Following up on last week’s discussion, Huntingdon County Commissioners, pending solicitor review, approved Huntingdon County Business and Industry as the agent to administer the approximately $511,000 for COVID-19 Hospitality Industry Recovery Program (CHIRP).
Commissioner and chair Mark Sather noted this approval will predate March 1, when counties are required to contract with an economic development organization to service and award the grant funding, which comes from the passage of Act 1 of 2021 by Gov. Tom Wolf in early February.
As part of the statewide program through the state Department of Community and Economic Development, $145 million in funding assistance will be awarded to hospitality industry businesses adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“By March 15, the economic development agency contracted by the county will start to accept applications and will award funds from then until June 15, or when the funds are exhausted,” said Sather. “Applicants awarded funds must be paid by July 31, and any funds that are unused in the county need to be sent back to the state treasurer.”
Commissioners also amended an agreement with Tyler Technology for the county’s computer-aided dispatch (CAD) system at the 911 center.
Chris Stevens, the county’s 911 director, explained further.
“Currently, five of the counties, including Blair, Bedford, Fulton, Centre and Huntingdon, have standalone CAD systems as part of the intergovernmental agreement,” said Stevens. “We received a grant from the state Emergency Management Agency to install a regional CAD system. All of the expenses and up-front costs will be covered by the grant.
“By entering into this agreement, the county will save $53,900 in maintenance costs for one centralized CAD server and one back up,” Stevens. “Bedford, Fulton, Centre, Blair and Huntingdon will also s hare a system. We already have a CAD to CAD operations system where if our center gets overwhelmed, it goes to the next available county, but with a centralized server and a backup server, we have redundancy on top of redundancy with cooperating counties covering for one another if needed. But, our county does and will continue to maintain its own dispatch center.”
Commissioners also announced that county offices will once again be fully open to the public as of Monday, March 1. The county office doors were locked and were open by appointment before.
Now, while an appointment is still recommended, people no longer need one to conduct business at county offices.
“County functions have continued throughout the entire pandemic,” said Sather, noting that commissioners are proud that staff kept people safe while continuing the business of the county.
Commissioners Jeff Thomas noted that those who come to county offices are required to wear a mask on county property.
Commissioner Scott Walls noted that all efforts will be made to socially distance, and protocols and protections remain in place to keep everyone safe. He also noted that other elected officials of the county also independently set their own criterial for public access.
In his weekly update on COVID-19 in the county, Huntingdon County Emergency Management Agency director Joe Thompson noted that while the county is still in a substantial level of spread of COVID-19, at 5.3%, it’s lower than the state average.
Additionally, he also shared some other good news, as he noted that neighboring counties have been able to move into the moderate range of spread, according to the state Department of Health guidelines, including Bedford and Blair. Fulton County now has moved into the low transmission rate.
In the vaccine update, Thompson said he’s conferred that in the county, there will be no significant impact with the mixup with Moderna vaccines, where some providers in the state were using doses meant for first doses as second doses, leading some providers to have less quantities in the next couple of weeks.
Additionally, almost 3,400 people have received the first dose of the vaccine, while 2,400 people in the county have been fully vaccinated thus far.
He also noted the free COVID-19 testing site will be offered to county residents through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the former Gordmans at the Huntingdon Plaza in Smithfield Township.
“Though cases are down, testing is still a great tool for mitigating spread,” he said, adding that turnout at site has been lower than when it was in the area in November, but he didn’t have an exact number of people who were accessing the facility each day.
Commissioner Scott Walls noted there could be a slight increase in the number of cases in the county as a result of the testing site, but that doesn’t necessarily mean there’s an outbreak or significant spread.
The numbers show that with significant testing, if the number of cases remains low, it won’t have a negative impact on the PCR rate, but it could potentially lower a PCR rate.