2012-01-26 / Front Page

Farm Service Agency Office Could Close

Farm Bureau, commissioners discuss topic; public meeting Monday
By Chanin Rotz-Mountz

With the clock ticking down to next week’s public meeting, the president of the Fulton County Farm Bureau appeared before the county commissioners Tuesday to garner their support in keeping the Farm Service Agency office open here.

Marlin Lynch told the county commissioners that Bill Wehry, state executive director for the Pennsylvania Farm Service Agency, (FSA) along with members of his management team, will be holding a public meeting on Monday, January 30, beginning at 10:30 a.m. at the Fulton Theatre. The purpose of the meeting will be to discuss and take comment on a proposal by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to close the FSA’s McConnellsburg office in the old IGA building.

In the event a closure is approved, local producers and farmers would likely have to travel to FSA’s Chambersburg office located on Franklin Farm Lane. Other nearby offices are situated in Bedford and Huntingdon.

However, Lynch was quick to point out to the commissioners a consolidation with the Franklin County office does not meet the mileage criteria previously announced by USDA. He said a FSA office may not be closed if the next closest office is more than 20 miles away. The Chambersburg office is an approximate 24-mile drive, according to Mapquest, Lynch said.

The McConnellsburg office is one of seven offices in Pennsylvania targeted for possible closure by the USDA, with other nearby, affected offices in Hollidaysburg, Burnham and New Bloomfield.

Lynch’s conversation Tuesday comes on the heels of an announcement dated January 9 by USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, who presented a Blueprint for Stronger Service, “a plan that helps producers continue to drive America’s economy by streamlining operations and cutting costs.”

“The USDA, like families and businesses across the country, cannot continue to operate like we did 50 years ago,” said Vilsack. “We must innovate, modernize and be better stewards of the taxpayers’ dollars. We must build on the record accomplishments of farm communities in 2011 with a stronger, more effective USDA in 2012 and beyond.”

If fully implemented, the closure or consolidation of offices, labs and research and inspection services could save $150 million annually. The changes would affect USDA headquarters in Washington, D.C., 46 states and one U.S. territory.

Lynch reminded the commissioners the FSA office is responsible for overseeing an array of services for local producers and farmers such as crop programs and disaster relief. “If it closes it will be hard for a lot of people to deal with,” he said.

Lynch thanked the commissioners for their willingness to attend the January 30 meeting. “We’re encouraging everyone to speak out and be heard,” he concluded.

Individuals interested but unable to attend the public meeting are urged to send written comment on the proposed closure to PA State FSA Office, c/o Bill Wehry (SED), 1 Credit Union Place, Suite 32D, Harrisburg, PA 17110. Comments may also be sent via e-mail to bill.wehry@pa.usda.gov.

All comments and concerns must be received within 10 calendar days of the meeting or February 9.

Other County Business

During a prolonged conversa- tion with Brian Haines of Crabtree, Rohrbaugh Associates, the commissioners heard a brief overview of the history of the proposed renovation of the interior and exterior of the Sheriff’s Office as well as where the project will be heading in the future.

In specifically touching on the work being completed between the courthouse and jail, Haines stated the ramp and sidewalk work was originally slated to begin October 12. A verbal commitment was made to have the project done in a four-week time frame, however, it is now mid- January and the project is lagging on. While quality of work as been respectable for the most part, Haines added there have been some quality issues in several respects.

“At the end of the day you have a project that needs to be finished,” he said. “...Then you need to take a breath and see where we go from here.”

The commissioners and Haines launched into a discussion regarding possible interior renovation work at the sheriff’s office. Commissioner Rodney McCray emphasized several times during the conversation the need to have Rodney B. Smith Plumbing, Heating & Cooling continue working on the mechanical aspects of the project.

The group compared two sets of plans for the office work, and McCray requested the duct work design from the original plan be implemented in the building. Eventually, it was suggested the designer meld the remaining aspects of the two existing plans into one with minimal changes and additional fees.

Due to the jail being such a hot topic in the county, McCray asked that the project get done quickly and as cheaply as possible. The commissioner concluded the county is not getting any use out of the current office space as it stands and is paying office rental at another location.

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