Archive for June, 2017

Northern Pa. Rural Regional College Ready To Launch

June 29th, 2017 Comments off

Joseph Nairn

Two top administrative positions have been filled as the Rural Regional College of Northern Pennsylvania moves closer to its launch by Labor Day. RRC’s mission is to provide affordable, accessible, career-focused technical and degree programs for residents of Potter and eight other northwestern Pennsylvania counties. Rather than being organized around a “main campus,” the RRC will operate through a network of community-based centers and satellite delivery sites, including the Potter County Education Center on Water Street in Coudersport. Most recently, trustees announced that Joseph Nairn has been hired as college president. Dr. Debra Teachman has been retained as vice president for academic and student affairs. A chief financial officer has yet to be hired.

Nairn until recently served as chief advancement officer at Finger Lakes Community College in Canandaigua, N.Y. He was previously employed with the Engineering Technology School at Rochester (N.Y.) Institute of Technology. Teachman has had an extensive career in educational administration at Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College, New Mexico State University Alamogordo, and Marshall University.

It has taken three years to make the RRC a reality. A final puzzle piece fell into place with certification by the Pa. Dept. of Education. Administrative offices will be in Warren. RRC will offer two-year associate degrees, as well as training and certificate programs. Curriculum will be based largely on the future workforce needs of the region. Commissioner Doug Morley and Cole Hospital CEO Ed Pitchford represent Potter County on the board. RRC is unique in that there will be open admissions, enrollment and entrance policies (i.e., no criteria beyond a high school diploma or GED). Tuition will be much lower than at traditional colleges and universities. Enrollees will be able to participate in or near their home communities. Some students will be able to enroll for classes while they’re still in high school.

Focusing In On Shale Gas Issues, Economic Development

June 27th, 2017 Comments off

Jim Ladlee displays a cutting of Marcellus Shale.

A Penn State Extension representative met with the Potter County Commissioners and their Community Development Director, Jennifer Rossman, for a far-reaching conversation focused on shale gas issues, economic development, community revitalization and related topics. The meeting with Jim Ladlee, assistant director for energy, entrepreneurship and economic/community development, was also an opportunity to express appreciation to long-time PSU Extension District Director Don Tanner, whose retirement takes effect this week. Ladlee has long been active in research and public education related to shale gas development in Pennsylvania. Although his responsibilities at Penn State Extension have expanded, he remains involved with the university’s Marcellus Center for Outreach and Research. Ladlee agreed to assist Potter County with the relaunch of its Natural Gas Resource Center in the coming weeks.

Don Tanner

Much of the discussion centered on building on current efforts to engage community members in developing strategies for sustained revitalization; reaching out to younger adults to encourage their involvement; improving marketing and hospitality to support tourism; developing long-term community development plans with achievable goals and accountability, and improving communication. Both Ladlee and Tanner discussed PSU Extension’s restructuring, which will result in Potter County being part of a nine-county region that also includes Cameron, McKean, Elk, Clearfield, Jefferson, Clarion, Warren and Elk. Earlier this month, the commissioners met with Tony Siliano, has come aboard in the new position of business operations manager; and Melissa Sankey, the region’s new client relations manager. They also confirmed that Penn State does plan to hire a new water resources educator/assistant to succeed another recent retiree, Jim Clark, who was active with several Potter County organizations, including the Triple Divide Watershed Coalition, Water Quality Work Group and Natural Gas Resource Center.

Penn State Extension is housed at the Potter County Education Center on Water Street, sharing the offices there with the Potter County Education Council. While the majority of funding for Extension comes from the state, the Potter County Commissioners support the agency by providing the facility — complete with classrooms, a kitchen and videoconferencing technology — as well as an annual allotment.

Annual Audit Report Posted On County Website

June 26th, 2017 Comments off

Potter County Auditors Michele Gledhill, Pauline Kleintop and Jeanette E. Stuckey have completed their review of county financial records and posted their 2016 audit report on the county website, (click on Departments/Auditors). Under the County Code of Pennsylvania, in each county where the office of controller has not been established, three county auditors are elected every four years to audit the fiscal affairs of the county. Certain state and federal government programs also require counties to retain the services of independent auditors with certified public accountant credentials for review of fiscal operations through a process known as a “single-county audit.” For more than a decade, Potter County has retained the services of Zelenkofske Axelrod LLC of Harrisburg.

Potter County Natural Gas Resource Center Revitalized

June 22nd, 2017 Comments off

Potter County is resurrecting the award-winning Natural Gas Resource Center (NGRC). It will be jointly administered by the county’s Planning and Community Development departments and supported by the Potter County Board of Commissioners. An advisory committee comprised of environmental, educational, energy industry and government representatives has been reassembled. Members are Will Hunt, Potter County Planning Director; Jason Childs, manager of the Potter County Conservation District and chairman of the Potter County Water Quality Work Group; Kim Rees, executive director of the Potter County Education Council; Bryan Phelps, police/emergency services; Commissioners Susan Kefover, Doug Morley and Paul Heimel; Jennifer Rossman, Potter County Community Development Director; Terry Cole, Pennsylvania CareerLink; Curt Weinhold, Potter County Planning Commission; and industry representatives Scott Blauvelt from JKLM Energy and Al Haney from Gas Field Specialists Inc. A seat on the committee is also being held open for the new water resources educator to be hired soon by Penn State Extension.

