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Archive for October, 2018

Potter County Gearing Up For 2020 Census

October 12th, 2018 Comments off

With the U.S. Census Bureau moving closer to launching its 2020 count, the agency is beginning to add staff all across the country. There will be part-time job opportunities in many rural areas to conduct fieldwork and door-to-door assessments once the census is underway. Anyone interested in potential employment as a manager, crew leader, clerk, census representative or field agent can find information as well as apply for positions online at census.gov. More information is also by calling toll-free 1-855-562-2020.

As the county’s population continues to fall, local officials say it is important that everyone complete the census survey when it is received. Census numbers have a direct effect on grants as well as government representation. Data are used to distribute more than 50 programs, including support for education, transportation, health and human services, housing, criminal justice, employment services, farming and environmental protection. For each uncounted citizen, a county loses about $10,000 in federal benefits during the decade.

“Our county’s population began falling from a modern-day high in 2002 and the mid-term census reports confirm additional declines,” said Potter County Commissioner Paul Heimel, who has volunteered as a U.S. Census Partner. “The economic impact of an undercount in 2020 would hit us even harder. The best we can do is to try to cut our losses by getting everyone counted.”

At the same time, the county has seen its median age increase as young people move away and retirees move in. Northcentral Pennsylvania counties face major fiscal challenges in the coming years, including a burgeoning need for social services tied to the aging of the baby boomer population. Residents need to realize that there’s no ulterior motive or hidden agenda by the federal government, local officials point out. By law, the census is just a population count and demographic analysis.

The Potter County Planning Department works with township and borough officials to support an accurate result from the census. Planning staff has also drawn in the county Emergency Management and Assessment offices to identify new homes. Administrative assistant Debbie Ostrom, the Planning Department’s point person, recently completed a verification process for Potter County addresses. “Deb has done an excellent job,” said Planning Director Will Hunt. “It is all done electronically now, so it is much easier and less time-consuming than in past years, when they would use paper maps and spreadsheets.”

Questionnaires have been reduced from 10 pages to 10 questions. Forms will be mailed to area residents in early 2020, beginning a long process to assure an accurate count. That’s why having accurate street addresses is important. Those who did not receive a form still will be counted and can expect to receive an official visit from a census taker when non-response follow-ups begin in May 2020.

Emergency Responders Offer Input On New 911 System

October 11th, 2018 Comments off

Emergency responders from across the county convened on Thursday at the Gunzburger Building to provide input on the new 911 emergency communications system that Commissioners Doug Morley, Paul Heimel and Susan Kefover have approved. The system upgrade will expand coverage to “dark spots” and make the service more reliable. A state grant for about $580,000 has been obtained and other funding is being pursued. The commissioners have also arranged for a long-term loan to help cover the costs, which are estimated at $3.8 million. Commissioner Morley (right), who also serves as the county’s director of emergency services, said the board has been conferring with technical experts and local emergency responders for some time. He added that much of the equipment across the county has become obsolete and could pose a major risk to public safety. “The truth is that we are working with ‘end-of-life’ equipment and technology throughout our network,” said Morley.

Potter’s current system was installed in 2002. Comparable systems typically have had a 10- to 12-year lifespan. Consultant Mitch Smith (left) estimated that the upgraded system would have a life expectancy of approximately 15 years. In addition to equipment improvements, there will be new communication towers built to provide isolated areas of the county with wireless service. Dispatching will continue to be provided from the Tioga County 911 Center. The commissioners expect to have more information available on the specifics and timetable for 911 system upgrade in the coming weeks.

Potter County Panel Establishes Criminal Justice Goals

October 9th, 2018 Comments off

crimjusticePotter County Criminal Justice Advisory Board (CJAB) members approved the basic elements of their 2019 strategic plan last week, setting the stage for formal adoption at the panel’s next meeting. It’s a detailed document that identifies the issues, challenges, priorities and steps that will be taken as the many elements of the county’s criminal justice system work together to improve outcomes. CJAB officers, re-elected at last week’s meeting, are: Judge Stephen Minor, chairman; Commissioner Paul Heimel, vice chairman; and Colleen Wilber, Potter County Human Services, administrator. Overall goals in the CJAB action plan for the new year include:

  • Continued work on a Pretrial Diversion Program for Potter County and development of more comprehensive re-entry services for inmates being released from the county jail.
  • Partnering with the National Data-Driven Justice Initiative to measure effectiveness and outcomes of criminal justice strategies, better inform decision-makers, and improve information sharing.
  • Continued collaboration for early education programs to identify and address the rise in juvenile anti-social behavior/mental health and criminal activity.
  • Transitional/half-way housing for offenders along with an increased focus on skills training and employment needs.
  • Partnering with the National Stepping Up Initiative for criminal offenders with identified mental health issues.

Medicare Help Available From Qualified Counselors

October 8th, 2018 Comments off

Help is available for Medicare recipients from Potter County Human Services. Trained counselors will be able to answer questions and share information on Medicare, Medicare Supplemental Insurance, Medicaid, and Long-Term Care Insurance. Open enrollment events are scheduled from Oct. 17 to Dec. 5, at sites in Coudersport, Roulette, Ulysses, Galeton and Shinglehouse. To schedule an appointment or learn more, call Barbara Busch at Potter County Human Services, telephone 1-800-800-2560.

Progress On Potter/Cameron/McKean Comprehensive Plan

October 2nd, 2018 Comments off

Potter, McKean and Cameron counties are joining forces to develop a joint “comprehensive plan,” the document that guides decision-making on topics as varied as land use planning, transportation, economic development, protection of natural resources, education, public safety, housing and quality of life. The plan is mandated by the state and must be updated every 10 years. Each county will have a separate section that reflects local priorities. Commissioners from the three counties signed on to the project in an effort to save costs through shared resources. Total cost is $115,000, with $80,000 covered by federal funding and the remaining $34,500 shared equally among Cameron, Potter and McKean counties.

Input will be solicited from townships and boroughs, school districts, community organizations and the general public. A steering committee meeting was held Tuesday at the Gunzburger Building. Brian Funkhauser (shown) from the consulting firm, Michael Baker International, spoke to more than 30 representatives from the three counties about objectives, timelines, public engagement, anticipated outcomes and roles and responsibilities. Planning Directors Will Hunt (Potter), Cliff Clark (Cameron) and Jeremy Morey (McKean) are the point people. Focus groups are being developed to provide input. Public meetings will be scheduled.

Funkhouser summarized some of the early results from his firm’s research, aimed toward creating profiles of the three counties while identifying trends, assets, strengths, challenges and opportunities. He advised steering committee members that a declining population, combined with steady increases in median age, pose “tremendous implications” that will impact the comprehensive planning process, in terms of needed services, changes in the job market, economics and other areas.