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THURSDAY Update: New Case Count Back On The Rise

May 13th, 2021 Comments off

Pa. Dept. of Health (DOH) reports an increase in COVID-19 coronavirus cases across the region this week, even as fewer people have been getting tested. There were 20 more cases in Potter County between Monday and Thursday, pushing the overall case count since the pandemic began to 1,130 with 23 COVID-related deaths. More important than the historical data is the number of “active” cases, which reflects those who tested positive over the past two weeks and are considered highly contagious. DOH’s most recent active case count was 55 in the county. Breakdown was: Coudersport area, 20;  Shinglehouse area, 17; Oswayo area, 6; Roulette area, 5; Harrison Township area, 2; Genesee area, 2; and 1 each in the Austin, Galeton and Ulysses areas. According to DOH, for each active case that has been diagnosed, there are likely four to five other COVID-19 carriers who have not been tested. Also over the past 72 hours, some 252 new cases were confirmed in the seven counties bordering Potter. There were 46 new cases and another death in McKean County; 23 cases and two deaths in Tioga; 77 cases and three deaths in Lycoming; 22 cases and one death in Clinton; two cases in Cameron; 43 cases and one death in Cattaraugus County, N.Y.; and 19 new cases in Allegany County, N.Y. Total county-by-county case count since the pandemic was declared is as follows: Cameron, 295 cases with eight deaths; Clinton, 3,619 cases, 63 deaths; Lycoming, 11,635 cases, 280 deaths; McKean, 3,662 cases, 69 deaths; Tioga, 2,950 cases, 106 deaths; Allegany, N.Y., 3,398 cases, 84 deaths; and Cattaraugus, N.Y., 5,559 cases, 87 deaths.

DOH is seeking help from local organizations to increase the number of Potter County residents who have been immunized against the COVID-19 coronavirus. Kristen Faust, DOH deputy director, said the department will work with elected officials, community agencies and others to set up vaccination clinics and other opportunities to distribute the vaccine. As of Thursday, more than 4,200 Potter County residents age 18 or older — roughly 35 percent of the adult population — have received the COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine. Some 2,937 have been fully immunized.  A new distribution site was recently established in Potter County. Buchanan Brothers Pharmacy in Coudersport now offers the vaccine by appointment; call 814-274-8660. UPMC Cole continues to offer two options for residents to set up appointments for vaccinations. One is a telephone hotline, 814-274-5460. The other is an online resource, vaccine.upmc.com. Rite Aid pharmacies continue to book appointments. To access the online reservation form, click here.

DOH also notes that case counts across the region have been fluctuating. Officials caution against reading too much into the statistics, since the number of people seeking COVID-19 tests is sporadic. Three testing sites for the virus remain available in Coudersport. In addition to the testing available at UPMC Cole for physician-referred patients, tests are also being administered at Buchanan Brothers Pharmacy (visit the website here or call 1-800-635-8611) and Rite Aid Pharmacy (visit the website here or call 814-274-0439).

County Plays Major Role In $1M Grant For Galeton

May 13th, 2021 Comments off

Another major piece of funding puzzle fell into place for Galeton Borough in its years-long mission to upgrade the town’s sewage treatment plant.  Galeton was awarded $1 million from a federal grant program administered at the state level to address shortcomings at the 35-year-old facility. Potter County Community Development Director Ellen Russell and the SEDA Council of Governments, contracted for administrative support, worked together to advance Galeton’s grant application. The project aligned with the Potter County Comprehensive Plan 2020-29, which prioritizes infrastructure investments to support vital communities and retain/grow population.

Funds were awarded through the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program. Sewage from 528 households and businesses is treated at the plant, as is a portion of stormwater runoff in the borough. A sludge holding tank that has failed during times of high water inflow will be replaced. The project will eliminate pollutants from entering Pine Creek.

Help Available For Renters Adversely Affected By COVID-19

May 8th, 2021 Comments off

Renters and those who are at risk of being homeless may be eligible for financial assistance to help compensate them for financial losses attributable to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic through recent federal programs. Potter County Commissioners Nancy Grupp, Barry Hayman and Paul Heimel have designated the county’s Human Services agency to administer a federal grant received to help those who have been negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic pay for rent and utilities. Those who can demonstrate a loss of income due to the pandemic are encouraged to apply. Applications can be downloaded from a website here. Once an application is complete, a Potter County Human Services case manager will be in touch to offer assistance. To be eligible, a renter household must have one or more individuals who meet the following criteria:

  • Qualifies for unemployment or has experienced a reduction in household income, incurred significant costs, or experienced a financial hardship due to COVID-19;
  • Demonstrates a risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability; and
  • Has a household income at or below 80 percent of the area median.

Full eligibility guidelines may be found here. Those seeking more information can contact Jim Kockler or Kara Amidon at 814-544-7315.

