wind energy generation facility that involved a high volume of earth disturbance near high-quality waterways in the county’s northeast corner. Shale gas development, which slowed in the latter half of 2019, has required PCCD to oversee construction of wells, pipelines, compression stations and other infrastructure. At the same time, electric companies are upgrading their equipment, new wireless communication towers are being constructed, a major solar energy installation is on the drawing board in Hebron Township.

Andrew Mickey, road specialist, detailed and a highly successful program to help local governments improve dirt, gravel and low-volume local roads. In 2019, some 14-plus miles of substandard road sections were improved, at a cost of nearly $1.3 million. On a related note, PCCD staffers paid tribute to Dr. Peter Ryan, an associate director for the district, for the major role he and other local Trout Unlimited leaders played in persuading the state government to fund the local roads initiative. Repairing the roads has greatly reduced pollution in nearby headwater streams, equating to hundreds of miles of streams being more habitable to sensitive aquatic life.

Jared Dickerson, watershed and nutrient management technician, pointed out that the district continues to be involved with landowners for compliance with Chesapeake Bay nutrient load requirements, streambank restoration and habitat improvement projects. Emily Shosh, outreach and communications advisor, summarized an active year in public education, including many activities for children, promoting environmental conservation and nature education.

Prior to adjournment, Earl Brown, retired vocational agriculture educator, spoke proudly of the conservation district’s evolution. Brown serves as chairman of the PCCD board of directors. He has been engaged in district activities for 52 years. “The district is now staffed with ambitious, young professionals who all have a good education and are very dedicated to their work,” Brown said. “We have a proud history. As you could see today, we’ve come a long way and we’re in good hands with this team.” Potter County Commissioner Barry Hayman, recent appointee to the PCCD board, echoed the chairman’s comments and said he and Commissioners Nancy Grupp and Paul Heimel appreciate the work of the district’s staff.

 

 

Bigger Tax Base For Schools, Municipalities, County

February 23rd, 2020 Comments off

Potter County Tax Assessment Office added nearly $4 million to the county’s tax base in 2019, due in large part to field work taking place across the county to locate new construction and property improvements, Chief Assessor Jacob Ostrom reported that the county’s real estate tax base increased by $3,900,000 in assessed value, translating to about $12.5 million in added market value. Real estate taxes levied by school districts, boroughs, townships and the county government are applied to a property’s assessed value. As a result of the tax base additions, the county government will receive an additional $71,500 in taxes this year. School districts and municipalities will also see higher tax revenue.

Ostrom’s job grew harder several years ago when the state legislature eliminated the position of township and borough tax collector. In prior years, these elected officials were responsible for finding and reporting new construction and improvements. Today, the Assessment Office relies primarily on building permit records and visual inspections to update tax records.

County’s ‘Project 2025’ Charges Out Of Starting Gate

February 23rd, 2020 Comments off

A strategy to address two of the most serious challenges facing Potter County has moved quickly into the implementation stage. “Project 2025” was unveiled last month by Commissioners Nancy Grupp, Paul Heimel and Barry Hayman. It’s a blueprint to reverse the steady descent of the county’s population, coupled with the growing outmigration of young adults. These trends have serious implications for the future vitality and quality of life in Potter County. Most recent U.S. Census Bureau figures reflect another 5-percent drop in population, from 17,462 in 2010 to 16,622 as of June 2019. At the same time, the county’s median age has gradually risen to 47 years, far above the statewide median of 41. The commissioners have assigned two of their department heads, Planning Director Will Hunt and Community Development Director Ellen Russell, to develop and implement Project 2025. Its lofty goal is to assemble stakeholders, conduct intensive research, and implement a strategy to reverse the population loss and median age growth by the end of 2025. Some of the options are spelled out in the 2020-29 Countywide Comprehensive Plan. That document reflects input provided by hundreds of community leaders, business owners, conservation advocates, education and tourism officials, and others with an interest in the county’s future. A website will be developed to serve as a clearinghouse for Project 2025. It will include progress reports, links to helpful resources and other features.

Director Russell shared some details as guest speaker at the Feb. 17 Coudersport Rotary Club meeting.  “Project 2025 is going to require a real team approach and some changes in culture,” she explained. “Too often we hear the words, ‘because we’ve always done it this way,’ and that is a mindset that will have to change if we are going to succeed.”

Among the initial objectives that have been identified are:

  • more effectively seeking input from teens and young adults on the future of their communities;
  • encouraging a complete count in the 2020 U.S. Census (each resident equates to about $21,000 in federal and state funding coming to the county during the new decade);
  • capitalizing on the emergence of high-speed internet service in marketing Potter County as a place to live and start or expand a business;
  • enhancing promotion of state parks, attractions, and natural resources for tourism and relocation to the county;
  • implementing business and economic development strategies (on March 12, the Project 2025 team is hosting a Small Business/Entrepreneur Workshop at the Gunzburger Building)
  • developing innovative strategies to enhance career exploration for both high school students and adults.

(Here, Coudersport Rotary Club President Ruth Sallade, left, welcomes Ellen Russell to the Feb. 17 meeting.)

County Officials Host VA Visit To Discuss Veterans’ Services

February 21st, 2020 Comments off

Potter County hosted a visit by two executives of the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs on Friday as part of an ongoing partnership for the delivery of VA health care to hundreds of the county’s military veterans. Commissioners Nancy Grupp, Paul Heimel and Barry Hayman were joined by Veterans Affairs Director Michael Pepper and Maintenance Director Joe Kurtz in welcoming Bruce Tucker, executive director, and Marie Kervan, associate chief nurse for medicine, from the VA Finger Lakes Health Care System. Their focus was on the Potter County Veterans Clinic, operated by the Bath (N.Y.) VA Medical Center at a county-owned building in Coudersport.

Director Tucker discussed challenges that the VA and other providers have experienced in recruiting certain health care professionals to rural areas. The VA has adjusted by introducing “telehealth” to supplement veterans’ services at many of its medical clinics, including the Potter County facility. Many medical diagnoses can be made through the fiber optic technology. The group toured the local clinic and discussed building modifications that Director Kurtz and the county maintenance crew will be making later this year to meet the VA’s needs. About 300 veterans are regularly seen at the clinic. Director Pepper pointed out that he and the county’s Veterans Service Committee are working on an outreach campaign to apprise veterans of the benefits and services to which they may be entitled. (Shown from left at the local clinic are Michael Pepper, Marie Kervan, Bruce Tucker, Paul Heimel, Barry Hayman and Nancy Grupp.)

New Potter-Tioga Visitor Guide Now Available

February 10th, 2020 Comments off

Copies of the 2020 Visitor Guide and Map, published by the official tourist promotion agency, Visit Potter-Tioga, are now available in the Potter County Community Development office. It’s located in the Gunzburger Building, 1 North Main Street in Coudersport; first office on the right inside front entrance. For more information, call 814-274-8290, ext. 209. The guide is also available at the Pennsylvania Lumber Museum.