2009-09-10 / Front Page

Commissioners Host Tannery Town Meeting

By Chanin Rotz-Mountz STAFF WRITER

Even though attendance at the Fulton County commissioners' town meeting in Wells Tannery was far from stellar, the array and depth of topics touched on by commissioners Bonnie Mellott Keefer and David Hoover II certainly seemed to gain the approval of area residents.

Under questioning by Tannery resident Ruth Hale, the commissioners shared that there has not been a time established for filling the commissioner's position formerly held by Daniel Swain Jr. The selection and appointment process will be determined by Fulton County Court of Common Pleas President Judge Douglas Herman, who is slated to begin reviewing resumes and letters.

Commissioner Keefer added several guidelines or requirements must be met by interested applicants that numbered 16 at the time of the filing deadline. In addition to being 18 or older, candidates must be a county resident and of the same political affiliation as the former office holder at the time of their election. In this case, all applicants must be Republican.

Hale further questioned if the individuals applying for consideration have to be qualified or possess prior experience. She was informed prior experience is certainly a benefit, but the fact remains only those three qualifications must be met to be considered.

Keefer added that making the move from county treasurer to commissioner was not a big jump for her. She went on to cite examples on Commissioner Hoover's prior experience and how it benefited him in office.

Hoover added, "Fulton County is being run the right way. I've been all over the state and this nation, and we're far advanced in technology and other areas."

"We have good people working for us and that makes a difference too," added in Keefer.

Possibly the most important topic touched on aside from the selection and judicial appointment of a third county commissioner, the county renovation project took over a good portion of the 60-minute town meeting at the Wells Tannery Community Park. Residents were told by Hoover that under the current blueprints for the project, there will not be a millage increase.

The construction and renovation phase of the project got under way Tuesday with a bid opening. Low bids covering general construction, HVAC, electrical and plumbing totalled $809,933, which was approximately $70,000 under original projected cost.

Hoover stated that near the conclusion of September drilling will begin for the geothermal loop, which will provide both heating and cooling to several facilities, including the jail, courthouse and Neighborhood Service Center. The loop, to be located in McConnell Park, will be funded through a $563,000 grant and includes 50 wells nearly 400- feet in depth.

Hoover and Keefer also touched on their plans to relocate certain county offices into other buildings in an attempt to keep the county campus limited to only one side of North Second Street. The office of Magisterial District Judge Wendy Mellott will be moved to the newest section of domestic relations, which currently has the necessary security provisions in place.

As the lack parking continues to be an ongoing issue for county employees as well as those summoned to court, the new plans will add a net gain of 21 parking slots.

"This plan has been developed and fine-tuned over a period of time," said Keefer, who added upgrades and additional room were taken into consideration.

In looking at the county's own version of census information, the commissioners went on to discuss statistics provided to their office by Mapping and Planning Director Mary K. Seville. In Wells Township it was noted that of the 621 new homes constructed in county between 2001 and 2008, a total of 13 new homes came to Wells Township. Three of Wells Township's new residences were built in 2008.

Turning the conversation to taxes and incentives, the commissioners said only 13 percent of the land in Fulton County does not receive any type of tax break. The remaining 87 percent of land in county is either enrolled in the Clean and Green program or is owned by the commonwealth.

Keefer stated it is unusual for counties to have Clean and Green, which the current board of commissioners view as a means of conserving open space. She added due to the outrageous prices of preserving a farm through Farmland Preservation, they instead opt to offer Clean and Green.

The commissioners shared that with assistance from county project coordinator Karen Hann Wells Tannery Community Park has been approved to receive a total of $20,000 in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds that will cover expenses related to pavilion renovations, handicapped accessibility and underground electricity. Following the submission and receipt of environmental clearances and necessary permits, the project should get started within two to three months.

Others projects scheduled to receive money through the 2009 CDBG process include Fulton County Food Basket, Hustontown Joint Sewage Authority and the Belfast Township sewer project.

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