Archive

Archive for August, 2019

Sen. Casey Focuses On Expansion Of High-Speed Internet

August 21st, 2019 Comments off

Expansion of high-speed internet service was on the agenda of U.S. Senator Bob Casey during a stop in Coudersport on Monday. The senator has been seeking input from across the state as he advocates for federal support to expand broadband to underserved areas. Potter County Planning Director Will Hunt (right) detailed a local needs assessment he has been spearheading. It will determine current availability, including download speeds and related technical data, and result in a strategic plan to bring internet service to sections that are not included in the Tri-County Rural Electric Cooperative buildout.

Dr. Michele Moore, executive director of the Potter County Education Council, shared with Sen. Casey the benefits of expanded broadband capabilities for high schools, as well as post-secondary and career/technical education. Jim Kockler, executive director of Potter County Human Services, discussed the positive impact of internet access to clients of that agency as well as senior citizens across the county. Sen. Casey also heard concerns from Commissioner Paul Heimel about long delays some military veterans are facing when they appeal the rejection of a medical claim by the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs. Many of those rejections are overturned following a thorough review, but the process can take years.

More Local Dirt/Gravel Roads To Be Improved

August 20th, 2019 Comments off

Nearly $800,000 in funding has been approved to help stabilize a dozen rural roads in Potter County next year. It’s the latest round of projects to leave the drawing board as part of a Dirt, Gravel and Low-Volume Road initiative implemented by the Potter County Conservation District (PCCD). District Manager Jason Childs presented a progress report at last week’s meeting of the county’s Water Quality Work Group.

A quality assurance board advising PCCD chose these dirt and gravel road sections from the 25 applications submitted by Potter County townships and boroughs: Damascus Street, Coudersport; South Dry Run, Sweden; Tennessee Road, Hebron; Zoerb Hollow, Abbott; Weimer Hollow, Pleasant Valley; Southwoods, Homer; Whitehead, Harrison; Grover Hollow, Bingham; Horseshoe, Ulysses Twp.; Canada Hollow, Sharon; Meeker, Pike. A project on Toles Hollow Road in Eulalia Township was also approved through the low-volume road program.

For more than 15 years, the state-funded program has kept thousands of tons of sediment from entering prime trout streams. Sediment is a significant stream pollution problem. It fills in stream channels, smothering trout eggs and destroying aquatic insect habitat. Back in 1990, members of the God’s Country Chapter of Trout Unlimited hosted a meeting in Potter County to draw attention to the worsening erosion and sedimentation problem. PennDOT then helped to organize a volunteer task force to draft road maintenance standards and techniques for correcting the excessive sedimentation problems. Penn State graduate students produced a map of every dirt and gravel road near an exceptional value or high-quality cold-water fishery. Trained volunteers from local TU chapters assisted by surveying their local streams.

By 1996, more than 700 “sediment hotspots” were identified statewide. The following April, the legislature passed Act 3, providing $5 million annually to improve and maintain dirt and gravel roads: $1 million to the Pa. Bureau of Forestry and $4 million to be distributed by local conservation districts. Since that time, more than 2,500 projects have been funded. An estimated 8,000 new drainage and stream pipes have been installed. Close to 700 miles of driving service aggregate has been placed, and upwards of 200 miles of road ditch and banks have been stabilized.

Also at last week’s meeting:

  • Jim Weaver from Pine Creek Watershed Council reported that the organization is working on a plan to restore riparian buffers on Long Run, a Pine Creek tributary, between Sabinsville and Galeton. Goal is to reduce water temperatures, protect water quality and enhance habitat. After an assessment, PCWC will be contacting landowners along the stream to discuss corridor plantings. Weaver also presented an update on the council’s Headwater Hemlock Planting Program.
  • Committee members heard about a project underway in the First Fork of Sinnemahoning Creek, north of Sinnemahoning State Park, to protect and restore hellbender populations.
  • Darrell Davis from the Genesee Headwaters Watershed Assn. discussed public education activities the organization has supported, including a water education picnic in partnership with the Genesee Public Library and a program presented to second-graders at Northern Potter Children’s School.
  • First Fork (Sinnemahoning) Watershed Assn. is looking for volunteer leaders to succeed Kathy Mitchell, who is moving from the area.
  • Charlie Tuttle, chair of the Triple Divide Watershed Coalition, reported on that organization’s recent developments. Efforts to continue to bring back continuous water quality monitoring of Coudersport Borough’s multiple sources. TDWC is also discussing establishing an internship for individuals considering careers in water stewardship and extending educational activities through the local Boy Scouts and school districts.
  • Site work has been completed at a canoe/kayak launch pad along Pine Creek in Galeton Borough.
  • Upper Allegheny Watershed Assn. recently held a canoe/kayak float trip to remove trash and debris from a section of the Allegheny River.
  • Emily Shosh, PCCD communications and outreach advisor, is working with Galeton Area School District on a Pine Creek water quality monitoring project.
  • Danielle Rhea, water resources educator at Penn State Extension, presented an update on several initiatives. She shared details on a brochure being developed by Penn State to share best management practices being employed on farms. The information will support the Potter/Tioga County Water for Agriculture initiative being organized by Penn State, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and other agencies.

