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From the Desk of County Commissioner
Jim Martin

(6/2014) "A new day, a new challenge"- that seems to describe many days within Adams County Government. Elections are no exception. Our most recent election day, May 20th started with a bang and a 5:00am phone call to Commissioner Phiel. The bang was a vehicle crashing into a utility pole in the very early hours of May 20th. It was not just any utility pole; it was the pole that provided power to the Mt Joy Township Building and the election poll. The damage to the utility pole severed electrical service to the polling site. This meant no electricity for the ballot counter, no lighting in the building, and no well service to pump water needed for the restrooms.

Our elections director received an unexpected phone call describing this situation just before 6:00am. Commissioner Phiel, Elections Director Monica Dutko and Maintenance Director Larry Steinour went into action making it possible for the poll to be able to service voters and election workers. An emergency order for a Jiffy John was made to provide facilities in place of restroom service. By using portable emergency lights and moving voting operations close to windows, the poll was ready for action. Voted ballots were securely held until power was restored to the ballot scanner/counter. We’d like to give our appreciation to the Election Board of Mt. Joy Township for their patience and cooperation during this inconvenience.

On the morning of May 16th Adams County encountered an even greater challenge, many flooded roads. Through the prompt action of the county’s IT Department and coordination with Adams County Department of Emergency Services, road closure alerts were posted on the Adams County Web site. Residents were then able to assess road conditions and weather related incidents. This new web site feature alerts Adams County residents to potential hazards.

I want to thank Steve Scherm and his staff for helping create the direct link to the ‘Active Incidents/Road Closures’ which is courtesy of our CAD system. The general public, school districts, municipalities and the media now have access to this information. We’ve been sharing the link with the local media as they call for information on weather related issues. When the new day arrives with’ Active Incidents/Road Closures’, the challenge to inform the community has become a more fluid process that we can all truly appreciate.

Under the category of "a new day, a new challenge"- the county has recently become subject to a new federal compliance known as the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA). The implementation of this act has placed new pressures on prison operations, not only functionally but financially. The act requires our county prison to develop policies and training to address the subject of rape. To insure that the act is fully implemented, federally trained representatives will regularly inspect and audit for compliance. It appears that this audit will be billed to the county at an hourly rate that will exceed $100.00 per hour. We anticipate that the audit will be at least a two- day process. This will be an added cost to our already large correctional facility’s budget. (After adjusting for prison revenues, the prison operation’s budget is $9.7 million.) The requirements of PREA are another example of unfunded mandates that the county must absorb.

An emerging challenge that will potentially increase the costs of municipal and county operations is related to the EPA and Army Corp of Engineers efforts to expand the range of waters that will come under Federal jurisdiction and regulation. The expansion would result by amending the definition of "waters of the U.S." that fall under the Clean Water Act. The new definition would use interconnectivity of water as the vehicle to bring more waters under federal jurisdiction. The result of this proposal would make municipalities and counties subject to increasingly complex and costly federal requirements. I have already contacted my U.S. Representative to voice my objection to this federal proposal. I encourage you to do the same. We do not need the additional regulation and added costs. We already have the assistance of our County Conservation Districts to help implement water improvement practices.

In another effort to aid the County’s bottom line, I have joined in advocating with a number of other rural counties that contain significant acres of Pennsylvania State Forest and Game Lands. (Adams County has approximately 25,000 state acres.) This initiative requires the state to increase their "payment in lieu of taxes" (PILOT) to counties for the state’s forest and game lands within each county. Also the action is to require that timber sales on the state lands be shared with the counties in a similar manner as Marcellus Shale Gas fees. Remember, counties are providing emergency services for state lands within the county. The increased PILOT payments and timber fees would help counties to defray the increasing cost of emergency services to the state forest and game lands.

Presenting the above scenarios was to give a sample of "the new day, the new challenges"- that arrives before the Adams County Commissioners on a regular basis. On behalf of the Adams County Commissioners I encourage all to have a safe and enjoyable summer. Finally, please be careful to exercise good judgment to prevent fires; the cost to be safe is affordable, but the damage and loss can be overwhelming.

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