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State Lags In Paying Share Of DA’s Salary

June 13th, 2019 Comments off

scalesPotter County Commissioners continue to await payment from the state for its share of District Attorney Andy Watson’s salary. Act 57 of 2005 obligates the state to pay the 65 percent of a full-time DA’s salary, which was increased by the state government to $182,184 in 2019. By law, the District Attorney’s salary is $1,000 less than the salary of a county’s President Judge. When those payments lag, the county covers the entire cost, a situation that does not sit well with commissioners across the state.

The commissioners this week received a long-overdue payment of $116,544 from the state as reimbursement for the D.A’s 2018 salary. Another $118,420 is due for 2019. According to a spokesman for the Office of Attorney General, the Criminal Justice Enhancement Account does not have enough funds to reimburse the full amount in a timely manner. As the funds continue to accumulate in the account, the state will make at least a partial payment for the overdue 2019 reimbursement.

Successful School Year For Career Mentor Program

June 7th, 2019 Comments off

Another successful year for the Career Mentor Program was celebrated with a luncheon at the Gunzburger Building in Coudersport. Beginning with the 2015-16 school year, the Potter County Education Council (PCEC) has partnered with school districts to place a dedicated professional staffer in each district. The mentor advises students on career planning; coordinates field trips, job shadowing and other opportunities for students to experience local jobs and professions; serves as a liaison between employers and educators; and communicates with students one-on-one to review options such as college, technical training, military service or direct employment following high school graduation. Nicole Brown Zaun serves as career mentor program supervisor for the PCEC. The program is supported by the Potter County Commissioners, Potter County Human Services, local school districts, and the Seneca Highlands Career & Technical Center. Shown from left at the annual luncheon are: Hailey Brown (Coudersport); Nicole Zaun; Virginia Kamper (Northern Potter); Heather Supplee (Galeton), Jennifer Osti (Austin), Alexis Reed (Port Allegany) and Jon Skipper (Seneca Highlands CTC).

Public Input Welcome On Comprehensive Plan

June 5th, 2019 Comments off

Residents of Potter, Cameron and McKean counties have another chance to speak their minds about their communities’ future during a public hearing on the Northern Pennsylvania Tri-County Comprehensive Plan. A project of commissioners and planning boards from the three counties, the plan will guide decision-makers across a broad spectrum of public policy areas for the 2020-29 decade. Its implications will be felt in everything from economic development, environmental conservation, transportation, employment, education, small business, community facilities and other areas. After the first round of public input, during which nearly 2,400 people participated across the three counties, the top issues that have emerged for action are:

  • business attraction and workforce development;
  • protection of clean air, water and natural places;
  • expansion of infrastructure (including public works and high-speed internet);
  • enhanced attractions for tourism and recreation;
  • strengthening downtown amenities and community services;
  • investing in expanded housing;
  • addressing issues related to drug addiction.

Focus groups have been meeting to provide the framework. The public will have another opportunity to be heard during a three-county public meeting scheduled for 6-8 pm on Thursday, June 27, at Port Allegany High School. Input is also being accepted by planning directors Will Hunt (Potter), Jeremy Morey (McKean) and Cliff Clark (Cameron), and by consultant Joe Passmore at joseph.passmore@mbakerintl.com or 717-221-2061.

Initial research cited multiple public policy challenges that will be posed by declining population, combined with steady increases in median age. Implications will be felt in terms of needed services, changes in the job market, economics and other areas. While the master document covers a three-county region, the plan will include sections that are exclusive to each county. The plan is mandated by the state and must be updated every 10 years. Total cost is $115,000, with $80,000 covered by federal funding and the remaining $35,000 shared equally among Cameron, Potter and McKean counties.

2020 Census Job Fair Held As Potter County Prepares

May 30th, 2019 Comments off

Preliminary field work for the 2020 U.S. census in Potter County is well underway and temporary jobs are being filled, according to the county’s “census partners,” Commissioner Paul Heimel and Planning Director Will Hunt. They report that the U.S. Census Bureau is beginning to add staff all across the country. First in a series of local fairs was held last week at the Gunzburger Building in Coudersport. There will be part-time job opportunities to conduct field work and door-to-door assessments. 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.

Heimel and Hunt say it’s 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 will lose an estimated $20,000 in federal benefits during the decade.

The county’s Planning Department has worked 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 and verify mailing addresses. The census questionnaires have been reduced from 10 pages to 10 questions. Forms will be mailed to area residents in early 2020. They can respond online or by phone. Census-takers’ non-response follow-ups will begin in May.

Taking Potter County Internet Access To Next Level

May 28th, 2019 Comments off

Potter County Commissiones and the Potter County Planning Commission hosted an informational session at the Gunzburger Building on the Tri-County Rural Electric Cooperative (REC) high-speed internet project– and the options to expand internet service beyond Tri-County’s footprint. Aaron Young (shown), who recently joined the team as chief technology officer for the Tri-Co Connections subsidiary, explained that the build-out will start in Potter County and eventually extend to nearly 17,000 REC members in the cooperative’s seven-county service area. A $27 million loan will supplement federal and state grants to pay for the historic $77 million project, according to Bill Gerski (left), senior vice president for business development.

Construction is underway in Potter County for the first 100-mile phase, bringing fiber optic/broadband service to 723 residential, 626 seasonal, 98 small business, and 9 large business customers. Over the next five to six years, another 3,150 miles of fiber will be constructed. Tri-County REC itself will benefit in multiple ways, including remote monitoring of its electrical network, from substations to distribution lines and individual installations; smart meters, and other capabilities.

Potter County Planning Director Will Hunt explained that the county learned through extensive public surveying related to the new comprehensive plan that expansion of broadband service is a high priority in underserved areas. “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 that may be able to fill the gaps for rural broadband in areas not serviced by Tri-County,” Hunt added.

His office has compiled an assessment as follows:

Opportunities

  • Improve the quality of life for Potter County residents by closing the gap of the “digital divide.”
  • Ability to close the gaps and provide services to residents who currently do not have access to internet service of 25mb or greater speed;
  • Funds to be allocated by the state or federal governments to support the build-out in underserved areas.

Challenges

  • Identify the homes and businesses not serviced by existing internet service providers.
  • Identify potential providers to fill the service gaps.
  • Investigate partnerships and/or incentives to attract service providers.

Steps Forward

  • Create a planning committee to supervise a feasibility study for development of expanded broadband service.
  • Identify public and private partners to serve on, or advise, the committee.

Red, White & Blue Reception For Healing Waters Vets

May 22nd, 2019 Comments off

Disabled military veterans participating in this year’s Trout Unlimited Project Healing Waters arrived in Coudersport on Tuesday. This was the scene as the special guests were escorted through the county seat. The Commissioners and Veterans Affairs Director Michael Pepper provided flags for residents to display as the veterans passed through town. Project Healing Waters, now in its twelfth year locally, is sponsored by the God’s Country Chapter of Trout Unlimited and the Federation of Fly Fishers. Goal is to aid in the veterans’ physical and emotional recovery by introducing or rebuilding the skills of fly fishing and fly tying, and by supporting these skills as lifelong recreation. All activities, services and equipment are provided at no cost, including equipment that accommodates special needs. Participants will be coming to Potter County from VA hospitals and be headquartered at Moore’s Run Fish and Game Preserve.