Non-Profit Internet Source for News, Events, History, & Culture of Northern Frederick & Carroll County Md./Southern Adams County Pa.


From the Desk of County Commissioners Randy Phiel & Jim Martin

(4/1) Having entered my fourth year in office as Adams County Commissioner Chairman, and with the Primary Election less then two months away on May 19, Emmitsburg News Journal Editor Mike Hillman suggested that I use the column this month to recap the past 3 1/2 years. It is my pleasure to accept that offer as I submit to you the following thoughts, accomplishments and goals. My first general thought is that I am very, very proud of this Adams County Board of Commissioners for a variety of reasons.

To give you a short refresher on my background I am a life-long native of Adams County. During my youth I spent many memorable hours with my cousins in Cashtown at my grandmothers Kuhn's Fruit Farm. I received my BS in Administration of Justice from American University and a Masters Degree in Public Administration from Shippensburg University. At Shippensburg I was also a Graduate Assistant in the Government Department. From 1977 - 2008 I was a career U.S. Law Enforcement Ranger for the National Park Service. I was stationed at Gettysburg NMP for almost thirty years; and was also sent around the country on homeland security, dignitary protection and wildfire suppression details. Prior to being Adams County Commissioner, I served Cumberland Township on the planning board, the municipal authority and as a supervisor. I have also been a principal and the operations manager for the annual Gettysburg Reenactment for the past 22 years. I am a small business owner and have served on a variety of community boards.

When this Board took office it was a very tumultuous time in government across the nation, and especially in Adams County government. This Board's first order of business in November/December 2011, before even taking office, was to engage in a series of planning meetings to set goals and get to know one another so we could walk in the door and get right down to work. The county had just completed a court ordered reassessment and frustration among residents was running at a very high level with thousands of reassessment appeals. A critical and much needed 911 emergency radio project was languishing and previously contracted costs and contracts were being threatened by the delay - not to mention the potential cost in human safety. County residents and staff were anxiously seeking accurate and consistent communication from their Board of Commissioners.

We have strived to make sure the tax appeals and reassessment process is fair and equitable. It is not the county's role to increase or deflate taxes. The county role is to facilitate what is statutorily fair and equitable in each case - with appropriate documentation. The Board also passed a new reassessment ordinance with an economic trigger that insures millions of dollars will not be spent on a reassessment unless changing economic conditions warrant it. The ordinance also supports any reassessment be conducted in-house, hopefully with less cost, more local control and more accuracy. The radio project is now reaching its final stage with the radio equipment staged, towers being completed and testing scheduled to be done late spring. The new digital system will be run parallel to the old system until the new system is certified in early fall. I believe we have taken communicating with Adams County residents, staff and media to a new level with continuous media releases, opinion/fact articles, fourteen Adams County Commissioners Community Forums moving to all corners of Adams County, a public State of the County presentation each January, monthly articles in the Emmistburg News Journal, participation in a monthly radio show and a TGIF Newsletter to all staff and community partners distributed every other Friday that has been extremely well received.

One of our first acts that I am most proud of was moving the Commissioners Public meetings into the Adams County Historic Courtroom with the cooperation of the Courts. This not only resorted decorum, order and dignity to the proceedings; but gives our residents the opportunity to experience this iconic and historic civil war venue once every two weeks.

Beneficial dialogue with our legislators also reached a new never seen before level. This Board understood from the outset that open communication and dialogue with our legislators not only made practical and political sense, but was an essential tool for obtaining resources for our residents. These relationships were quick to pay off when a $3.25 million RCAP grant for the Radio Project became the first of many awards. It was followed by grants of $1,000,000, $500,000 and $450,000. This happened because your Commissioners and your Legislators understand that working together brings results for Adams County residents. We are extremely proud of the excellent working relationship and communication between our four Legislators and this Board of Commissioners. This also includes the Adams County Council of Governments.

After analyzing county operations, by the end of the first year we re-organized the Tax, Planning, Rural Resources, Mapping and Emergency Services Departments to increase efficiency and enhance service to Adams County residents. I am proud to say having had time for practical reflection, these department re-organizations have been very successful. We have hired six new Directors during our tenure in Children & Youth Service, IT, Veterans Affairs, Planning, Building Maintenance and an Assistant Solicitor. Every one of them is still in that role and they all have proven to be outstanding selections.

We have been able to improve our Bond rating two times to Aa3 during our tenure. That is a huge deal for municipal governments. That has enabled us to receive favorable financing for the 911 Radio Project and to improve and amortize an undependable aging vehicle fleet that was costing too much for repairs. That fleet included a 180,000 + mile van to haul prisoners. It also allowed us to go from an antiquated collection of IT equipment to an IT Department and IT services that any county in the state would be proud of.

In December we passed a balanced budget, with no tax increase and a reasonable reserve that finally has some of the aforementioned issues behind us and paves the way for a solid fiscal future with sound fiscal management - while still providing outstanding service to our residents! I have been supporting the consolidation of emergency services in Adams County, and just last week we announced the formation of Adams Regional EMS which I feel will be a springboard to further emergency services consolidation in Adams County. We continue to work for an alternative to paying high rents and leases for several departments by having a county owned building that is fiscally more responsible and operationally more effective. The Human Services Building may also result in much needed mental health services finally being brought to Adams County.

This Board fully understands and supports our agrian, historic and rural heritage, while balancing Adams County's need for mixed economic development. The Adams County Economic Development Corporation Board recognized this Board of Commissioners for our contributions and consistent support for economic development in Adams County by awarding the J Frank Sapp Award to the Board at the end of 2013.

On December 7, 2010 I could not have envisioned I would be selected Adams County Commissioner Chairman and also did not quite envision all the responsibilities that come with that title. It has been an honor for me to serve in that role and hopefully both the public, our staff and my colleagues would agree I have served professionally and effectively. For the past two years I have been selected by my 29 commissioner peers in Adams and 9 western counties to be their Region 3 County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania Board of Directors representative. This is a personal honor to serve these 10 counties, but more importantly the position also allows me to better serve Adams County residents. I am also pleased to have been requested to serve on the Penn State Mount Alto Advisory Board. This is an institution that many Adams County young adults attend and where numerous residents are employed.

I could not have imagined or predicted that this Board of Commissioners, although having dramatically different personalities and backgrounds, would work together so well for the good of Adams County residents with such a sense of Respect, Civility, Communication, Vision, Common Sense and Leadership. You donít lead from behind - you lead by example. I think this Board has done that - and it is recognized and appreciated by most Adams County residents. Residents want to see results without all of the drama that often takes place government! As I stated at the beginning of this column, I am extremely proud of this Board and what we have accomplished in 3 1/2 years. Our work is certainly not done and these accomplishments are simply a springboard to further progress, stability and cooperation.

I would like to thank and acknowledge my colleagues, Commissioners Martin & Qually, as well as our county staff, for their contributions and commitment to Adams County. I would like to express to the readers of the Emmitsburg News Journal what a distinct badge of honor it is for me to serve this community, and to use my experience and resources, and the experience and resources of this Board of Commissioners, to maintain and improve our quality of life in Adams County.

I conclude by urging you to get out there and experience all the historical, recreational, agricultural, natural and cultural opportunities that beautiful Adams County has to offer!

Read other articles about Adams County