Potter County’s New Voting Machines Have Arrived

August 15th, 2019 Comments off

Potter County’s new voting machines arrived this week. One of the units is available at the Elections Office in the Gunzburger Building for anyone who wants to become familiar with them in advance of the Nov. 5 Municipal Election. Federal and state funding will cover only a portion of the price tag, which is upwards of $400,000.

After soliciting proposals from state-certified vendors, the Potter County Commissioners purchased the machines and related software and services from Election Systems and Software (ES&S). All Pennsylvania counties must have in place certified voting machines that electronically record each vote and generate a paper ballot as an added level of security. The new machines are expected to last for about ten years, if regulations and changing technology do not require them to be updated sooner. Here, Elections Office staffer Donna Sallade (right) assists Teresa Kisiel in using one of the new machines while Nancy Grupp looks on.

Progress Being Made In Battling Drug Epidemic

August 14th, 2019 Comments off

Law enforcement in Potter County has been making in-roads when it comes to a multi-phased strategy to reduce the availability of illicit drugs in local communities, according to District Attorney Andy Watson. He reports that the impact of the Potter County East Drug Task Force, consisting of municipal police with support of the Pa. Attorney General’s Office, is being felt as arrests mount. The task force’s operations complement the work of the Pennsylvania State Police. They include a “community policing” element, by which citizens are encouraged to contact Watson directly to report suspicious behavior that might be related to drug trafficking.

Watson explained that investigators are focused largely on tracing the supply of illicit drugs and bringing the dealers to justice. There has been a rise in the use of methamphetamine in Potter County. At the same time, the use of heroin and prescription drug abuse remain pervasive. All of these substances are highly addictive. DA Watson has also spearheaded development of a unique opportunity to help drug addicts access treatment and support services. Under the Concerned Law Enforcement Against Law Enforcement (CLEAN) Protocol, those seeking help can contact a police officer and, rather than be arrested, be steered toward community resources for help. See details here.

At the same time, President Judge Stephen Minor and other members of the criminal justice system have teamed to implement two “specialty courts.” The Potter County Drug and DUI Courts allow qualifying criminal offenders to avoid criminal prosecution if they successfully complete a comprehensive, strictly supervised regimen to abstain from alcohol or other drugs and deal proactively with their addictions. Senior Judge John Leete presides over both courts. Participants are chosen by a team of law enforcement and social services professionals and supervised by the Potter County Probation Department.

Most recently, Potter County Commissioners Doug Morley, Paul Heimel and Susan Kefover approved Watson’s request to hire retired Pa. State Police officer Jake Rothermel under a six-month contract as county detective, a position that has been vacant for many years. He will work with the DA and police to investigate drug trafficking and other criminal activity. His focus will be on surveillance, prevention and public education.

Penn State Extension Active In Potter County

August 7th, 2019 Comments off

Despite implementing a regional approach designed to reduce costs, Penn State Extension continues to support youth development, agriculture, environmental stewardship, home economics and other services in Potter County. A summary of recent developments was presented at last week’s meeting of the Potter County Commissioners by Rob Dickinson, client relations manager; and Cheri Micale, who recently was named regional business operations manager.

Potter County has a long history of supporting Penn State Extension and currently provides a financial contribution as well as an office facility at the Potter County Education Center on Water Street. An advisory council provides guidance for Extension’s operations in Potter County.