Countywide Advanced Life Support Services In Jeopardy

March 3rd, 2019 Comments off

Four months after the Potter County Commissioners launched a $4 million upgrade of the countywide 911 emergency communications system, representatives of one of the organizations that provides life-saving medical services sounded an alarm of their own. Bob Cross and Michele Mather from the Coudersport Volunteer Ambulance Assn., provider of advanced life support (ALS) for all of Potter County, attended the commissioners’ Feb. 28 meeting in an effort to draw public attention to their plight. Citing a projected $50,000 deficit for the current year and the need for greater support from township and borough governments, Cross and Mather pointed out that ALS service is now in jeopardy. Rising costs for equipment, personnel, training, and overhead have plagued the organization for some time. The solution, they said, is a combination of greater support from local governments and changes in state regulations and policies.

Many people are unaware of the distinction between ALS and basic life support (BLS) services. ALS is rendered by highly trained paramedics who deliver medical care at the scene of emergencies and during transportation to hospitals. In a rural area, the availability of ALS is a life-or-death issue. Ambulance associations operated by volunteer departments throughout the county long ago stepped up to the challenge of providing BLS for every township and borough in Potter County, with support from emergency medical technicians and other volunteers. With the advent of ALS, Charles Cole Memorial Hospital created a paramedic service to complement the basic services provided by the ambulance associations. Hospital administrators eliminated the ALS division due to economics and Coudersport Volunteer Ambulance Assn. agreed to fill the gap as a hub for the countywide service. That was based on the premise that financial support from each township and borough, combined with state reimbursement for advanced life support services rendered to low-income patients, would cover the basic costs.

(Above, Bob Cross and Michele Mather describe the plight of ALS services in Potter County to Potter Leader-Enterprise reporter Halie Kines.)

Make Local Governments Pay For State Police Coverage?

February 20th, 2019 Comments off

Local governments in Potter County have joined a statewide movement in opposition to a plan that has been hatched in Harrisburg to force many residents to pay an annual tax for Pa. State Police coverage. Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposed 2019 budget includes a proposal to require residents in townships and boroughs that do not have local police departments to pay an $8.00 fee to support state police coverage. Wolf floated the proposal two years ago and received little support from the state legislature, due to its impact on smaller, cash-strapped communities. This year’s plan may be more palatable to lawmakers because it holds the fee at $8.00 per-capita for municipalities with fewer than 2,000 residents, while imposing a higher tax on more populous townships and borough.

In Potter County, the annual fees would total as follows: Abbott, $1,904; Allegany, $3,320; Austin, $4,432; Bingham, $5,448; Clara, $1,568; Eulalia, $7,064; Genesee, $6,296; Harrison, $8,184; Hebron, $4,688; Hector, $3,056; Homer, $3,392; Keating, $2,456; Oswayo Boro, $1,104; Oswayo Twp., $2,200; Pike, $2,592; Pleasant Valley, $680; Portage, $1,792; Sharon, $6,832; Stewardson, $584; Summit, $1,472; Sylvania, $600; Ulysses Twp., $5,064; West Branch, $3,144; and Wharton, $776.

Water Quality Work Group Hears Of Gas Well Citations

February 12th, 2019 Comments off

Members of the Potter County Water Quality Work Group invited two representatives of JKLM Energy to attend their Feb. 11 meeting for discussion of recent Pa. Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) citations of JKLM for violation of regulations related to waste water handling at shale gas wells. Scott Blauvelt, the company’s director of regulatory affairs, and environmental compliance consultant Terra Tokarz from WhipperHill Compliance LLC, presented an overview of Pennsylvania’s regulatory framework. They explained the circumstances that resulted in fines for spills of small volumes of water with heavy salt concentrations at well pads, and the subsequent clean-up. Blauvelt shared with members that JKLM Energy, which operates solely in Potter County, is projected to be the state’s leading producer of Utica Shale natural gas by late 2019.

Also at the Feb. 11 meeting, an update was presented on a number of grant-funded initiatives. Potter County Conservation District has been awarded a $40,000 grant for fish habitat projects in the county, Application deadline is March 1 for proposed Potter County Dirt, Gravel and Low-Volume Road projects. DEP Environmental Mini-Grant requests have been submitted for a Stream Table and Water Education Day. Dominion Energy mini-grants have been approved for local watershed associations’  educational outreach and/or small-action projects. Funding remains available from the Pa. Assn. of Conservation Districts for establishment of riparian buffers to protect water quality.

