>>> Here’s an excerpt taken from Congressman John Peterson’s E-News Reports…Let’s Give Him Our Support <<<

Peterson's Priorities for Rural Pennsylvania

HOUSE PANEL APPROVES OIL REGIONAL NATIONAL HERITAGE AREA -- The House Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Recreation and Public Lands gave unanimous approval this week to legislation introduced by Congressman Peterson to establish an Oil Region National Heritage Area in northwest Pennsylvania.  If approved, the region would be eligible for up to $1 million per year in federal funding to develop educational and recreational programs, increase public awareness about the importance of the region to American history, and restore historic buildings and facilities.  The legislation was approved by the National Parks Subcommittee following the adoption of an amendment which clarified that private property owners must give written consent before their property can be used in conjunction with the National Heritage Area.  While private property infringement has not been an issue with the proposed Oil Region National Heritage Area, and while the National Park Service testified that the Oil Region meets all of the requirements for the national designation, some Members of Congress and national advocacy groups have opposed any new heritage areas until additional private property language is adopted.  The bill must still be approved by the full Resources Committee before it can be brought before the House of Representatives for a vote.

Peterson's Priorities for Rural Pennsylvania

For more information, visit Congressman Peterson's web site at www.house.gov/johnpeterson


Among the issues he addressed were:

- In response to a member's question about "just what is wrong with our present system," Crawford said the sheer number of agencies working on one form or another of economic development simply fragments the system.

"We have separate organizations, separate boards of directors, separate projects. And at the same time, our population continues to decline," Crawford said.

- The legalities involved in combining private and public organizations will have to be sorted out by experts, he said. The coalition approached the problem from a strategic method and has not addressed "the brass tacks of putting it all together."

"How do you merge an organization with half a million dollars, or one with $3.5 million in real estate, or another with $10,000? You can say you are doing it. Will it happen? I don't know...It is a maneuver of faith to give your assets to one organization," he said.

Bob Murray, chairman of the county commissioners, said dealing with different funding sources can be managed. Murray said the county's human services department "has 50 different funding streams (charitable agencies, various state and federal departments) and we manage it."

- Crawford said federal and state legislators whose districts include Venango County have committed to helping with the consolidation of agencies and groups. Their help will be needed in dealing with "bureaucracies" that may impede the merger, he said.

- Some accommodations may be made to facilitate the project, he added.

"The reality may be that all these things may not come together. For example, land (in an industrial park) may be kept by the city but a lease agreement made," Crawford said.

- Rick Flack, a member of both the coalition and the planning commission, cautioned members not to "jump too far ahead."

"We need to do step one and we're talking about step 10....We need to figure out how to do this...because what we have now is flat not working," Flack said.

- Crawford was quick to note there have been notable successes achieved by individual organizations and agencies, but the benefits are limited.

"No one has been more successful than FICDA (the Franklin Industrial/Commercial Development Authority) or the Franklin Chamber of Commerce. But the City of Franklin has not. ...We need to do it better," Crawford said.

- Dan Brockett, a planning commission member, said the commission should be part of a larger organization but worried that the panel, which is charged by state code to have certain land use regulatory powers, might lose its autonomy.

"I don't want planning to fall under marketing or economic development. That is not negotiable," Brockett said.

In response to Brockett's concern, the planning commission unanimously agreed that the coalition should "pursue a consensus to build a new organization." However, a second motion added that "the planning commission should not be subordinated to any other economic development function."

The planning commission is the second county agency to sign on to the consolidation concept. Crawford said the Venango Economic Development Corp., the lead economic agency, voted earlier to support the consolidation.

"I'm taking this message, meeting by meeting, to the other organizations in the near future," he said.

At the same time, the county is awaiting an addendum to the Bosworth Study. The county commissioners arranged for FutureWorks, a Massachusetts-based company that prepared the Bosworth information, to do a shorter study focused only on Venango County. That $26,000 report, contracted for in late August, is due for completion at the end of this month.