Members of the public are being encouraged to pause on Saturday, Sept. 20, to pay tribute to a Coudersport High School graduate who perished in an Air Force cargo plane crash during the Korean War more than six decades ago. Schedule of ceremonies has been announced for services to honor 1st Lt. William Turner. The public is invited to two of the events — a memorial service at the Park United Methodist Church at 11 am and a military interment at the Gilmore Cemetery near Sinnemahoning State Park at approximately 1 pm. Coudersport Mayor Brenda Whitman has issued a proclamation marking Saturday as 1st Lt. William Turner Day in Coudersport and encouraging businesses and individuals to display the U.S. flag and participate in the ceremonies.
Members of Lt. Turner’s family will be at the Buffalo Airport on Thursday when the lieutenant’s remains arrive with appropriate Air Force decorum. A military escort is planned to transport him to Coudersport. Visitation will be held from 10 am to 11 am at the church. Among speakers at the 11 am public memorial service will be U.S. Air Force Brigadier General Frank Sullivan (left); Roger Hill, vice president of the Korean War Veterans of America; David Mitchell, representing Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett; Coudersport Mayor Brenda Whitman; and Nancy Glover, Allegewi Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. At approximately 12:15, there will be a procession to Gilmore Cemetery, located on Rt. 872 near Sinnemahoning State Park (formerly the village of First Fork, where 1st Lt. Turner grew up). Organizers are attempting to arrange for an Air Force flyover to mark the occasion. Local arrangements are being handled by Mike Wennin in Cameron County, on behalf of the Gilmore Cemetery, and by Veterans Affairs Director Will Worthington and Commissioner Paul Heimel in Potter County.
In June 2012, an Alaskan National Guard Blackhawk helicopter crew spotted wreckage from the 1952 crash site of a C-124 cargo plane, similar to the aircraft shown below, that killed all 52 servicemen onboard. Several months later, a task force returned to the site and was able to identify 17 sets of remains, one of those being 1st Lt. Turner’s. The plane had struck a mountainside as it flew from Tacoma, Wash., to Elmendorf Air Force Base. Weather conditions made recovery impossible and the shifting glacier covered the wreckage. Searches for the remaining 35 passengers and crew continue.
William Turner (left) was the son of Willis E. and Pearl Caldwell Turner of First Fork. He was a 1946 graduate of Coudersport High School. Classmates recalled him as a quiet student with a strong interest in science. Most of the plane’s occupants were servicemen who had been in Washington on leave and were returning to duty. Among those who have confirmed their attendance is Florida resident Tonja Anderson-Dell, who has spearheaded the national campaign to bring home all 52 victims. Her grandfather was among the casualties. His remains have not yet been recovered. Anderson-Dell has reached out to other families who lost loved ones in the crash.
Coudersport Main Street Committee, in collaboration with the Coudersport Rotary, Chamber of Commerce, and the Potter County Commissioners, invited Williamsport Mayor Gabriel Campana to present a program titled, “Building Downtown Williamsport.” A video from that program has been posted on the county website, available at pottercountypa.net (click on Links tab at the top).
An untraditional dynamic is taking place in Williamsport. Symbolic of this was the decision by a major retailer to relocate from the nearby Lycoming Mall to a downtown location. Mayor Campana spoke of family-friendly events, development plans and innovative programs to address blight, as well as crime and other social problems. This presentation was sought to encourage and inspire community members who are working to improve their towns.
Pa. Dept. of Environmental Resources recently issued a report summarizing impacts of gas and oil drilling on drinking water supplies in Pennsylvania. DEP listed 248 incidents from 2008 to mid-2014 on its website. Three of them occurred in Potter County. In April 2011, DEP notified two unidentified property owners in Bingham Township that nearby gas drilling had caused increased methane levels in their water wells. In July 2011, the department notified an Allegany Township well owner of pollution of his water supply. Subsequent testing showed that water levels had returned to normal.
DEP spokesman Eric Shirk said the report covers both conventional gas and oil operations and deep-drilling for shale gas. Shirk noted that water contamination cases have been on the decline since 2010, and are a small number compared to the 20,000 wells that have been drilled in Pennsylvania over the last six years. “In perspective, the percentages are good,” Shirk said.
The industry has long held that its operations — specifically the process of hydraulic fracturing — typically do not negatively affect water supplies. Marcellus Shale Coalition president Dave Spigelmyer said the DEP documents reflect Pennsylvania’s “longstanding water well-related challenges, a function of our region’s unique geology, where stray methane gas is frequently present in and around shallow aquifers.” He said many of the problems were related to surface spills, not drilling. Pennsylvania is one of two states that does not have standards for private water wells. Faulty well casing can speed up the process. “Our industry works to ensure that we protect our environment, striving for zero incidents,” Spigelmyer said.
Steve Hvozdovich of Clean Water Action had another take on the report: “I think 200 or so contamination cases is pretty alarming, especially when you consider industry (representatives) say they’ve not contaminated any water well supplies.” Hvozdovich pointed out that the report did not specify whether the well owners were satisfied by efforts to correct the problems.
Problems listed in the documents include methane contamination, spills of wastewater and other pollutants, and wells that went dry or were otherwise undrinkable. Some of the cases are still being investigated. Issues were identified in 22 counties, with most of the problems in Susquehanna, Tioga, Lycoming, and Bradford counties in the northeast portion of the state. There were 35 reports in McKean County, mostly in the Bradford area. Cameron County had no reported incidents.
Hundreds of people are directly affected by programs offered by Potter County Human Services (PCHS), but few take the opportunity to provide input on how those services are delivered. An organization that’s in place to accommodate public comments and suggestions will hold its next meeting on Thursday, Sept. 18, at 7 pm in the PCHS building at Roulette. PCHS operates programs for victims of alcoholism and other drug abuse, older citizens, the mentally ill, children who are at-risk, and the intellectually disabled. Members are appointed by the Potter County Board of Commissioners. Anyone interested in being considered for appointment to the board should contact the Commissioners Office at 274-8290, extension 207.
Just two properties were sold during Monday’s Potter County Tax Claim Bureau (TCB) upset sale — a home in Galeton and a 2.5-acre lot in Ulysses Township. Next step in the state-mandated procedure will be a continuance sale at 10 am on Monday, Sept. 22, at the Gunzburger Building in Coudersport. About a half-dozen properties that did not attract bidders in the upset sale will be offered for sale by public auction. They are properties on which taxes for 2012 or earlier have not been paid. A list of the properties that are subject to sale is available from the TCB. Bidders are advised that the properties that are placed on the auction block may be subject to liens, mortgages, judgments or other title attachments. TCB in recent years has implemented a series of changes to make things easier for those who have fallen behind on their taxes, including a monthly installment option (owner-occupied properties only) and a credit card payment system. Tax Claim Bureau office is located in Suite 111 of the Gunzburger Building, 1 North Main Street, Coudersport PA 16915; telephone (814) 274-0488, Option 1.
David Hyde has been named director of A Way Out, the domestic violence and sexual abuse prevention, awareness and victim advocacy organization serving Potter County. He succeeds Freda Fultz, who served as director for many years. He’ll be meeting with directors and staff on Wednesday, Sept. 3, to discuss ongoing and future initiatives and direction of the organization. Hyde, a Shinglehouse native and lifelong resident of the area, served most recently as a quality assurance and training manager for National Employee Assistance Program in Allegany County, N.Y. He holds a master’s degree in management of non-profits and is pursuing his doctorate.