County Officials Host VA Visit To Discuss Veterans’ Services

February 21st, 2020 Comments off

Potter County hosted a visit by two executives of the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs on Friday as part of an ongoing partnership for the delivery of VA health care to hundreds of the county’s military veterans. Commissioners Nancy Grupp, Paul Heimel and Barry Hayman were joined by Veterans Affairs Director Michael Pepper and Maintenance Director Joe Kurtz in welcoming Bruce Tucker, executive director, and Marie Kervan, associate chief nurse for medicine, from the VA Finger Lakes Health Care System. Their focus was on the Potter County Veterans Clinic, operated by the Bath (N.Y.) VA Medical Center at a county-owned building in Coudersport.

Director Tucker discussed challenges that the VA and other providers have experienced in recruiting certain health care professionals to rural areas. The VA has adjusted by introducing “telehealth” to supplement veterans’ services at many of its medical clinics, including the Potter County facility. Many medical diagnoses can be made through the fiber optic technology. The group toured the local clinic and discussed building modifications that Director Kurtz and the county maintenance crew will be making later this year to meet the VA’s needs. About 300 veterans are regularly seen at the clinic. Director Pepper pointed out that he and the county’s Veterans Service Committee are working on an outreach campaign to apprise veterans of the benefits and services to which they may be entitled. (Shown from left at the local clinic are Michael Pepper, Marie Kervan, Bruce Tucker, Paul Heimel, Barry Hayman and Nancy Grupp.)

New Potter-Tioga Visitor Guide Now Available

February 10th, 2020 Comments off

Copies of the 2020 Visitor Guide and Map, published by the official tourist promotion agency, Visit Potter-Tioga, are now available in the Potter County Community Development office. It’s located in the Gunzburger Building, 1 North Main Street in Coudersport; first office on the right inside front entrance. For more information, call 814-274-8290, ext. 209. The guide is also available at the Pennsylvania Lumber Museum.

 

TDWC Focuses On 24/7 Drinking Water Monitors

January 27th, 2020 Comments off

An organization dedicated to protecting Potter County’s public drinking water held its first meeting of the year last week at the Gunzburger Building. Triple Divide Watershed Coalition (TDWC) welcomed Pa. Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) representatives Mark Stephens (left) and Mark Accettulla, who shared timely information. TDWC was formed in 2011, pulling together all nine public water systems in Potter County – a first for a Pennsylvania county. Members are the municipal systems in Shinglehouse, Austin, Galeton, Coudersport, Genesee, Roulette, Ulysses and Port Allegany, as well as the Northern Tier Children’s Home and UPMC Cole.

Much of Wednesday’s discussion focused on the 24/7 monitors that have been installed at many public drinking water sources in Potter County to document flow, temperature and conductivity. This creates a database while alerting water system operators to any potential contamination or other aberration. TDWC used a $100,000 grant stemming from a fine levied against JKLM Energy to help townships and boroughs acquire the equipment. However, just 16 of the county’s 19 public water sources are being monitored. A monitor in Coudersport Borough was recently disconnected due to false readings. Stephens emphasized the importance of keeping the equipment functional to provide a database that might to used in the event of contamination and resultant enforcement action or litigation. He also stressed the need for water system operators to update their sourcewater protection plans. Among other items on Wednesday’s meeting agenda were reports on potential internships, grants for municipal water systems,  U.S. Environmental Protection Agency educational resources, water system operator career training opportunities, and a report on the Potter County Commissioners’ “Project 2025,” an initiative to reverse the county’s population decline and steady rise in median age.

