The retirement of Blair County commissioner and human services advocate Donna Gority shouldn't have a significant impact on social service programs in the county, according to the current board of commissioners.
"I don't think that is a concern. Most of the services are mandated and have a significant funding source from state and federal conduits. The biggest concern is the loss of Donna's skills and knowledge in that area. That knowledge is something we will have to gain for ourselves. She was extremely competent in that area," Commissioner Terry Tomassetti told the Blair County Chamber of Commerce Thursday at The Casino at Lakemont Park.
Gority recently retired after 28 years on the board.
The commissioners discussed several topics during their annual question-and-answer session with the chamber.
The three commissioners, who are all opposed to countywide reassessment, were asked if they are willing to let the City of Altoona fall into financial distress status.
"I understand the problems the city is facing. This board represents all residents of the county. We can't ignore our other constituents," said newly elected commissioner Ted Beam Jr., a former city councilman. "I am willing to do whatever we can to help the city out of their financial mess. There are remedies through the state the city is pursuing. They need to follow through with that."
Commissioner Diane Meling said Altoona, as a third class city, can do its own reassessment.
The chamber's Legislative Action Committee will meet with local municipal officials to address issues such as codes enforcement, zoning, unfunded mandates, storm water management and police and fire protection.
Beam said he has been baffled by some recent city zoning board decisions such as requiring a fence and island to be constructed at the former Uni-Mart store site on Valley View Boulevard, which has been converted into a FeFi's store.
"The city is making it more difficult for people to develop properties. Hopefully the county can encourage them to get rid of some of the restrictions," Beam said.
It is too early to update the county's comprehensive plan - "a nice snapshot of the county and all of the services that are available," Meling said. The plan was last updated in 2007.
She said funding for the update was provided by the state Department of Community and Economic Development, but that "has pretty much dried up."
The commissioners also indicated they are willing to discuss creation of a countywide school system.
Tomassetti said he didn't see it as a county initiative, and Beam agreed.
"Do you think municipalities want a countywide school system? Personally I do not. Communities like their own systems and want control over them," Beam said. "If school districts want to discuss this, I would not be averse to discussing it."