New Veterans Service Committee Meets March 18

March 13th, 2019 Comments off

A new Potter County Veterans Service Committee will hold its first meeting at 5 pm on Monday, March 18, at the Gunzburger Building in Coudersport. Mike Pepper, the county’s veterans affairs director, and Danielle Gietler, executive secretary for the board of commissioners, are joined on the committee by representatives from each American Legion or Veterans of Foreign Wars post in the county.

Its purpose is to advocate for the military veterans of Potter County and advise the Board of Commissioners on veterans’ services. Among projects on the new committee’s agenda is expansion of the county’s veterans discount program. Dozens of Potter County businesses and service providers offer discounts for military veterans. Vets can obtain ID cards from Director Pepper’s office. They can also get a brochure that lists locations where the discounts are offered. Another high priority is an expansion of the veterans gravestone restoration project. The committee will be working to garner support from additional cemetery caretakers, youth groups and volunteers.

Other potential committee goals are a countywide veterans benefits fair; education/training initiatives; workforce placement and retraining for veterans; housing issues; advocacy for veterans, military service members and their families at the statewide and national levels, and a more concerted outreach to veterans.

Workshop On Bicycle Tourism Planned Thursday

March 13th, 2019 Comments off

Area tourist promoters are looking to cash in on the growing popularity of bicycling by steering more pedalers to U.S. Rt. 6 through the center of Potter, McKean and Tioga counties. They’re also working to divert cyclists onto roads and trails that will carry them into other local communities. A free public workshop and luncheon for business operators and community leaders interested in supporting the plan will be held on Thursday, March 14, at the Deane Center in Wellsboro. For details, call 814-435-7706. The Galeton-based Pennsylvania Rt. 6 Alliance is spearheading the plan, following a successful effort to have the highway designated as a U.S. Bike Route last spring. Studies show that cyclists are using Rt. 6, despite safety hazards and the lack of wide berms across much of its expanse through the region. Russ Roca, an expert in bike tourism, will share strategies that his organization, A Path Less Pedaled, has used to help other regions to develop their tourism programs. Roca will provide attendees with clear strategies that can be implemented in a short period.

Countywide Advanced Life Support Services In Jeopardy

March 3rd, 2019 Comments off

Four months after the Potter County Commissioners launched a $4 million upgrade of the countywide 911 emergency communications system, representatives of one of the organizations that provides life-saving medical services sounded an alarm of their own. Bob Cross and Michele Mather from the Coudersport Volunteer Ambulance Assn., provider of advanced life support (ALS) for all of Potter County, attended the commissioners’ Feb. 28 meeting in an effort to draw public attention to their plight. Citing a projected $50,000 deficit for the current year and the need for greater support from township and borough governments, Cross and Mather pointed out that ALS service is now in jeopardy. Rising costs for equipment, personnel, training, and overhead have plagued the organization for some time. The solution, they said, is a combination of greater support from local governments and changes in state regulations and policies.

Many people are unaware of the distinction between ALS and basic life support (BLS) services. ALS is rendered by highly trained paramedics who deliver medical care at the scene of emergencies and during transportation to hospitals. In a rural area, the availability of ALS is a life-or-death issue. Ambulance associations operated by volunteer departments throughout the county long ago stepped up to the challenge of providing BLS for every township and borough in Potter County, with support from emergency medical technicians and other volunteers. With the advent of ALS, Charles Cole Memorial Hospital created a paramedic service to complement the basic services provided by the ambulance associations. Hospital administrators eliminated the ALS division due to economics and Coudersport Volunteer Ambulance Assn. agreed to fill the gap as a hub for the countywide service. That was based on the premise that financial support from each township and borough, combined with state reimbursement for advanced life support services rendered to low-income patients, would cover the basic costs.

(Above, Bob Cross and Michele Mather describe the plight of ALS services in Potter County to Potter Leader-Enterprise reporter Halie Kines.)

Make Local Governments Pay For State Police Coverage?

February 20th, 2019 Comments off

Local governments in Potter County have joined a statewide movement in opposition to a plan that has been hatched in Harrisburg to force many residents to pay an annual tax for Pa. State Police coverage. Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposed 2019 budget includes a proposal to require residents in townships and boroughs that do not have local police departments to pay an $8.00 fee to support state police coverage. Wolf floated the proposal two years ago and received little support from the state legislature, due to its impact on smaller, cash-strapped communities. This year’s plan may be more palatable to lawmakers because it holds the fee at $8.00 per-capita for municipalities with fewer than 2,000 residents, while imposing a higher tax on more populous townships and borough.