The NGRC leadership will confer with the Pa. Dept. of Environmental Protection, the Triple Divide Watershed Coalition, Penn State University Marcellus Center for Outreach and Research, and other resources. A new website, recently launched at, is being built  incrementally.

Potter County Education Council oversaw the NGRC for several years. It was recognized as a model by the County Commissioners Assn. of Pa. and the National Assn. of Counties. The center is designed as a one-stop shop for all kinds of information about the region’s gas industry. At its peak, NGRC had about 560 businesses and agencies signed on to be listed on the center’s website. Public education, as well as development of business liaisons, will remain high priorities. The advisory committee will be reviewing possible topics to be covered when NGRC resumes its public meetings about gas drilling issues, opportunities and concerns later this year.

24/7 Monitors Distributed To Public Water Systems

June 21st, 2017 Comments off

Kurt Logue (left) from Austin Borough was among water system operators receiving instructions as they picked up the 24/7 monitors at the Gunzburger Building.

Monitoring equipment will be installed on nearly every source of public drinking water in Potter County no later than mid-July. Triple Divide Watershed Coalition chair Charlie Tuttle and Campbell Scientific representative Steve Gunderson this week distributed the monitors to operators for installation on wells, springs and surface water sources supplying their water systems. Shinglehouse Borough is the only TDWC affiliate not participating. Sixteen monitors are being placed on the other 10 public water systems in the county. The monitors will capture and archive data on water temperature, flow, and contents to create a baseline and sound an early warning in the event of contamination. The state’s settlement with JKLM Energy for its 2015 environmental violation at a shale gas drilling site off North Hollow Road has yielded $100,000 for the monitoring systems.

On a related note, coalition members discussed the need to update each system’s certified Sourcewater Protection Zone Plan. Mark Stephens, geologist with the Pa. Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) regional office in Williamsport, said most of the elements in the current plans will not change and updating them should not pose a stiff challenge. Assistance is available through the Potter County Planning/GIS Department and the Pa. Rural Water Assn. Stevens said that the plans will be taking on increased importance when DEP begins to incorporate Sourcewater Protection Zone Plans into the department’s permit review process and other maps/records maintained by the department.

Potter County Criminal Justice Reforms Seen As Model

June 17th, 2017 Comments off

Attorney Barbara Zemlock describes the “whole new world of county jail administration.”

Potter County was represented during a daylong workshop in State College on a series criminal justice reforms that have been spreading throughout the state and across the nation because of their demonstrated success. When the changes are implemented effectively, they have been shown to reduce costs, lower jail populations, enhance public safety, and create a positive ripple effect on families and communities. At the foundation of the reforms are new ways of dealing with criminal offenders who are addicted to alcohol or other drugs, as well as those with diagnosed mental illness. Approximately 70 percent of a typical county’s criminal court docket is comprised of offenders who meet one or more of those criteria.

Friday’s workshop was sponsored by the Pa. Comprehensive Behavioral Health/Criminal Justice Task Force. Potter County Commissioner Paul Heimel is a member of the task force and was joined at the workshop by Colleen Wilber, director of drug and alcohol programs at Potter County Human Services; Angela Milford, deputy warden at the Potter County Jail; and Danielle Gietler, assistant administrator with the Potter County Probation Department. Heimel presented an overview of his role as the county’s liaison with national and state organizations dedicated to criminal justice reforms, as well as a researcher focused on best practices and networking with peers in multiple states. Wilber summarized the county’s early forays into innovative programs such as “specialty courts” for drug/alcohol addicts who meet criteria, and a pre-trial diversion program that can steer some offenders toward alternatives to prosecution and incarceration. She emphasized that reforms can only work when all elements of the criminal justice system work as a team. Wilber also pointed out the importance of seeking state, federal and/or foundation grants to cover the expenses.

Attendees heard a detailed and eye-opening report from attorney Barbara A. Zemlock from the County Commissioners Assn. of Pa. on “risk management,” and the greater scrutiny that county jails are facing as the result of recent court decisions and changes in state laws. She emphasized that county jail administrators who fail to meet the standards for medical care — including treatment for addiction and mental health issues — officer training, and disciplinary procedures can be found liable for the consequences. There are now precedents for multi-million dollar judgments against counties and/or third-party providers who fail to comply, Zemlock added. She urged jail wardens and solicitors to fully familiarize themselves with what she termed “a whole new world of county jail administration.”