Potter County Tourist & Recreation Work Group Moves Forward

April 2nd, 2021 Comments off

Potter County Tourist & Recreation Work Group held its monthly meeting on March 29. 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.

Attendees: Curt Weinhold, Chris Nicholas, Ben Stone, Colleen Hanson, Steve Green, Josh Roth, John Snyder, Lori Szymanik, Candace Hillyard, Emily Shosh. County Attendees: Will Hunt, Ellen Russell, Paul Heimel, Barry Hayman.

Old Business

  • Josh Roth reported that the Pa. Lumber Museum has scheduled a partial reopening for Friday, April 30.
  • Ben Stone reported that the state will soon issue its Solicitation of Proposals for the development of Denton Hill State Park and is looking forward to working on the design process with the chosen vendor/partner/operator. Paul Heimel added that a state lawmaker’s call for the state to sell the park to a private owner has apparently been rejected.
  • Members held a detailed discussion of the “Potter County Recreation & Events” concept. Colleen Hanson said Visit Potter-Tioga would work with the group to promote/market events and attractions in Potter County. She also suggested that the process be deliberate during the COVID-pandemic, since there are currently many uncertainties. Josh Roth noted that Potter County Visitors Assn. maintains its certified non-profit status. He suggested the new group operate under that legal structure. Josh also emphasized that dedicated, sustaining leadership will be needed if a new organization is formed. Will Hunt suggested that the Tourist & Recreation Work Group develop a strategic plan to set the framework for the new entity.

Visit Potter-Tioga Overview/Update

Colleen Hanson said VPT has launched its early-spring promotional campaign. With a reluctance by some prospective tourists to travel during the pandemic, the agency is focused on helping visitors plan upcoming trips for when conditions are safer. Colleen also noted that, in response to the rising interest in ATV riding, VPT is developing a “Know Before You Go” video that shows trails and roads open to ATV riding, while emphasizing safety and courtesy. She also noted that there is rising interest in bicycle routes and trails in the two-county region.

God’s Country Market Village & Farmers Market

Ellen Russell reported on results of public opinion polling, with about 90 percent of respondents favoring the concept. Some 18 expressed interest in becoming vendors. Funding options continue to be investigated with a ballpark figure of $80,000 needed to make the village a reality. DCNR funds may be available for site improvements. Potter County Maintenance Department could also perform some of the site work.

General Discussion

‘Bike-Friendly Potter County’. Members discussed potential strategies for Potter County to capitalize on the growing popularity of mountain biking. Candace Hillyard said the Pa. Route 6 Alliance has been working on promotion of bicycle routes along the Rt. 6 corridor and related initiatives. Paul Heimel noted that the Cameron County Chamber of Commerce has been holding a successful mountain bike race, the Sinnemahone Gravel. Chris Nicholas pointed out that the Bureau of Forestry offers the Billy Lewis Area Trail System for bicyclists and has a map of the routes available. Lori Szymanik noted that the Susquehannock Trail Club is opposed to proposals to open the Susquehannock Trail System to bicycles.

Dark Skies. Members discussed Mike Aucott’s suggestion that the county and/or local governments regulate outdoor lighting to reduce light pollution and protect the astronomy/night-sky viewing that has become very popular in Potter County. John Snyder expressed strong support for the concept, citing the economic development potential that is already being realized through the growing popularity of the International Dark Sky Preserve at Cherry Springs State Park and the legacy we will leave.

Sub-Committee Options

ATV Riding. After some discussion, this sub-committee will no longer be pursued by our group. We support the VPT strategy. Those with an interest in the topic can work with townships/boroughs and Pa. DCNR on their advocacy.

Arts/Culture. Emily Shosh summarized her review of the Nature-Based Placemaking concept. Members agreed that its foundation of connecting public spaces with environmental conservation, and linking local culture/history with recreation, has potential to benefit Potter County. The strategies could be explored without making a formal commitment to Nature-Based Placemaking or other formal programs. Paul Heimel said a blueprint for the Arts & Culture Sub-Committee will be presented at the April 26 meeting.

Other potential sub-committees.

  • Hospitality/Lodging. John Snyder reported that hospitality training is available for business owners and/or employees in the restaurant and lodging industries. Market research confirms the importance of visitors having a positive experience with hospitality providers.
  • Bicycling (see above).
  • Dark Skies (see above).
  • Implementation of tourist/recreation strategies contained in the Potter County Comprehensive Plan 2020-29, working with Potter County Planning Commission and Potter County Commissioners.

Commissioners Seek Volunteers For Boards, Authorities

March 31st, 2021 Comments off

Potter County Commissioners Nancy Grupp, Paul Heimel and Barry Hayman continue to seek volunteers willing to serve on any of several county authorities, commissions and advisory boards. In an effort to broaden diversity, geographic representation and background knowledge, the Board of Commissioners periodically issues call for volunteers. Goal is to build a roster of qualified individuals who have a willingness to serve. As vacancies arise or incumbents’ terms expire, the commissioners will rely on that these rosters to determine potential appointees for agencies such as:

Potter County Planning Commission. Administers subdivision and land use/development regulations; countywide comprehensive plan; regional advocacy on transportation funding priorities and other initiatives; GIS services; reliable resource/liaison for township and borough governments.