Potter County Exploring ‘Broadband For All’ Options

May 5th, 2021 Comments off

High-speed internet service has been evolving from a lifestyle option to a necessity across Pennsylvania. 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 (right). He is shown discussing the county’s broadband initiatives with U.S. Senator Robert Casey at the F.W. Gunzburger County Office Building in Coudersport.

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 hundreds of Potter County customers, is filling many of the gaps. The Revitalize Potter County Steering Committee is focusing on areas that are not serviced by Tri-Co Connections. Hunt is joined on the committee by Community Development Director Ellen Russell and Commissioners Nancy Grupp, Paul Heimel and Barry Hayman.

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 a half-dozen or more service providers, as well as school districts, townships and boroughs, to forge partnerships.

The committee 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, both download and upload;
  • More funds have been made available from the federal and state 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

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

Potter County Tourist/Recreation Work Group Moves Forward

April 30th, 2021 Comments off

Potter County Tourist & Recreation Work Group held its monthly meeting on April 26. The panel is part of the “Revitalize Potter County” campaign, a mission to reverse the population loss and rising median age in the county while adapting to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. For more information or to volunteer, contact Potter County Planning/GIS Director Will Hunt at whunt@pottercountypa.net.

Members Attending: Curt Weinhold, Chris Nicholas, Ben Stone, Steve Green, Josh Roth, John Snyder, Lori Szymanik, Candace Hillyard, Emily Shosh and Chuck Dillon. Guests: Meredith Hill (DCNR/Pennsylvania Wilds) and Nicole Faraguna (DCNR Policy/Planning Director). County Attendees: Will Hunt, Paul Heimel, Barry Hayman.

Old Business

  • The state is issuing its formal request for proposals to develop of Denton Hill State Park as a four-season attraction (Denton Hill Adventure Center) this week. The state hopes to have vendor/partner/operator in place later this year. Members discussed the possibility of a planetarium to capitalize on the dark skies’ popularity.
  • “Potter County Recreation & Events” concept continues to be explored as a complement to current tourist marketing activities. Potter County Visitors Assn. maintains its certified non-profit status, which could be used for the new group. Dedicated leadership and strategic planning are needed.

Visit Potter-Tioga Overview/Update

Spring advertising continues with a focus on bicycling, hiking and fishing. VPT is highlighting outdoor settings popular with tourists as the pandemic continues. VPT website has experienced more click-through traffic, resulting in more requests for visitors’ guides and information by prospective travelers. VPT is accepting grant requests and is eager to work with non-profit organizations seeking to market their events and attractions.=

God’s Country Market Village & Farmers Market

Revitalize Potter County Steering Committee is seeking DCNR funds for site improvements.

Dark Skies/Cherry Springs.

A stakeholders’ meeting will be held this summer to prepare for DCNR’s improvement project at Cherry Springs State Park. Members continued discussion of options for protecting the dark skies, potentially through public education and/or regulation of outdoor lighting to reduce light pollution. An educational presentation on dark-sky protection will soon be posted on the county website.

Maryland Air Force National Guard Low-Level Training Flights

Much of the meeting was dedicated to a detailed review of the plan. DNCR shared background information the department has been collecting since the proposal was first broached in 2019. A consensus has been growing that the National Guard Bureau should be directed to prepare a detailed “environmental impact statement,” rather than the current plans for a cursory “environmental assessment.” Members also agreed that there is a need for more public education on the proposal, which could disturb the tranquility which has been part of Potter County’s branding for many decades, thus having an adverse impact on tourism. Dates for a public comment period on the proposal will soon be announced.

Sub-Committee Options

Arts/Culture. Paul Heimel reported on his discussions with those who were involved with the now-defunct Potter County Arts Council. He said resurrection of the group would require a concerted effort with dedicated volunteers. Research will continue.

Hospitality/Lodging. Members see a need for training tourist-based business owners and/or employees. Market research confirms the importance of visitors having a positive experience with hospitality providers. Options will be explored.

NEXT MEETING: Monday, May 24, 11 am by Zoom or call-in

State Seeks Partner To Operate Denton Hill State Park

April 27th, 2021 Comments off

State Parks Director John Hallas today announced the Pa. Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) is seeking proposals to operate a downhill ski and four-season recreation center at Denton Hill State Park in Potter County. The park includes a downhill ski area that has been closed since the winter of 2014. A new master plan for the park includes infrastructure improvements to the ski area and positions a concessionaire to grow recreational opportunities in all four seasons, Hallas said. DCNR is committing $10 million in capital improvements to support the implementation of a master plan for the park.

The operator would lease approximately 700 acres and work with DCNR to create a year-round park operation with a winter mountain recreation focus, Hallas said. The design phase of this project will coincide with the award of a concession lease agreement. DCNR intends that the selected concessionaire will work with it to help identify and prioritize improvements during the design process. Proposals are due by June 9.

Find more information about the Denton Hill State Park master plan on the DCNR website.