Progress On Market Village/Farmers Market Project

November 27th, 2020 Comments off

Progress continues on a proposal to establish an open-air retail center on a vacant lot in downtown Coudersport. It’s a project of the Revitalize Potter County Steering Committee and the county’s Planning Commission. County officials emphasize that the plan is merely a proposal, subject to public input and a number of elements – including funding – falling into place. The committee has been working with an architect to develop renderings for a “market village/farmers market” on a county-owned lot at the corner of East Second and North East streets. A $4,500 grant from the Pennsylvania Wilds Planning Team paid for the services of a landscape architect/engineer, who has been conducting a feasibility study and developing a conceptual design.

Steering committee co-chairs Will Hunt and Ellen Russell describe the proposed development as a semi-permanent “village” with multiple short-term rental spaces. Retail space would complement the Potter County Farmers Market, with short-term occupants marketing agricultural goods, prepared food, locally crafted items or other products. It would be modeled after the successful Tionesta Market Village in Forest County.

The committee envisions the lot becoming a gathering place where live music and other entertainment or educational programs could be presented. Similar open-air markets could be developed in Galeton, Ulysses, Roulette and other Potter County towns. Community organizations, such as chambers of commerce, would be contacted to partner with the committee.

Rentals would be available at low fees. The market village could serve as an incubator for new businesses. It would provide an opportunity for entrepreneurs and small business owners to “pilot” their business idea, without running the large risk associated with a storefront. Once the business proves to be successful, the hope is it would move into an empty storefront to help revitalize the business district. A marketing plan calls occupants of the mini-village to direct visiting shoppers to established downtown businesses.

Potter County Planning Commission members will review the plans at their next public business meeting, to be held at 3 pm on Tuesday, Dec. 8, after which the project will be open to public input. Meanwhile, the steering committee is investigating grant opportunities in the event that the plan gets a green light.

Bigger Tax Base For Schools, Municipalities, County

November 27th, 2020 Comments off

Potter County Tax Assessment Office has added nearly $2.3 million to the county’s tax base in 2020, due in large part to field work taking place across the county to locate new construction and property improvements. Chief Assessor Jacob Ostrom reported that the county’s real estate tax base increase represents approximately $7 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 $42,260 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.

Grants Awarded To Local Fire, Ambulance Companies

November 27th, 2020 Comments off

Fire and ambulance organizations in Potter County were recently awarded grants from the state through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Money must be used for operational and equipment expenses, such as utilities, insurance, equipment repairs and personal protective equipment; to replace lost revenues due to pandemic restrictions; or to cover costs related to cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting equipment and property or other expenses incurred to prevent the spread of communicable illnesses.

In Potter County, Austin Volunteer Fire Dept. has been allotted $23,973 for fire services and $15,048 for ambulance service; Coudersport Volunteer Ambulance Assn., $15,048; Coudersport Volunteer Fire Dept., $24,657; Germania Fire Company, $22,603; Goodyear Hose Company of  Galeton, $11,094; Harrison Township Volunteer Fire Company, $23,836; Kettle Creek Hose Company, $22,603; Roulette VFD, $22,877 for fire services and $15,048 for ambulance service; and Shinglehouse Volunteer Fire Dept., $23,014.

World War II Soldier From Galeton Memorialized

November 2nd, 2020 Comments off

More than 75 years after he lost his life in service to his nation, a Galeton soldier is properly memorialized with a grave marker. Family members of U.S. Army Private James F. Platt contacted Potter County Director of Veterans Affairs Michael Pepper for assistance in securing a bronze marker. Working with Commissioner Barry Hayman and the Pa. Dept. of Military and Veterans Affairs, the marker was obtained for placement in Galeton’s West Hill Cemetery. Pvt. Platt had been serving in Belgium when he lost his life on Dec. 20, 1944. At the time, the Western Allies forces were steadily gaining ground in the liberation of Belgium, which was completed just six weeks after his passing. Director Pepper (left) and Commissioner Hayman display the marker before delivering it to Pvt. Platt’s survivors. In appreciation for the county’s assistance, the family donated an accompanying cash stipend to LEEK Hunting and Mountain Preserve in Oswayo to support services for disabled military veterans.

