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Archive for July, 2021

Potter County In National Spotlight (x2!)

July 27th, 2021 Comments off

Potter County was recently in the national spotlight for two of its ongoing initiatives. During the annual convention of the National Assn. of Counties in Prince George’s County, Md., Planning/GIS Director Will Hunt and Commissioner Paul Heimel shared details on activities that had been identified by NACo as best practices. Hunt’s topic was the migration of geographic information systems (GIS) to a centralized database. His department’s skills with GIS have resulted in numerous improvements to county mapping services, with enhanced security and multiple benefits to the recorder of deeds office, tax assessment department, planning office and other county services, as well as agencies, businesses and individuals seeking access to public records. Heimel detailed Potter County’s “broadband for all” initiative to bring high-speed internet to unserved or underserved areas of the county. He also discussed the benefits of the Tri-Co Connections broadband project, including bringing connectivity to seasonal residents and telecommuters, as well as introducing senior citizens to internet-based services.

Potter County Investigating ‘Broadband For All’ Options

July 20th, 2021 Comments off

As has been made crystal clear by the coronavirus pandemic and other changes in society, high-speed internet service is rapidly evolving from a lifestyle option to a necessity across Pennsylvania. In response, the Revitalize Potter County Steering Committee has made the expansion of broadband service one of its highest priorities. It offers opportunities for economic development, expansion of health care and education, and many other public benefits, according to Potter County Planning/GIS Director Will Hunt. He is joined on the committee by Community Development Director Ellen Russell and Commissioners Nancy Grupp, Paul Heimel and Barry Hayman.

Many Potter County households and businesses have no high-speed internet service or lack sufficient capacity to meet today’s demands. Tri-County Rural Electric Cooperative’s (REC) high-speed internet project, which has already connected more than 1,000 Potter County customers, is filling many of the gaps. The steering committee is focusing on areas that are not serviced by Tri-Co Connections.

County leaders learned through extensive public surveying related to the 2020-29 Countywide Comprehensive Plan that expansion of broadband service is a high priority. “We are now taking steps to identify gaps in broadband service in and around Potter County, and to help identify potential partners and funding sources to fill the gaps,” Hunt explained. He added that the committee will be reaching out to service providers, as well as school districts, townships and boroughs, to investigate partnerships.

The committee has compiled an assessment as follows:

Opportunities

  • Improving the quality of life for Potter County residents by closing the gap of the “digital divide.”
  • Providing, through strategic partnerships, services to residents who currently do not have access to internet service of 25mb or greater speed, both download and upload;
  • Accessing funds that are being made available from the federal and state governments to support the build-out in underserved areas.

Challenges

  • Identify the homes and businesses not adequately served.
  • Investigate partnerships and/or incentives to attract service providers.
  • Development of delivery infrastructure, spearheaded by the county government with private-sector partners.

Steps Forward

  • Conduct a feasibility study for development of expanded broadband service.
  • Identify public and private partners/consultants to serve on or advise the committee.
  • Research and analyze best practices from across the U.S.

Full Agenda For County Tourist/Recreation Work Group

July 3rd, 2021 Comments off

Potter County Tourism & Recreation Work Group dealt with multiple timely topics at its June meeting. The panel is part of the Revitalize Potter County campaign, a mission to reverse the population loss and rising median age in the county. For more information or to volunteer, contact Potter County Planning/GIS Director Will Hunt at whunt@pottercountypa.net.

Members Attending: Colleen Hanson, Ben Stone, Josh Roth, John Snyder, Lori Szymanik.

County Attendees: Will Hunt, Ellen Russell, Paul Heimel, Barry Hayman.

Guests: Nicole Faraguna (DCNR Policy/Planning Director); Bob Wicker (Potter County Education Council); Jason Childs, (Potter County Conservation District).

Potter County Canoe & Kayak Launch Sites. Jason Childs detailed the development of canoe/kayak launch points in several Potter County locations. Latest is under construction along the Allegheny River at the A&W West End Grill, east of Coudersport. Other Allegheny sites are in Roulette and Burtville. Also, launch sites have been built at the Genesee Community Park and along Pine Creek on Galeton’s east end. Western Pennsylvania Conservancy has provided funding. Members discussed options for providing information for canoe/kayak enthusiasts on local attractions and history.

‘Pa. Engage’: Data from Hospitality/Tourism Industry. Bob Wicker presented a preliminary summary of findings from an intensive survey of four lodging facilities, seven restaurants and one tourist-based business. A more detailed summary and action plan will soon be released. Among the conclusions: a.) employers are unable to attract/recruit workers; b.) those in the hospitality and tourism market need to re-think how they are conducting business to adapt to changes in visitors’ expectations and to tap potential for business growth.

Denton Hill/Cherry Springs State Park Updates. Ben Stone (Bureau of State Parks) reported that three prospective partners/concessionaires to develop and operate Denton Hill State Park as a four-season attraction have toured the facilities. Deadline for proposals is July 9. He noted that state park visits to date have been lower than in 2020, and on par with trends prior to the pandemic. Ben also noted that plans are moving forward for the Cherry Springs State Park improvements and the Galeton Rotary Club Woodsmen’s Show will be held there Aug. 6-8.

Visit Potter-Tioga Overview/Update. Colleen Hanson said the agency has observed similar trends with fewer visitors than in 2020. Campgrounds have enjoyed a solid year so far, but traditional lodging facilities have not. VPT has launched its summer advertising campaign, emphasizing family fun in the outdoors and the appealing natural and peaceful experience available in Potter and Tioga counties. Click-through numbers on the VPT website are still high and requests for visitors’ guides are increasing, indicating strong interest in the two counties by prospective tourists.

Maryland Air Force National Guard Low-Level Training Flights. DCNR’s Nicole Faraguna reported on continuing research into the proposal. She said that once the air space from 100 to 8,000 feet is open, it could be used by other aircraft in addition to the Maryland Air Force National Guard A-10 Warthog. DCNR and others are still calling for a comprehensive environmental impact statement to be prepared prior to any decisions being reached on allowing the flights. Nicole suggested that those who are concerned about the impact of the flights consider options for educating the public on their potential impact.

Report on Northcentral Pa. ATV Pilot Project. Potter County Planning Director Will Hunt provided an update on the state’s regional all-terrain vehicle connector trail project. He noted that  a new video on ATV safety and legal operation is now posted online. Lori Szymanik (Susquehannock Trail Club) said STS is concerned about the impact of increased ATV traffic on forest ecosystems.

Pennsylvania Lumber Museum. Josh Roth (administrator) said attendance has been excellent since the museum’s reopening. A full-time educator position will be filled; Lori Szymanik is serving on an interim basis this summer. One emphasis of the museum is to encourage guests to get outside for forest-based recreation and to observe sites that are related to the region’s lumber heritage.