Potter County will have a prominent presence at the State Capitol this week. District Attorney Andy Watson and Commissioner Paul Heimel will both be traveling to Harrisburg on local initiatives that have garnered statewide attention.
D.A. Watson will be testifying before the Pa. House Judiciary Committee on
the “CLEAN Protocol” (Concerned Law Enforcement Against Narcotics) that he and
area police and human service providers have recently implemented. Through
CLEAN, those with addiction issues are provided with an avenue to contact law
enforcement and arrange for drug/alcohol treatment and disposition that does not
include criminal prosecution. It’s part of a broader array of criminal justice
reform measures that Potter County has been pursuing to reduce the number of
individuals coming into the court system or returning to criminal activity after
they’re released from custody. Among other elements are a DUI Court, Drug Court,
and the Women’s Residential Rehabilitation Center in Harrison Valley. Nearly 100
percent of the defendants whose cases have been referred to the three new
alternative punishment programs have successfully returned to society.
Commissioner Heimel will be meeting with the leadership of the Pa. House
Environmental Resources and Energy Committee in his role as chairman of the Pa.
State Land Tax Fairness Coalition. Goal is to persuade the legislature to
increase the current $1.20 per acre annual payment-in-lieu-of-taxes for state
forest, park and game lands. Nearly 50 percent of the total real estate in
Potter County is state-owned and, thus, not taxable. That shifts nearly the
entire tax burden for operating school districts, townships, boroughs and the
county government to private property owners. Two bills that are currently
before the Environmental Resources and Energy Committee call for increasing the
$1.20 per acre payment, to either $1.80 or $2.40. If the latter were to be
approved by the General Assembly, the burden for taxpayers in Potter County
alone would be decreased by more than $900,000 annually. Details on the Pa.
State Land Tax Fairness Coalition activities, including a map gallery that
details local impacts, can be found online at pastatelandtaxfairness.com.