2008-01-05 / Front Page

It was the news: stories of 2007 TOP

Population loss top story in Potter

Developing wind energy in Potter County was a huge story in 2007. It'll continue in 2008. We ranked it as the second biggest story of the year. Developing wind energy in Potter County was a huge story in 2007. It'll continue in 2008. We ranked it as the second biggest story of the year. Job losses and an aging population are two of the major factors resulting in a steady population decrease for Potter County through the first half of the decade.

A report from the Pa. Data Center pegged Potter County's population stood at 17,568 as of July 2006. Certainly, further losses have followed; more than 400 county residents employed by Adelphia lost their jobs after the reporting period and many of them moved away.

Potter County hit a modernday population peak of 18,155 in July 2002. Average weekly wages for Potter County residents dropped in 2006 to $625, down 4.5 percent from a year earlier, and will likely show another decline in 2007.

2 Wind energy

Plans by an international energy giant, AES Corporation, and other smaller operators to build massive wind turbines at various high-altitude locations in Potter County touched off a firestorm.

Despite a plea to corporate decision-makers to stay, JCPenney, a longtime fixture in the community, appears ready to leave Coudersport. Despite a plea to corporate decision-makers to stay, JCPenney, a longtime fixture in the community, appears ready to leave Coudersport. The county's Planning Commission started work on regulations to limit where the turbines could be located. A citizens' group formed in 2006 to combat the AES plan reached out to regional and national organizations to strengthen its case.

3 Empereon arrives

After Time Warner stunned the community by shutting down its customer care operations in Coudersport, eliminating 500 jobs, a $1 million financial package from the state helped lure Empereon Marketing to fill the void. Empereon opened a large customer contact center in Coudersport, projecting about 600 jobs by December 2008.

4 Adelphia nears dissolution

The Adelphia Communications Corp. workforce in Coudersport dwindled to less than 30 in 2007, down from a peak of nearly 1,900 in 2002, as the company's bankruptcy proceedings wound down.

A court-approved distribution of assets to secured creditors paved the way for dissolution. Meanwhile, an online auction service was retained to sell the massive Operations Building and other Coudersport assets.

5 New commissioners

Potter County voters opted for a clean sweep on the Board of Commissioners. Incumbents Ken Wingo and John Torok were beaten in the primary election and the third incumbent, Cathy Bowers, lost in November.

The new commissioners board, consisting of Democrat Susan Kefover and Republicans Doug Morley and Paul Heimel, takes office on Jan. 7.

6 Rigases go to jail

While Coudersport area residents were coming to terms with the prospects that they'll never again see John Rigas, members of his family vowed to fight for vindication.

Five years after Adelphia spiraled into bankruptcy, the 83-year-old John Rigas and his son, Tim, 52, reported to a federal penitentiary in Butner, N.C. to begin serving terms of 15 and 20 years, respectively.

John Rigas told the national media that he and his son were victimized by a politically motivated prosecution, an unfair trial and betrayal by former associates. The Rigases still hold out hope that their convictions on conspiracy, securities fraud and bank fraud charges will be reversed. 7 JCPenney leaving

Downtown Coudersport took a tough blow with announcement that the JCPenney store, an anchor tenant in the business district, will be closing in late February.

Twelve jobs will be eliminated. The Coudersport store has been at the same location since opening in 1930.

8 Lyman Run Dam

Lyman Lake will return in time for at least part of the 2008 recreation season. Surface cracks in the new dam were sealed and the 40-acre lake will be restored, probably starting in late March.

The park was once a premier tourist attraction, drawing about 130,000 visitors a year. However, the lake was drained in 2000 after structural deficiencies were detected in the dam. The state approved $17 million for the new dam in 2004.

9 School renovations

Coudersport Area School District moved ahead with three major improvement projects estimated to cost about $8 million.

They include: adding eight classrooms, air conditioning and security at the elementary school; renovating and expanding the high school cafeteria and kitchen; replacing the track and bleachers, building a fieldhouse and making other improvements at Coudersport Area Recreation

Park. Funding comes from a

$9.2 million bond issue.

10 Morgan AM&T expands

An 18,000-square-foot addition went up at the Morgan AM&T plant east of Coudersport.

Work commenced just after the employees' union ratified a new three-year labor agreement by a 111-107 vote.

With the phase-out of Morgan's traditional carbon product line - some of the work has been exported to Mexico - the Coudersport plant produces body, vehicle and aircraft armor for military, foreign and private sector clients.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Real estate taxes rise,

level off

Potter County's real estate tax was frozen at 12.5 mils for 2008, after the county commissioners imposed a 14- percent tax increase for 2007. They cited higher expenses at the jail, more expensive health insurance and other factors contributing to the tax hike.

Cole Hospital changes

Directors of Charles Cole Memorial Hospital named Edward C. Pitchford as president and chief executive officer. He had been serving as interim CEO since David Acker stepped down to accept a new position at Canton- Potsdam (N.Y.) Hospital. Cole leaders applied for designation as a "critical access hospital." Among the noticeable changes will be a reduction from 65 licensed beds currently in use at three sections of the hospital to a strict limit of 25. Affected areas are medical/ surgical, obstetrics and intensive care.

Dark skies catch on

Cherry Springs State Park's reputation as a mecca for stargazers and amateur astronomers was enhanced, as the state agreed to build a multi-million-dollar visitors' center at the official dark sky preserve. At the same time, the Cherry Springs Airport was closed.

Gunzburger Annex

The commissioners began to move county offices into the former Coudersport Elementary School on North Main Street and renamed it the F.W. Gunzburger County Annex.

The commissioners originally planned to borrow millions of dollars and build a massive courthouse annex on the former Potter County Texaco lot. However, Time Warner donated the former school building and a nearby parking lot to the county.

New bridge coming

Downtown Coudersport prepared for the closing of the Specialist Mike Franklin Memorial Bridge, which carries U.S. Rt. 6 over the Allegheny River on Coudersport's East Second Street.

Work will start in April and last for an estimated six months. Traffic westbound on Rt. 6 will be re-routed on a detour that includes Mill Street and Oak Street. Eastbound Rt. 6 traffic will also be detoured onto Maple and Mill streets.

AP Wagner arrives

AP Wagner, a supplier of parts for appliance dealers, opened a customer center at the Coudersport Industrial Park.

Deer forum

Pennsylvania Cable Network provided live coverage and taped replays of a public forum on the future of deer hunting and forest management in northern Pennsylvania.

Ski Denton goes

year-'round

Addition of a mountain bike concession and race was another step in a strategy to turn Ski Denton in central Potter County into a year- 'round attraction.

Simcoe retiring

One of Pennsylvania's most successful high school football coaches, Paul Simcoe, confirmed that he was retiring after the 2007 season.

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