Monday, April 11, 2016

Potter County To Be Heard At State Capitol

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