COUDERSPORT — The 90th annual Potter County Township Supervisor Convention was held over the weekend, giving local township supervisors and officials a time to come together and discuss struggles they face in their communities, as well as learn about resources and obtain answers to questions.
The morning was packed with speakers ranging from county commissioners to state representatives, from a policy analyst to a panel of local experts on various topics.
Potter County Commissioner Paul Heimel spoke on the importance of listening to what the next generation has to say and what will bring people to the county and keep them here. All of these things went into creating a comprehensive plan, which plans out the next 10 years in Potter County.
In the plan, leaders strive to attract businesses, bring high speed internet, expand the healthcare to fill in gaps and improve local roads, to name a few. Heimel said it’s easy to come up with a list of things that need to be addressed, but this plan has proposed solutions.
After looking through some numbers and the changes in the population from an interim census count, Heimel discovered the county has lost more people since 2010 than after the “Adelphia bubble burst” in the early 2000s.
“...We all talk about the ‘Adelphia bubble,’ we went from 16,500-17,000 up to 18,000 and some change in our population. That started bursting and we can say that probably stabilized around 2010 because the bankruptcy was in ‘02...,” Heimel said.
“...In the eight years that followed, we’ve actually lost more people than during the ‘Adelphia bubble burst.’” Heimel said the population decreased by 600 people after the downfall of Adelphia, but the county has lost about 800 people since the beginning of this decade.
State Rep. Martin Causer said he served as a township supervisor for nine years and keeps township supervisors in mind now while looking at every bill that comes across his desk.
“Oftentimes there are bills that are being pushed in Harrisburg that are not that beneficial to local, rural townships,” Causer said. He mentioned a few topics that are relevant to the people in Potter County — struggling dairy farmers, the cost of training and classes for EMS personnel and increasing funding for broadband — but one subject got everyone’s attention: spreading brine on dirt roads in the summer.
The state Department of Environmental Protection stopped allowing the spreading of brine in 2018 after a Warren County resident appealed DEP’s permission to apply brine on dirt roads in the resident’s township, saying it pollutes the air and water.
“Many people don’t realize that we’ve been spreading brine on our dirt roads for decades,” Causer said. He said studies have been done that conclude there is no contamination from putting brine on dirt roads, Causer said.
“It’s a great way to control dust … so we’re trying to reinstate that because in many rural townships, that’s something that’s needed. How else do you control the dust?” Causer said.
One township supervisor said his township spent $20,000 on calcium, which doesn’t last as long. Another supervisor said it wasn’t just used for dust control, but also for road stabilization.
Causer said they’re still working on the issue; a bill he sponsored in the House last session passed but wasn’t considered in the Senate. He said Senator Joe Scarnati sponsored a companion bill that passed the Senate and will now go to the House for consideration.
During a panel discussion, Will Hunt, the county’s GIS and planning director, spoke about a resolution asking municipalities to adopt so the county is the addressing authority. PEMA now requires a municipality to appoint an addressing authority. Because the county already has a GIS map built, it would be more cost effective for the municipalities to use it.
Hunt said they don’t intend to make any changes to addresses unless they are required to by PEMA; the county is currently at 81% compliant, Hunt said.
County commissioner Doug Morley encouraged people to learn what the Potter County Education Council and the Northern Pennsylvania Regional College do. Focusing on education is important, Morley said, because the county can’t just drag yesterday’s ideas into tomorrow. New leadership with bright ideas is important.
Karen Priego, policy analyst at Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors, gave an update on some pending legislation that could affect township supervisors.
Several online programs are available for supervisors through the PSATS website. Priego encouraged supervisors to watch the question of the week, where supervisors can send in a question and someone on the staff will answer it; attend training Tuesdays, which feature learning opportunities through videos with PSATS’s attorney and the director of education programs, and Coffee in the Capitol gives legislative updates. The salary survey data allows townships to enter salary information for its workers and compare it to other townships across the state.