2009-03-12 / Local & State

Commissioners Kick Off Town Meetings

By Chanin Rotz-Mountz STAFF WRITER

Fulton County commissioners Bonnie Mellott Keefer, Daniel Swain Jr. and David Hoover II kicked off the second round of their town meetings last Thursday with a warm reception from Brush Creek Township residents, who echoed nationwide sentiments and concerns on the economy and broached some controversial local topics that again included the future of the Boorman Road.

Boorman Road resident Jeannette Matnay, who was onhand in 2008 when the condition of the roadway was initially brought to light during the commissioners' very first town meeting, informed the group that ownership of the road has since been relinquished or "turned over" to the residents by Bureau of Forestry officials with the Buchanan State Forest. Prior to ownership changing hands, though, Matnay stated forestry employees worked for two days scraping the road and restoring it to its former condition.

With road ownership now believed to be in the hands of bordering landowners, Commissioner Hoover questioned the group as to what the future will hold for the Boorman Road and what are the landowners willing to do in order to continue maintaining it. The property owners were reminded they possess the capability of restricting access of the private road to passing motorists and hunters. In addition, in conjunction with having a private development, they could also assess an annual maintenance fee that could be used for road upgrades and snow removal.

Stating the issue is not dead, fellow Boorman Road resident Charles Mielke responded he was still not completely convinced the road is private and pointed out references made to right-of-way agreements with the township in his deed.

Brush Creek Township Supervisor Delmas Bard maintained that the township has no authority at all in this matter, and as a result of the Bureau of Forestry giving up ownership, it should fall back onto the last landowner. Bard again reiterated the township is unable to go on private property and fix road issues.

"We're bound by rules and regulations whether you like it or not," concluded Bard.

The group on-hand applauded the efforts of district forester Jim Smith and his staff in fixing the road and thanked the commissioners for their interest in getting the issue resolved.

In spite of not receiving any questions or comments on the economy last year, even when presented with a proposal to construct a new county office building, numerous comments were shared last Thursday on the status of the construction plans and county revenue, which includes both state and federal grant money.

Commissioner Swain indicated the board of commissioners has downsized its plans greatly from the original proposal that included a possible tax hike of one-quarter mill. Swain stated the goal remains the same: to move all personnel to one side of the street. However, the office of Magisterial District Judge Wendy Mellott will relocate into the domestic relations office.

Renovations, primarily heating and air conditioning related, will be the focus of future work at the Fulton County Courthouse. Furthermore, hopes also remain high that the county offices can be linked to a geothermal loop in McConnell Park that will result in future savings.

Hoover added the cost related to the renovation project has been cut back to approximately $2.5 million.

With work already under way in preparing for the 2010 budget, Commissioner Keefer noted she and her fellow commissioners are taking an aggressive stance on making cuts. In 2009, salaries and benefits comprise 56 percent of the county budget. An additional 25 percent is earmarked for professional services. On the flip side, 59 percent of the county's revenue is generated through taxes. Twenty-four percent comes from federal and state operating grants.

Crystal Spring resident Daryl Poet shared his concerns on governmental bodies, ranging from school boards to boards of commissioners, picking up the full cost of programs after receiving grant money for multiple years.

"Whether you want to admit it or not, the federal government is bankrupt ... ," said Poet. "You and local officials need to stand up to state and federal officials and tell them enough is enough."

Commissioner Keefer stated the commonwealth has agreed to accept federal money, which in turn may result in Fulton County having to take funding. Hoover said he personally is not counting on the stimulus money at all and will not build the county's budget around it.

Discussions were also held on long-term planning, Clean and Green and natural gas drilling.

The next Fulton County town meeting has been scheduled for April 2 at the Hustontown Senior Center. Additional meetings include May 7 at the Big Cove Tannery Lutheran Church; June 4, Burnt Cabins Auction Barn; July 2, Green Hill Sewing Club; August 6 at the Union Township Municipal Building; September 3 at the Wells Tannery Community Center; October 1, Needmore Bible Church Fellowship Hall; November 5, Warfordsburg Senior Center; and December 3 at the McConnellsburg Senior Center.

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