County Seeks Grant For Gunzburger Building Project

April 18th, 2024 Comments off

Potter County Commissioners Nancy Grupp, Robert Rossman and Paul Heimel are working with Maintenance Director Joe Kurtz on a plan to deal with the deterioration of windows at the F.W. Gunzburger County Office Building. In anticipation of a project that could cost more than $1 million, involving nearly 250 windows as well as frames and entry systems, county leaders are seeking state and/or federal grants. One potential funding source being pursued is a Community Facilities grant involving federal funding administered by the Pa. Dept. of Community and Economic Development. Money would be used for materials, labor, site preparation, engineering and related services. New windows would preserve the historic building and ensure its continued use for county government operations, education, access to technology and health care, conferences, gymnasium recreation, community and government meetings and other functions. Two tenants, Penn State Extension and Dickinson Center Inc., would also benefit. In the long term, much of the project cost would be recovered through substantial reductions in energy costs.

The 57,000 square foot building has its roots in two separate schools that occupied the same lot in the early 1900s. What was once the Coudersport Elementary School (or “Grade School”) faced First Street. Charming reminders of that era can still be seen with the prominently marked “Boys” and “Girls” entrances on the north side of the Gunzburger Building. A separate Coudersport High School on the same block faced Main Street. A construction project in the early 1930s linked the two school buildings. Another addition on the West Street side in the late 1950s accommodated a cafeteria.

Most of the smaller communities it the time had their own schools, many of them of the one-room variety. Consolidation brought an increase in the number of students and space limitations. An annex in the “Sears Building,” between the Coudersport Theatre and the Main Street entrance of the school, temporarily solved the crunch, but a more permanent solution was needed. When the present-day Coudersport Area Junior-Senior High School was built in the early 1960s, the building became solely the Coudersport Elementary School. It served the community well, but physical modifications required to meet new regulations were too expensive for the school district to pursue. A new elementary school was built in 1987 and the former school was put up for sale.

Its deteriorating physical condition and the need to remove deadly asbestos in order to make the building fit for occupancy limited buyers’ interest. Finally, Adelphia Communications Corp. purchased the property. Major renovations followed, as the physical shortcomings were addressed and attractive furnishings and features added. Adelphia, which was experiencing rapid growth as a TV cable company, relocated several of its corporate operations to what was renamed the Rigas School Building. In 2002, Adelphia came under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. An interim management team took control and relocated most of Adelphia’s corporate functions to offices in suburban Denver. Eventually, Adelphia’s Coudersport assets were sold to Time Warner Cable.

It wasn’t long before that company pulled most of the remaining functions out of Potter County. As stressful as these developments were for the community, one bright spot was Time Warner’s willingness to donate the former Rigas School Building – an asset valued in the millions of dollars – to the people of Potter County. That transaction came at a time when the Potter County Board of Commissioners had been planning to address a severe space shortage at the county courthouse by constructing a new office complex at East Second and North East streets, across from the county jail and courthouse square. The F. W. Gunzburger County Office Building now serves the community in ways unimagined by those who engaged so many young minds in education for more than three-quarters of a century.

Potter County Veterans Discount Program Revived

April 5th, 2024 Comments off

Potter County’s award-winning Veterans Discount Program is being revived. Organizers report that they anticipate many more businesses and professional service providers signing up in the coming weeks to offer discounts. Started in 2016 by then-Veterans Services Director Will Worthington and Commissioner Paul Heimel, it became a model for many other county-operated discount programs in Pennsylvania and beyond. In 2019, Potter County’s initiative was honored with an Excellence Award by the National Assn. of Counties.

It’s now in the hands of the Potter County Veterans Services Committee, consisting of the county’s current veterans services director, Mike Pepper, and representatives of local veterans organizations. Shown below are the businesses that have signed up so far, with many more to come. Participating businesses are displaying a decal in their windows. Veterans can register and receive a discount card through their local service posts: Legion Post 192, Coudersport, 814-274-7460; VFW Post 7810, Austin, 814-647-8673; VFW Post 6611, Galeton, 814-435-2944; Legion Post 963, Ulysses, 814-848-7588; Legion Post 530, Shinglehouse, 814-203-4335; and LEEK Preserve, 410-322-4610.

Salute To Potter County 4-H Joined By Local Members

March 27th, 2024 Comments off

4-H was saluted during a recent meeting of the Potter County Commissioners with not only a proclamation, but also the introduction of several area teens who are currently benefitting from the youth development program. Spencer Gee, Penn State Extension educator who coordinates 4-H in Potter County, expressed her appreciation for the county’s support, which includes an annual budget allotment and use of office space at the F.W. Gunzburger County Office Building. Hundreds of Potter County youths have become confident, independent and resilient leaders through 4-H, Gee pointed out. She detailed activities such as animal science, health and wellness, leadership, public service, goal setting, public speaking and others. Gee also commended the adult leaders who have served as mentors and hands-on supporters of 4-H members. More information is available at 814-274-8540. Shown from left are: front — Alexis Risser and Dana Williams; back — 4-H educator Spencer Gee, Elizabeth Freeman, Commissioners Paul Heimel and Robert Rossman, Lucas Risser, Mark Long and 4-H leader Amanda Risser.

County Offers Tax Incentive For Job Creators

March 27th, 2024 Comments off

Potter County Commissioners Nancy Grupp, Paul Heimel and Robert Rossman offer a tax incentive designed to create jobs and support economic development. A county ordinance provides tax incentives for construction or expansion of commercial properties. They could qualify for a temporary reduction of county real estate taxes. Qualifying property owners receive a 100-percent tax abatement in year one, 80 percent in year two, 60 percent in year three, 40 percent in year four, and 20 percent in year five.

