COUDERSPORT — This past year, the Potter Leader-Enterprise had a nice mixture of heavy news and fun features. Here are some of the top stories that were published.
Bob Main converts school bus Conversion
The number one article on the paper’s website was by far the story of Bob Main. Main is just an average Potter County man who bought a school bus and converted it into his home. Simple, right? He spent more than a year basically gutting the bus and removing bus stuff from the outside. He sanded the entire bus three times, painted it grey and built the inside to his specific liking. Many things are handmade out of wood, like the door and counters. There is a bedroom, bathroom, kitchen area and a small living space, which can be converted into a guest bed. He plans to travel cross country, visiting his large family, and plans to take his motorhome to a couple shows, including a tiny home festival in San Antonio, and some bus conversion festivals.
Coudersport Pool briefly opens
The Coudersport Pool was finally able to open for a couple of days in August and September. After accepting a $661,072 bid from Premier Pool Renovations in September 2018, the opening date of the pool was expected to be late May. Through several fundraisers, the borough raised a significant amount of money for the pool and the borough also took out a $200,000 loan for the pool. However, for various reasons, the date kept getting pushed back. The borough had hired several lifeguards who weren’t able to work the job they had applied for. To solve this, the borough offered to pay them to do odd jobs around the community. Though the pool wasn’t open for long this season, it had a test run and allowed the operators to see what was and wasn’t working.
Coudersport Arboretum & Sheetz debacle
After years of uncertainty, the Coudersport Borough Council voted to sell the arboretum to Thomas A. Majot and accepted his $352,500 bid in 2018. The plan was to move the arboretum to a lot adjacent to the current arboretum to allow Sheetz to expand. However, a judge ruled with the Friends of the Arboretum and blocked the sale of the land to Majot.
Majot did not appeal the decision, but did sue the borough and its council for $25,000 in May for damages to the train caboose, which he said he owned, at the Coudersport Arboretum. After going back and forth with the council — which believed the borough owned the caboose — Majot decided to donate the caboose to the Potter County Historical Society in September.
Sheetz will be moving from its current location at 208 S Main St., Coudersport, to Peet Street, where Costa’s Food Center was. The store will be 4,893 square feet (about 1,800 square feet larger than the current one), with four double gas pumps and one diesel island, parking for 35 and indoor seating for 30. Construction is planned to begin in early spring of 2020 and open by September 2020. A few residents who live on Peet Street spoke out against this, sharing concerns about music playing all the time, light flooding into their houses, an increased traffic flow that would make it difficult to exit of their driveway and no extra parking space for their guests. An agreement between Sheetz and those residents were made. The proposed agreement included Sheetz paying for blinds to be installed in the resident’s homes and paying a certain amount of money to have the houses professionally cleaned when the construction is done, among other items.
Coudersport Fire Department gets renovation
The Coudersport Fire Department’s station started a much needed renovation this year. Essentially, everything from the floor up will be redone during this renovation: new heated floors, some drain work, new IT and electrical equipment, as well as new lighting, roof work, siding and insulation. New, energy efficient appliances will be installed, a dedicated training and meeting area will be included with large multimedia screens. The department will also have several storage areas and a lounge for members, as well as a kitchen. And, for the first time, it will have handicap accessible bathrooms. The whole project is estimated to cost $725,000. There will be an open house for the community once it is completed.
Medals are brought home for local vet who has been MIA since 1941
Medals belonging to Pvt. Carl E. Hyde, of Ulysses, who has been missing in action since 1941, were finally delivered to his family in Ulysses in October. Carl E. Hyde went missing in action when he was attached to the Signal Air Warning Company in the Philippines under General Douglas MacArthur. On Dec. 7, 1941, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and just a few hours later, on Dec. 8, 1941, launched a surprise attack on the Philippines Islands. He and some other soldiers took weapons and ammunition, and decided to go into the jungle and try to slow the Japanese advancement down. He was never seen again. A few years ago, Carl E. Hyde’s great nephew, Carl Hyde Jr. was doing some research and discovered his great uncle had some medals, including a Purple Heart, that were never given to the family. After years of writing emails back and forth to the Army and running all over to get paperwork, the medals were delivered. In November, a ceremony was held for Carl E. Hyde at the American Legion Post 963 in Ulysses, which is named for him. The medals were presented to his only living sibling, Elaine Flewellyn.
School leadership changes
A few schools in Potter County saw some change in leadership this past year. Dr. Michele S. Hartzell resigned from her position as superintendent of Oswayo Valley School District in July. She had been the superintendent there since June 2015. Hartzell was replaced by Jed Hamberger, who started in mid-October.
During a special meeting in August, Scott Graham left his position as superintendent of Northern Potter School District. Nate Jones was appointed to acting superintendent. Wendy Bailey was appointed acting high school principal. In September, Jones and Bailey were appointed full time in their respective positions, with contracts expiring June 30, 2024.
In Coudersport, Steve Mongillo, high school principal, resigned in March. The resignation brought in dozens of people to that month’s school board meeting, filling the room. Some even wore T-shirts that had “#TeamMongillo” written on them. More than 20 people spoke in favor of Mongillo and urged the school board to do what they needed to do to keep Mongillo. In April, Mongillo withdrew his letter of resignation.
Tim Rigas is released from prison
Timothy J. Rigas was released from prison in July. He had been in prison since 2007. Rigas was originally to be released from prison on June 3, 2020, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons’s website. Rigas, CFO of Adelphia Communications, and John Rigas, founder of Adelphia Communications, were sentenced to 20 and 15 years in prison respectively — sentences that were later reduced to 17 and 12 years — after a jury convicted them on charges of securities fraud, bank fraud and conspiracy in 2004. His early release was made possible by a new criminal justice reform law which permits the early release of inmates over the age of 60 who have been convicted of non-violent crimes and have served two-thirds of their sentences. Rigas, 63, will finish out the remainder of his sentence in home confinement.
Murphy’s Cafe and Randa’s bakery opens
A new bakery and cafe opened up in Coudersport in October, Murphy’s Cafe and Randa’s Bakery. Randa’s Bakery offers a wide selection of baked goods, including birthday cakes, cookies, pastries and different crispy rice cereal treats. Murphy’s Cafe offers cafe style items, such as deli sandwiches and wraps. It has vegan, vegetarian, gluten free and keto.
Fire department treasurer charged with embezzlement
Scott Luce, 35, of Genesee, was charged with theft after he allegedly embezzled $93,000 from the Genesee Fire and Ambulance Department between June 2017 and June 2018, when he served as the department treasurer, according to the state police. On June 18, 128 felony and misdemeanor charges were filed against Luce and he was arraigned and sent to Potter County Jail in lieu of $100,000 bail. At this time, he is considering his options to plead guilty or to go to trial. If he goes to trial, he will be listed for jury selection in early March.