In Potter County, the annual fees would total as follows: Abbott, $1,904; Allegany, $3,320; Austin, $4,432; Bingham, $5,448; Clara, $1,568; Eulalia, $7,064; Genesee, $6,296; Harrison, $8,184; Hebron, $4,688; Hector, $3,056; Homer, $3,392; Keating, $2,456; Oswayo Boro, $1,104; Oswayo Twp., $2,200; Pike, $2,592; Pleasant Valley, $680; Portage, $1,792; Sharon, $6,832; Stewardson, $584; Summit, $1,472; Sylvania, $600; Ulysses Twp., $5,064; West Branch, $3,144; and Wharton, $776.

Water Quality Work Group Hears Of Gas Well Citations

February 12th, 2019 Comments off

Members of the Potter County Water Quality Work Group invited two representatives of JKLM Energy to attend their Feb. 11 meeting for discussion of recent Pa. Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) citations of JKLM for violation of regulations related to waste water handling at shale gas wells. Scott Blauvelt, the company’s director of regulatory affairs, and environmental compliance consultant Terra Tokarz from WhipperHill Compliance LLC, presented an overview of Pennsylvania’s regulatory framework. They explained the circumstances that resulted in fines for spills of small volumes of water with heavy salt concentrations at well pads, and the subsequent clean-up. Blauvelt shared with members that JKLM Energy, which operates solely in Potter County, is projected to be the state’s leading producer of Utica Shale natural gas by late 2019.

Also at the Feb. 11 meeting, an update was presented on a number of grant-funded initiatives. Potter County Conservation District has been awarded a $40,000 grant for fish habitat projects in the county, Application deadline is March 1 for proposed Potter County Dirt, Gravel and Low-Volume Road projects. DEP Environmental Mini-Grant requests have been submitted for a Stream Table and Water Education Day. Dominion Energy mini-grants have been approved for local watershed associations’  educational outreach and/or small-action projects. Funding remains available from the Pa. Assn. of Conservation Districts for establishment of riparian buffers to protect water quality.

In other matters, Charlie Tuttle, chair of the Triple Divide Watershed Coalition, reported that she is working with the Pa. Rural Water Assn. to bring a video-delivered water system operator certification training course to Potter County. Darrell Davis, Genesee Headwaters Watershed Assn., announced that the canoe launch in the community park is in need of minor repairs that will be made in the coming weeks. Davis also announced that GHWA is sponsoring a program on the early settlers of the region at 7 pm on March 19 at the Genesee United Methodist Church. Kathy Mitchell, First Fork Watershed Assn., reported that the organization recently met and decided on an active agenda for 2019.

Also, Potter County Planning Director Will Hunt discussed the public input process that continues as a key element in drafting the Northern Pennsylvania Tri-County Comprehensive Plan (Potter, McKean and Cameron counties). Next Steering Committee meeting will be held on March 1 and a date for the three-county public meeting will be announced in the near future

DEP is accepting public comments until March 1 on a new agricultural erosion plan manual that is being developed. Lycoming County is seeking projects to engage GIS students in field work to benefit public agencies or non-profit organizations. Justin Boatwright, Pa. Fish & Boat Commission waterways patrol officer, has been transferred to Clinton County. Chad Lauer, WCO in Tioga County, will cover Potter County until a successor is assigned.

Water Quality Work Group Chairman Jason Childs announced that the next meeting will be held at 8:30 am Monday, April 15.

Help Available For Smokers Trying To Quit

February 11th, 2019 Comments off

Free help is available for Potter County residents trying to kick their smoking habit. A proven program provided by the American Lung Association (ALA) is offered locally by the Northcentral Pa. Area Health Education Center. For more information or to register, call (570) 724-9145.

ALA has been helping people quit smoking for more than 35 years through its Freedom From Smoking program, available in a variety of formats. “Freedom From Smoking Plus” is a user-friendly interface that helps the user create a personal quit-smoking plan on a desktop, tablet or smartphone. Counselors and other program participants are available through an online community. For details, visit the website freedomfromsmoking.org.

Group clinics are also offered, as are telephone counseling and a self-help guide, both available by calling 1-800-586-4872.