In other matters, Charlie Tuttle, chair of the Triple Divide Watershed Coalition, reported that she is working with the Pa. Rural Water Assn. to bring a video-delivered water system operator certification training course to Potter County. Darrell Davis, Genesee Headwaters Watershed Assn., announced that the canoe launch in the community park is in need of minor repairs that will be made in the coming weeks. Davis also announced that GHWA is sponsoring a program on the early settlers of the region at 7 pm on March 19 at the Genesee United Methodist Church. Kathy Mitchell, First Fork Watershed Assn., reported that the organization recently met and decided on an active agenda for 2019.

Also, Potter County Planning Director Will Hunt discussed the public input process that continues as a key element in drafting the Northern Pennsylvania Tri-County Comprehensive Plan (Potter, McKean and Cameron counties). Next Steering Committee meeting will be held on March 1 and a date for the three-county public meeting will be announced in the near future

DEP is accepting public comments until March 1 on a new agricultural erosion plan manual that is being developed. Lycoming County is seeking projects to engage GIS students in field work to benefit public agencies or non-profit organizations. Justin Boatwright, Pa. Fish & Boat Commission waterways patrol officer, has been transferred to Clinton County. Chad Lauer, WCO in Tioga County, will cover Potter County until a successor is assigned.

Water Quality Work Group Chairman Jason Childs announced that the next meeting will be held at 8:30 am Monday, April 15.

Help Available For Smokers Trying To Quit

February 11th, 2019 Comments off

Free help is available for Potter County residents trying to kick their smoking habit. A proven program provided by the American Lung Association (ALA) is offered locally by the Northcentral Pa. Area Health Education Center. For more information or to register, call (570) 724-9145.

ALA has been helping people quit smoking for more than 35 years through its Freedom From Smoking program, available in a variety of formats. “Freedom From Smoking Plus” is a user-friendly interface that helps the user create a personal quit-smoking plan on a desktop, tablet or smartphone. Counselors and other program participants are available through an online community. For details, visit the website freedomfromsmoking.org.

Group clinics are also offered, as are telephone counseling and a self-help guide, both available by calling 1-800-586-4872.

Focus: Closing ‘Digital Divide’ In Public Education

January 29th, 2019 Comments off

Administrators from public school districts, technical schools and area colleges came together on Monday at the Gunzburger Building to discuss how they can capitalize on the potential of high-speed internet service to further their educational mission. A major focus of the session — jointly sponsored by the Potter County Commissioners and the Potter County Education Council — was the need to bridge the “digital divide.” That’s the gap that separates the haves from the have-nots when it comes to technology.

Among the speakers were CEO Craig Eccher (shown) and Bill Gerski from Tri-County Rural Electric Cooperative. REC will begin construction of its new $77 million high-speed internet service later this year. The fiber-optic network will extend across its entire seven-county service territory, starting with the townships surrounding Coudersport. It will eventually reach nearly 1,400 customers in Potter County — 830 residential, 540 seasonal, and 13 commercial.

Following the REC presentations, separate brainstorming sessions were held. Representatives of the Northern Pennsylvania Regional College and Mansfield University were among those gathering to discuss opportunities, challenges and issues for providers of post-secondary education. A similar session focused on K-12 education was held for representatives from area school districts, Seneca Highlands IU9 and the IU9 Career and Technical Center.

Potter County Education Center executive director Dr. Michele Moore closed the session with assurances that issues that were identified during the session will be analyzed and there will be follow-up workshops to help educational institutions address the digital divide.

County Notes Passing Of Benefactor Everett Saulter

January 28th, 2019 Comments off

For his 100th birthday, friends presented Everett Saulter with a can that was used when he produced and sold maple syrup from his Hebron Township property.

Today we note the passing of a special man whose gift to the people of Potter County keeps on giving. Everett Saulter, 101, died Jan. 27, 2019. Nearly 20 years have passed since Everett donated to the people of Potter County what is now known as Saulter Forest Preserve. Groups and families use the pavilion and grounds for reunions, meetings, picnics or casual nature walks. It is located off Rt. 44 between Coudersport and Coneville in Hebron Township. The 57-acre preserve includes trails with interpretive signs, indoor and outdoor gathering areas, and a rich diversity of trees and other vegetation preferred by deer, birds and other species.

A timber appraisal on the acreage came in at roughly $1 million and the land itself has considerable value. But Everett Saulter wasn’t interested in selling. The long-time Potter County resident wanted to leave a lasting gift that would accommodate recreation and social gatherings, and provide wildlife habitat and nature education. He accomplished all of that and more. For many years after he transferred the property, Everett would walk the woodlot and trail system to maintain it and guide visitors on a tour. He always took pride in the fact that more groups and families are using the preserve. Trees include native white pine, cherry, red oak, maple and other varieties of hardwoods. There is also a three-acre clearing on the southeastern side of the tract that protects headwaters of the South Branch of Oswayo Creek. The County Commissioners have assigned the county maintenance crew to care for the property and Potter County Conservation District continues its active involvement.