Another Potter County Farm Preserved; Total Now 1,390 Acres

November 1st, 2020 Comments off

Farmers across Pennsylvania face mounting pressure to sell their acreage for real estate development or other non-agricultural uses. The loss of a farm often creates a ripple effect with economic, environmental and social consequences. Hundreds of acres in Potter County have been permanently preserved for agriculture under a state-sponsored program — with a county partnership — to purchase conservation easements, or “development rights.”

Most recent addition is the 84-acre Robert J. Hallman crop farm. Its development rights were purchased with $75,000 in state funds and a $16,900 county share. Potter County’s Farmland Preservation Program has now paid landowners just over $1 million for easements on 1,390 acres spread out over nine farms. State funding for the program has been significantly cut in recent years, with the vast majority being committed to counties in the southeastern part of the state where development demands are strongest. Despite the state cuts, the Potter County Commissioners have maintained the county’s yearly contribution to the program.

Guidelines require that easements be at least 50 acres, although counties can elect to lower the requirement to 35 acres. The program is administered by the Potter County Conservation District and directed by a board appointed by the commissioners. Farms are chosen on the basis of quality as well as stewardship – use of conservation practices and best management practices of nutrient management, as well as erosion and sedimentation control, proximity to water, and extent and type of non-agricultural development nearby. Payments are determined by assessing the market value and agricultural value of the land. The difference between those two figures is the maximum value of the easement. For more information, contact Potter County Conservation District office at 814-274-8411.

Criminal Justice Panel Confirms Methamphetamine Epidemic

October 13th, 2020 Comments off

Judge John Leete

Methamphetamine addiction is taking a terrible toll in Potter County. The epidemic was confirmed by everyone from police officers and the district attorney, to treatment specialists and the judiciary during this month’s meeting of the Potter County Criminal Justice Advisory Board. Sgt. Michael Murray from the Pa. State Police barracks at Denton Hill confirmed that meth has surpassed heroin as the “drug of choice,” although the latter continues to ruin lives. He added that fentanyl, an extremely powerful opioid, is also being trafficked in the area. Enforcement is a major challenge, Sgt. Murray pointed out, because users are not only buying meth from dealers, but also creating their own supplies.

On a brighter note, Senior Retired Judge John Leete and Liz Haskin, a certified recovery support specialist, provided glimmers of hope as society comes to grips with the epidemic. Leete presides over the county’s treatment courts, which handle selected criminal cases involving offenders with drug and/or alcohol addiction. More than four dozen men and women have successfully completed the intensive probation supervision, treatment and support network regimen, he said. Seventeen offenders are currently under supervision. “It’s great to see people take back their lives,” Judge Leete said. “In fact, three new support groups have been formed locally by alumni of the treatment courts.”

Haskin discussed the impact that the treatment court regimen had on her own recovery, which she has carried into her professional life. “I am here to tell you that recovery is a reality,” she said. “Fortunately, Potter County’s criminal justice system, including District Attorney Andy Watson, has been supportive of people seeking recovery.”

Also at this month’s meeting, CJAB members:

  • adopted a sweeping Probation With Restrictive Conditions Plan following an explanation of its impact by President Judge Stephen Minor. It calls for a collaborative approach to reduce the number of offenders requiring incarceration.
  • heard a presentation from two Dickinson Center Inc. representatives on the new Forensic Long-Term Structured Residential Facility in Brookville. Potter and eight other counties have partnered with Dickinson to establish the facility – which will be referred to as DCI Restoration Center – for provision of in-patient mental health and related recovery services. Two openings are reserved for Potter County residents.
  • re-elected CJAB officers for 2021, with Judge Minor as chair, District Judge Kari McCleaft as vice chair, and Colleen Wilber from Potter County Human Services as administrator.
  • received a summary from Bryonna Swede, Potter County Human Services, on implementation of recommendations that emerged from last year’s Sequential Intercept Mapping workshop. SIM is a cross-system approach to behavioral health issues in criminal justice administration.
  • heard from Judge Minor that new policies related to risk assessments will take effect on July 1, 2021. Overarching goal is to effectively weigh risks related to whether an individual involved in the criminal justice system will re-offend.