Kelly Thompson

Kelly Thompson, center, and her daughter, Skylar, met with Lt. Governor Stack at the Capitol. Lt. Gov. Stack recognized her relief efforts on Sept. 25.

COUDERSPORT — Kelly Thompson, a Galeton native, was recognized by the Potter County commissioners at their Thursday meeting for her relief efforts for Vieques, an island off the coast of Puerto Rico that was hit by Hurricane Maria.

Thompson lives in Vieques but was in Galeton with her daughter, Skylar, when the hurricane hit last year. The hurricane left the island’s residents without water, electricity or communication abilities. Thompson’s husband was in Vieques during the hurricane.

Thompson started a non-profit to raise money for Vieques, called Vieques Love. Within five days of starting it, she raised more than $400,000. In total, she raised $1.6 million and was able to send nine satellite phones, which made 7,000 calls from people still on the island. She sent 14 plane loads of medical supplies to Vieques and helped evacuate 30 residents who needed medical attention. She also was able to help provide FEMA with translation services.

Beyond that, she also worked to get internet into grocery stores and banks so residents would be able to take money out and use their food stamps, as neither can be done without internet.

She said CNN was on the island, interviewing people who mentioned Vieques Love, and that is what got the ball rolling on the donations.

Commissioner Susan Kefover said she was bursting with pride when she learned about everything Thompson had accomplished.

Thompson met with Lt. Governor Stack, who recognized her efforts at the Capitol building on Sept. 25. Thompson flew back to Vieques on Monday.

Another guest at the commissioners’ meeting was Jennifer Rossman, director of community development. Rossman was there to talk about the Community Development Block Grant review. These grants are for eligible municipalities for community development activities, and can include “housing rehabilitation, public services, community facilities, infrastructure improvement, development and planning,” according to DCED website.

Rossman said two boroughs applied for the grant. Austin applied for approximately $68,000 for emergency standby diesel, and Galeton applied for the full amount of the grant.

Marsha Dippold from the Dickinson Center was also at the meeting, where commissioners proclaimed October as National Disability Employment Awareness Month. Dippold and another employee of the Dickinson Center talked about how much employees with disabilities contribute to the workforce, as they’re less likely to call off and put their all into their jobs. They talked about some hurdles they run into with employees with disabilities, including transportation. They said sometimes they don’t have any trouble finding jobs, but they aren’t able to find transportation to and from work, as there is no public transportation in the area.

In new business, commissioners adopted the Uniform Parcel Identifiers ordinance. Commissioner Doug Morley said this will create a unique number for every parcel/piece of land in the county and be a permanent part of the deed. Morley said that with each parcel costing $20, this will bring in $50,000 a year, which will be used to get the info online. Morley said anyone in the world will be able to use and access the information.

In personnel, the board acknowledged Kord Kinney, Esq. being hired as assistant district attorney, effective Oct. 1. Commissioners also approved Pamela VanWolkenburg’s resignation as fiscal director effective Sept. 28, and hired Jessica Giebel as fiscal director effective Sept. 24.

The salary board met prior to the commissioners meeting where a new position was created in the Veterans Affairs office. A part-time director position was established to ensure there will be someone who can file claims for the county if the director is unavailable. The position will be 14 hours a week at $13.77 per hour.