Potter County Redevelopment Authority. Economic development; support services for business and industry; administration of federal/state grants and loans for economic development.

Potter County Housing Authority. Administration of programs meeting needs for safe, healthy and affordable housing.

Potter County Human Services. Multiple advisory boards to guide administrators on meeting local social service needs.

Potter County Solid Waste Authority. Operation of transfer station/recycling center in Gold; administration of state-approved solid waste management/flow ordinance. A vacancy currently exists on the authority.

Potter County Hospital Authority. Public agency assisting UPMC Cole in acquisition of funds for capital improvements and implementation of long-term planning objectives.

Farmland Preservation Board. Responsible for purchase of development rights to preserve agricultural land.

Local Emergency Planning Committee. Coordinates activities of firefighters, emergency medical services, fire police and related responders; liaison with Potter County Department of Emergency Services for training, funding opportunities, drills/exercises to test preparedness.

Those wishing to be considered for appointment should contact Danielle Gietler, executive secretary to the Potter County Commissioners, at 814-274-8290, ext. 207 or pcexecsec@pottercountypa.net.

Commissioners Establish Blight Reduction Fund

March 8th, 2021 Comments off

Potter County has launched a program to reduce the number of blighted properties in local communities. Commissioners Nancy Grupp, Barry Hayman and Paul Heimel last week adopted an ordinance to establish a blight reduction fund.

Borough and township governments across Pennsylvania have targeted removal of abandoned and uninhabitable buildings as a step toward revitalization. However, they lack the funds to carry out their plans. Potter County’s draft ordinance applies a fee of $15 for each deed and mortgage filing. The revenue will be used to support local governments that seek to remove blighted structures.

Blighted properties are not only unsightly, but they also pose health and safety hazards and reduce neighboring property values. Pa. Act 152 of 2016 authorizes county commissioners to establish the fee schedule and blight reduction account. Commissioner Hayman spearheaded the project in Potter County. He conferred with other counties that have established a fund and conducted further research. He pointed out that blight reduction is among the goals established in the Potter County Comprehensive Plan 2020-29.

A copy of the ordinance is posted on the county website here, on the commissioners page accessed under the “Departments” tab.

County Tax Assessment Rolls Reflect New Construction

February 13th, 2021 Comments off

Potter County Tax Assessment Office has added more than $2.9 million to the county’s tax base over the past 14 months, due in large part to field work taking place across the county to locate new construction and property improvements. Chief Assessor Jacob Ostrom reports an increase in new home construction and additions since late 2019. The county’s real estate tax base increase represents approximately $11.5 million in added market value. Real estate taxes levied by school districts, boroughs, townships and the county government are applied to a property’s assessed value. As a result of the tax base additions, the county government will receive an estimated $54,000 more in real estate taxes this year. School districts and municipalities will also see higher tax revenue.

Ostrom’s job grew harder several years ago when the state legislature eliminated the position of township and borough tax assessor. In prior years, these elected officials were responsible for finding and reporting new construction and improvements. Today, the Assessment Office relies primarily on building permit records and visual inspections to update tax records.

Flag Retirement Box Available At Gunzburger Building

February 1st, 2021 Comments off

In an effort to help Potter County residents and organizations to properly retire worn U.S. flags, the Potter County Commissioners have placed a deposit box in their administrative office at the F.W. Gunzburger County Office Building. Please use the Main Street entrance. The box is located in the second office on the left.

When an American flag becomes worn out or torn, the U.S. Flag Code dictates how to respectfully retire it. The commissioners will make certain that all of the proper retirement procedures are followed. Citizens are also advised that local veterans service organizations accept worn or torn flags for retirement during ceremonies held each year on Flag Day, June 14.

‘Jasmine’ Arrives At Potter County Human Services

January 28th, 2021 Comments off

Potter County Human Services (PCHS) last week welcomed its newest staff member from Cypress, Texas. Jasmine, a German shepherd mix rescued from a shelter, is in training to comfort traumatized children who are engaged with the Children, Youth and Family Services Department. Tom Patterson (above, fourth from left), director of the department, is being trained as Jasmine’s handler and caretaker. “Jasmine has special skills to help children and other individuals who are dealing with difficult situations,” Patterson explained. “She has the skills to identify and comfort those who may be experiencing trauma or stress.”

Funding comes from a state block grant. Animal-assisted therapy has been gaining popularity. Unlike service dogs, therapy dogs are encouraged to interact with a variety of people, which eases tensions for victims, family support members and caseworkers. The human-animal bond has been shown to increase a traumatized individual’s trust in humans. Using therapy dogs in response to traumatic events can reduce depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety.

Above, some of the staffers from Potter County’s Children, Youth and Family Services Department pose with the latest addition to their team. At right, Commissioner Barry Hayman took a liking to Jasmine.