Potter County’s close partnership with its neighbor to provide reliable 24/7 communications for emergency responders will continue through 2020. Boards of Commissioners from Potter and Tioga counties approved a contract to continue dispatching services from the Tioga County 911 Center in Wellsboro through 2020. By joining forces, the two counties have been able to deliver speedy dispatching to fire, ambulance and police agencies. They’ve also cushioned the economic impact of the state-mandated service through shared infrastructure and other resources. The two-county system covering a region as large as the state of Delaware has been used as a model for other rural counties. Potter County pays Tioga County an annual fee covering a share of expenses at the dispatch center. Potter’s cost is $72,100 for 2016, rising annually to $81,149 for 2020. Each county is responsible for the network of coordinated towers and other infrastructure.
Counties are required by state law to provide 911 communications. Tioga County Emergency Services Director David Cohick worked closely with his counterpart in Potter County, John Hetrick, to forge the partnership and install the compatible technology across two counties. Since Hetrick’s retirement, the collaboration continues between Cohick; Potter County Commissioner Doug Morley, who doubles as emergency services director; and Glenn Dunn, Potter County emergency management coordinator. Some 23 towers are in place to service Potter and Tioga counties as well as parts of McKean, Bradford and Lycoming counties, across a 2,500-mile coverage area. The 911 dispatch center serves 26 fire companies, 26 police stations, and 20 ambulance agencies. Seventeen dispatchers are on staff, with three on the job during each shift.
Potter County Commissioner Susan Kefover is serving on the board of directors for the Pennsylvania Downtown Center. The Harrisburg-based organization offers technical and educational assistance to help community leaders keep their downtowns vibrant, which is a stiff challenge in an era of online shopping and other competitors for retail dollars. “A thriving community is a long-term asset that must be constantly nurtured, maintained, and promoted. It is a revitalization effort that continues on and on.” This quote from the membership brochure epitomizes the philosophy of the organization. PDC cites design, organization, “place making,” and economic restructuring as the four cornerstones of strength that can work together or at different times in creating a vibrant downtown. Kefover said she accepted appointment to the board to pursue technical assistance, training and educational tools that would help to identify funding, strengthen local boards, and help communities to measure what works and what doesn’t. “When the commissioners hired John Bry as a Circuit Rider for downtown community development, he began empowering local leaders to adapt these principles to fit each community,” she explained. “Part of the goal was to develop a new focus, a united revitalization effort in each community, and begin to build — little by little — on successes.”
During a recent PDC meeting, board members learned of experiences in the small York County community of Delta, where the center’s staff was retained to build community assets to fight against a serious drug epidemic. “It became obvious that providing places to meaningfully connect with youth is important in sustaining a strong barrier against this life-threatening epidemic,” Kefover noted. “At first glance, it would not seem important that our downtowns can be partners in drug prevention. However, places that provide vibrancy, interest, commerce, and interaction meet a core need in all of us that we belong to community, that we are not alone. It was another realization that we are on the right path in all these initiatives; none is too insignificant an effort.”