A 1977 state law, the Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance (LERTA) Act, authorizes counties, school districts and local governments to offer the tax incentive program to support business expansion and job retention/creation. To obtain a copy of the ordinance, call 814-274-8290, ext. 207.

County Pays Tribute To Vietnam War Veterans, Volunteers

March 24th, 2024 Comments off

Potter County Commissioners Nancy Grupp, Robert Rossman and Paul Heimel used this year’s proclamation of Vietnam War Veterans Day (March 29) to spotlight some of the struggles that veterans have encountered and to commend the local volunteers who support them. A proclamation was presented to two local advocates for military veterans. Shown from left are American Legion District Commander Curtis Campbell, American Legion Post 192 Adjutant Ted Parsell, and Commissioners Rossman and Heimel. Commissioner Grupp was unavailable for the photo.

Updates On County Operational Improvement Initiatives

February 22nd, 2024 Comments off

Potter County Commissioners Nancy Grupp, Robert Rossman and Paul Heimel have provided an update on their ongoing Operational Improvement Initiatives:

1– Information Technology Upgrade

Goals: Improve functionality and security.

  • Assess current technological resources – servers, computers, software.
  • Review security/risk – firewalls, employee education.
  • Document retention improvements – shared drives/backups.
  • Training/employee education – ongoing.
  • Continuing review of best practices.

CURRENT STATUS: Completed

 

2 — Risk Management at Potter County Jail

Goal: In partnership with the Potter County Jail Board, retain the Pa. Counties Risk Pool (PCoRP) to conduct a comprehensive risk management review of the county jail and develop a plan to implement recommendations.

  • Engage an expert to study operations, facilities, policies and procedures and pinpoint areas that might increase the risk of litigation or other adverse outcomes at the jail (completed)
  • Refer findings to the Jail Board to prepare recommendations for full board (completed)
  • Continuing review of best practices.

CURRENT STATUS:  Deputy Warden hired, as recommended. Implementation of other recommendations/best practices continuing.

 

3 — Grant Writing/Administration

Goal: To make Potter County more competitive in qualifying for federal, state and foundational grants; to coordinate pursuit of grants with county departments and agencies, local governments, community organizations, regional agencies and other stakeholders.

  • Develop a strategic plan that will incorporate specialized training, an assessment of internal resources, and the development of partnerships.
  • Pursue grants to support county government and countywide initiatives, with potential to expand to grant-writing assistance to boroughs, townships, businesses and nonprofits.
  • Affiliation with professional grant-writing organizations, Northcentral Pa. Regional Planning and Development Commission/Grant Assistance Division, and other resources.

CURRENT STATUS: In progress.

 

4 — Short- and Long-Term Financial/Operational Management Planning

Goal: Engage with the Pa. Dept. of Community and Economic Development to qualify for DCED’s Strategic Management Planning Program (STMP) and implement consultants’ recommendations.

  • Circulate Request for Proposals to list of qualified consultants (completed)
  • Create short- and long-term financial plans (budgeting, capital projects planning, overall efficiency and opportunities for improvements).
  • Review each department’s operations/staffing and needs.
  • Implement consultant’s plan and establish system to measure results/progress through scheduled periodic review.

CURRENT STATUS: DCED grant approved; four bid packages received from consultants currently under review. Best practices from other countywide STMP projects being evaluated.

 

5 — Update of Human Resources Policies

Goal: Engage a PCoRP risk management specialist to review county personnel policies and a broad spectrum of related issues.

CURRENT STATUS: Review has been completed and findings submitted by consultant. Being implemented by county administration.

 

6—Strategic Economic and Community Development/”Revitalize Potter County”

Goal: Coordination, communication and unified long-term planning to implement high-priority community/economic development strategies identified in the Potter County Comprehensive Plan 2020-2029 to address population loss and youth outmigration.

  • Fill Community Development Coordinator vacancy and combine County Community Development and Planning/GIS Departments for shared administrative resources and day-to-day coordination as directed by the Board of Commissioners (completed).
  • Application to Pa. Council on the Arts for a multi-year Creative Communities for Community and Economic Development Grant (approved; County Creative Council, PC3, incorporated.)
  • Application to Pa. Dept. of Economic and Community Development for Countywide Economic Revitalization Implementation Plan (application submitted).
  • Development of a Site Promotion Program for Business and Economic Growth (underway).
  • Outreach to Potter County Redevelopment Authority, townships/boroughs, community organizations, regional agencies, employers and other potential partners/stakeholders.
  • Engagement with Pa. Economic Development Assn. and other agencies dedicated to supporting agriculture/forest management, travel and tourism, manufacturing, retail and other economic drivers.

CURRENT STATUS: In progress

 

7—Improvement of 911 Emergency Communications System

Goals: Inspection of county 911 emergency communications towers/infrastructure to ensure reliable 24/7 coverage; assistance to local fire, ambulance, police and other public safety agencies; improved communications with local emergency service providers.

  • Contract with MCM Consulting Group Inc. to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the county’s emergency communications system and develop a technical plan for any recommended enhancements (completed; draft report prepared and being reviewed).
  • Inspect county’s public safety radio communications infrastructure (towers/supplemental power sources/other infrastructure) and review dispatching services (completed).
  • Review radios, repeaters and other equipment being used by local and regional emergency response agencies to ensure compatibility and functionality with the county’s infrastructure (completed).
  • Solicit input from fire, ambulance and police agencies on their needs (completed).
  • Review county staffing/support services (completed)
  • Assessment and implementation of consultant recommendations (pending).

CURRENT STATUS: In progress