TDWC was formed by the Potter County Commissioners and the county’s Planning Department. The organization won the Pa. Governor’s Award for Local Government Excellence, but its work had only begun at that point. TDWC spearheaded the historic Potter County groundwater characterization study that was completed with the assistance of the U.S. Geological Survey and other partners. This was the first-ever detailed analysis of groundwater resources in Potter County that charted the water’s location and components, as well as migration patterns and other characteristics. It’s important information to have when assessing the potential impact of shale gas drilling and other industrial activities. Mission of TDWC is “to protect public drinking water sources within the headwaters region of the Allegheny, Genesee and Susquehanna River systems from any degradation of source water quantity or quality.” This is accomplished by proactively evaluating susceptibility to contamination, working to minimize or eliminate potential threats, creating long-range protection strategies, supporting local planning and inter-governmental cooperation, encouraging public education initiatives, and any other activity to benefit present and future generations.

Criminal Justice Panel Hears ‘Specialty Court’ Update

January 22nd, 2020 Comments off

Potter County Criminal Justice Advisory Board (CJAB) members heard the latest results from the county’s treatment courts and discussed a proposal to establish a “reporting center” for men who are involved in the criminal justice system during their quarterly meeting last week. In 2013, county officials established a DUI Treatment Court for qualifying offenders whose crimes were related to alcohol abuse. That was followed by a Drug Treatment Court in 2015. Under the specialty court model, defendants who are diagnosed with addiction issues and meet other criteria can avoid further criminal sanctions if they commit to an intensive treatment regimen and other conditions.

It’s part of a broader strategy to reduce the number of repeat offenders in the criminal justice system by addressing factors that affect their behavior and decision-making. Senior Judge John Leete presides over both courts. Participation declined over the second half of 2019 and currently stands at three for DUI Court and eight for Drug Court. County officials are investigating options for combining the courts by 2023, depending on caseloads and other factors. DUI Court has earned state accreditation through December 2022. Drug Court has not been accredited.

CJAB chairman President Judge Stephen Minor presented a statistical summary for 2019 reflecting that none of the nearly 400 urine tests taken for alcohol or other drug use by DUI Court participants came back positive. The Drug Court was another story. Although there were 1,427 negative drug tests, another 85 came back positive – 37 for methamphetamine, 36 for amphetamines, nine for marijuana and one each for cocaine, benzodiazepines and alcohol.

A men’s reporting center was proposed as a complement to the Women’s Recovery Center operated by Northern Tier Children’s Home for court-referred offenders. There, they receive mental health and addiction recovery services, as well as other assistance to help them successfully return to society. Some CJAB members, including District Attorney Andy Watson, expressed support for the “restrictive intermediate punishment” concept as an alternative to incarceration. The center could also serve as a site for offenders who are clients of re-entry services specialist Patrick Harris. Potter County Commissioners Nancy Grupp, Paul Heimel and Barry Hayman may be approached with a request to investigate establishing the center.

Also at last week’s meeting, CJAB members discussed new security standards that will be required at district judge offices and reviewed the findings of the Sequential Intercept Mapping Workshop held last summer in an effort to improve the criminal justice system’s handling of offenders with mental illness.

Commissioners Continue To Seek Volunteers

January 21st, 2020 Comments off

Potter County Commissioners Nancy Grupp, Paul Heimel and Barry Hayman are seeking 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 previous Board of Commissioners periodically issued a similar call for volunteers. The current board intends to continue building a roster of 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.

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 Restructure Emergency Services Administration

January 19th, 2020 Comments off

Potter County Commissioners Nancy Grupp, Paul Heimel and Barry Hayman approved administrative changes at the county’s Department of Emergency Services during their Jan. 16 business meeting. Former commissioner Doug Morley was contracted as part-time Potter County 9-1-1 Coordinator for 2020. He succeeds contractor Julie Sitkowski. Morley has been deeply involved in emergency services and 9-1-1 administration for several years. Among his responsibilities will be overseeing the build-out of the county’s new emergency communications system and deployment of next-generation 9-1-1 services; coordination between Potter County and the Tioga County 9-1-1 Dispatch Center; communications between the county and local fire and ambulance services, as well as the Pa. Emergency Management Agency; and compliance with state and federal standards and policies for operations and training. In a related move, the board named Commissioner Grupp to succeed Morley as the county’s Director of Emergency Services. Glenn Dunn will continue to serve as Emergency Management Coordinator.