Commissioners Adopt Budget; Taxes Hold Steady

January 4th, 2022 Comments off

Real estate taxes in Potter County will remain at their current rate for a fourth straight year. In addition, Commissioners Nancy Grupp, Barry Hayman and Paul Heimel have decided not to collect the $5.00 per-capita tax that many other counties levy. Actions were finalized at the commissioners’ year-end meeting on Dec. 30. Real estate taxes will be 18.5 mills. A mill is one-tenth of one percent, levied against a property’s assessed value. Because state law prohibits county governments from levying an income tax, property owners bear the heaviest tax burden. This year’s budget calls for nearly $11.3 million in spending.

Comment Period Closes On Low-Level Training Flights

December 30th, 2021 Comments off

US Air Force photo by Sr. Airman Greg L. Davis

Commissioners Nancy Grupp, Barry Hayman and Paul Heimel last week joined local lawmakers, organizations and many individuals in submitting formal comments concerning the Maryland Air National Guard’s planned low-level military aircraft training flights over a wide swath of northcentral Pennsylvania, including most of Potter County. Specifically, the commissioners asked the ANG to hold a public meeting in Potter County to share more details on the plan and to answer questions. They also requested that the agency conduct a full Environmental Impact Study. The request is in response to input the commissioners have received from organizations and citizens who are concerned about the impact of the plan on tourism, the environment and the local way of life. Maryland ANG seeks authorization from the Federal Aviation Administration to train A-10 “Warthog” pilots for up to 170 days a year, no longer than four hours per day, in low air space (100 feet from the ground and up) across parts of six counties (see map below)

The Maryland ANG environmental assessment, which determined that the flights pose “no significant impact” on local citizens or the environment, is available at public libraries in Coudersport and Galeton; or online at https://www.175wg.ang.af.mil/Duke-MOA-Low, (click on Duke MOA Low icon).

Military aircraft have trained in the region for many years, but at a higher altitude. Pa. Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources, which manages state forests and parks, has been studying the potential impacts for more than a year. DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn said the flights could “drastically change the character of this region,” with the sound negatively affecting tourism, wildlife and outdoor recreation. DCNR has called on the Maryland ANG to maintain its current flight protocols and operations, or to consider alternative locations. The agency is also calling for an Environmental Impact Study to be conducted, rather than the less detailed “environmental assessment.”

 

County Renews ‘Reverse-911’ Contract For 2022

December 19th, 2021 Comments off

Potter County has signed up for another year of service from a notification system that provides the public with important alerts and time-sensitive messages on tornadoes, floods, or other emergencies. At last week’s business meeting, Commissioners Nancy Grupp, Barry Hayman and Paul Heimel renewed a contract with OnSolve, the company that provides the “CodeRED Reverse-911 System.” Cost for another year of service is $4,360.

CodeRED sends early warnings using phone calls, email, social media sites and text messaging. Residents of Potter County are encouraged to visit pottercountypa.net and click on the CodeRED logo to enroll their contact information. There is no fee. Additional information is also available at 274-8900, extension 501.

Banner At County Building Honors Local War Casualty

October 12th, 2021 Comments off

A banner at the front entrance of the F. W. Gunzburger County Office Building memorializes U.S. Army Specialist Mike Franklin, who lost his life in the Global War on Terrorism. It was originally hung in downtown Harrisburg, through a partnership of a local civic organization and the American Gold Star Mothers. The banner was donated to the county by SPC Franklin’s parents, Tina and Bill Franklin, when they moved to Arizona.

More than 16 years have passed since the Coudersport soldier lost his life when an improvised explosive device detonated near his screening area in Ramadi, Iraq. SPC Franklin, who was a month shy of his 23rd birthday, was not scheduled to be on duty during that shift on March 7, 2005. But he unselfishly agreed to stand in to help a friend. The checkpoint he was patrolling was established to trap guerrilla fighters through a dusk-to-dawn curfew. Similar operations were taking place in other towns in western Iraq, which was seeing heavy guerrilla fighting. A car had stalled and couldn’t be restarted. Just as Franklin and another soldier were about to begin searching the vehicle, the bomb was detonated by a remote-control device.

After her son’s death, Tina Franklin became involved with the work of Gold Star Mothers, an organization of those who have lost a son or daughter in battle. She has made multiple trips to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., to visit injured service members. Tina and Bill Franklin suggest that those wishing to honor military personnel who have fallen in war consider service to others through community organizations, churches or government agencies.

One In Seven Potter County Residents ‘Food Insecure’

September 21st, 2021 Comments off

Food banks across Potter County have all seen a surge in demand, much of it attributed to the coronavirus pandemic. Last week, the county commissioners paused to honor those people who have kept the food pantry shelves stocked. In observance of Hunger Action Month, the board welcomed Ryan Prater (shown), community engagement associate with the Central Pa. Food Bank, to its Sept. 9 meeting. The commissioners also approved a proclamation to draw attention to the issues of hunger and food insecurity.

Prater thanked the staffers and volunteers who serve at the county’s food banks. He pointed out that about 14 percent of Potter County’s residents are “food insecure,” defined as lacking reliable access to affordable, nutritious food. Central Pa. Food Bank is a conduit for government funds that provide food to agencies in 27 counties. Among its partners are area school districts.

Prater said his organization recently began offering Farm to Agency Resource Market (FARM) grants, connecting local farms directly to food banks so that they can expand their inventory of fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy products and protein. He also called for public support of the federal government’s Emergency Food Assistance Program and child nutrition programs, whose funding is in limbo during budget consolidation negotiations in Congress.

Conservation District Success Stories Celebrated

September 7th, 2021 Comments off

Roads are being improved, headwater streams protected, and coal mine pollution abated as a result of work that’s dutifully performed — with little or no fanfare — by county conservation districts. Last week, directors of these low-profile agencies whose impact stretches far and wide showcased some of their success stories in Potter and Cameron counties. About a dozen elected officials and other guests joined conservation district managers and technicians on a daylong field trip.

In Potter County, the group traveled to two project sites on Southwoods Road in Homer and Sylvania townships. Conservation District Manager Jason Childs (left) explained that over a period of four years, the Conservation District upgraded a 4.7-mile section of the road to reduce sediment loads flowing into the Southwoods Branch, and to keep the road passable for residents, seasonal property owners, tourists, school buses and emergency vehicles. Price tag was nearly $684,000. In Sylvania Township, an eroding 70-foot vertical bank had collapsed, reducing Southwoods Road to one lane threatening to close the road entirely. Some 264 tons of limestone and other materials were used to stabilize the bank and improve the stream and its habitat. Cost was $175,000.

One stop in Cameron County was at an acid mine drainage treatment project in Cameron County’s Sterling Run watershed. Deep coal mining in the late 1800s and early 1900s and surface mining that followed had badly fouled the headwaters, killing all aquatic life. Cameron County Conservation District has installed “passive treatment systems,” neutralizing aluminum and iron levels. Affected waters are now Class A Wild Trout Streams. Also in Cameron County, the group observed a streambank stabilization project along the Driftwood Branch of Sinnemahoning Creek. That 450-foot section had been severely eroded. A modified mudsill cribwall was installed to stabilize the bank and improve fish habitat. The Conservation District partnered with the Western Pa. Conservancy to plant a five-acre riparian buffer that includes trees, shrubs and live stakes.