Township Officials Gather For 86th Annual Convention
From open space and the health of the white-tailed deer population to aging matters, local township officials were updated Monday on a multitude of ongoing topics affecting the operation of their municipalities and the well-being of their residents.
Greg Reineke of the Conservation District was one of 17 speakers to take the podium at the Sideling Hill Christian Church dining hall during the Fulton County Association of Township Officials' 86th annual convention hosted on Columbus Day. Continuing his plea for preserving open space locally, Reineke reminded those on hand numerous methods are available to preserve the rural feel in Fulton County. In a supplement to subdivision ordinances and zoning, programs such as Clean and Green and Farmland Preservation also offer landowners alternative methods to saving their open land for future generations.
"These things can happen if we're careful with our planning," said Reineke, who also spoke briefly on illegal dumping, recycling, tire cleanups and household hazardous waste. Reineke along with Steve Thomas of the planning office presented township officials with information related to Greenways and the county's joint comprehensive plan.
According to the goals and objectives identified by the joint plan, preservation and enhancement of the mix of rural and natural landscapes and uses is a must when looking forward to the next 10 to 15 years. In addition, a diversity of businesses must also be attracted and maintained, and local assets such as existing employment opportunities, natural resources and a well-trained workforce must be capitalized on. Furthermore, a comprehensive networking of parks, recreation, open space and greenway areas must be completed to meet the active and passive recreation needs of current and future residents.
As a follow-up to Reineke's comments on recreation, program director Chanin Mountz of the Fulton County Parks and Recreation Commission shared with the township officials a rundown of activities already conducted and to be held during 2008. In addition to hiking and biking, the commission has also been instrumental in holding several popular children's camps dealing with nature and wrestling as well as a well-received women's selfdefense course.
Municipalities currently serving as member townships on the commission include Ayr, Dublin, Licking Creek, McConnellsburg Borough, Thompson and Todd townships. The remaining townships were urged to become members in exchange for a 25-cent-per-capita fee. All residents of member townships, in turn, receive a discounted registration fee, Mountz concluded.
In other outdoor-related matters, Fulton County Wildlife Conservation Officer Kevin Mountz elaborated on the current status of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in the commonwealth. Mountz stated even though CWD has not been detected locally, it has been found as close as 25 miles south of Fulton County's border. Random testing, according to Mountz, is being completed in Fulton and Bedford counties utilizing road kill and hunterharvested deer.
Mountz related frost has already hit the county, especially in the northern area, and should be enough to ward off any outbreaks of blue tongue disease, also known as EHD, in the deer herd. EHD was present in the county last year, but not in severe quantities.
Feral pigs are beginning to become a "real concern" in the municipality of Union Township where numerous sightings have occurred. The pigs, Mountz stated, should be eradicated when seen as they quickly multiply in number and also pose a threat to local habitat. In addition to feral pigs posing a problem, complaints of all-terrain riders destroying farmer's fields between the village of Northcraft and the municipal building have been surfacing in Union Township. Calls on the matter should be reported immediately to the Game Commission or state police.
Jamie Brambley of the Fulton County Library reminded township officials a renovation project is currently under way at the Mc- Connellsburg facility, paid in part by a private donation and a Keystone Recreation Grant. Brambley noted the renovation was much needed as they were running out of space for books, and will allow for the creation of a special teen area, more computer areas and meeting rooms. Both families and children, Brambley stated, frequently use the library during economic hardships to access free Internet access as well as books and various resources.
Brambley also touched briefly upon the library's long-range plan, which includes the creation of a branch in the southern end of the county.
Local building code enforcement officer Clem Malot answered frequently asked questions pertaining to the permitting of commercial, residential, recreational cabins and agricultural buildings and structures. Malot urged the township supervisors to forward him information on any recreational cabins being built in their area as several specific guidelines and requirements must first be met. Specifically, the facility can never become a full-time residence.
In regard to commercial properties, Malot said almost anything commercial requires a building permit. The permitting is also extended to a change in building occupancy and uses.
In conclusion, Malot indicated anyone seeking assistance from the local Commonwealth Construction Code officers should visit their new location at 201 Lincoln Way West in the Antietem Iron Center. Office hours are normally Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and by appointment.
Others speaking at the October 13 annual convention were Cory Adams, Kenneth Grimes and William Hawk of PSATS; county commissioners Bonnie Mellott Keefer, Dan Swain and David Hoover II; Alan Smith of the Area Agency on Aging, Penn State Extension agent Judy Chambers; Emergency Management Agency Director Vince Joyce and Jason Hawkins, chief executive officer of Fulton County Medical Center.