Potter County employee spins the wheels of community development | Local

Some jobs aren’t necessarily glamorous, but they’re necessary nonetheless.

Ellen Russell is Potter County’s Director of Community Development and she works behind the scenes to secure funds for our small communities in Potter County.

“My main job is working with the Community Development Block Grants (CDBG),” Russell said. “Boroughs and cantons can apply; I help them navigate the paperwork, among other things. It is a very cumbersome process.

CDBGs provide state-funded grants for eligible community development projects, which can vary widely depending on the specific needs of each community.

Housing rehabilitation, public services, improvement of community amenities and infrastructure, landscaping and development are some of the civic projects that can be funded by a CDBG. Municipalities must meet low-to-moderate income guidelines.

“The average amount of each grant is $200,000, but that can vary,” Russell said.

Residents benefit from Russell’s work in obtaining and administering these grants, even if they are unaware of it. With recent concerns about flooding and water management, some communities are using this subsidy for wastewater treatment.

“Genesee is doing the waterline replacement and Ulysses is doing a water tank upgrade,” Russell said.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, additional funds were made available, adding to Russell’s responsibilities.

Most notably, Galeton Borough received a CDBG of $1 million in 2021 to complete a water and sewer improvement project. The Galeton Borough Authority sewage treatment plant is 36 years old and does not properly store solid waste, which washes solids into Pine Creek and affects water quality.

More than 500 households will be positively affected once this work is completed.

Other COVID-era CDBG projects included funding that allowed the Coudersport Fire Department to purchase new equipment, pantry assistance from Roulette, and a grant that allowed regional agencies on the aging roulette to buy a new freezer.

The Senior Roulette Centers were also reimbursed for their expenses and the Center Artisan de Coudersport also received funds from the CDBG.

Russell was born, raised and currently lives in Coudersport. She earned her undergraduate degree and MBA from Clarion University.

Russelll is also a director of several local councils, including Visit Potter-Tioga County, Potter County Housing and Redevelopment Authority and PA Route 6 Alliance.

Prior to working for the county as director of community development, Russell was office manager at Cole Memorial Hospital. She has held her position for two and a half years.

“I started here just before COVID in September 2019, was sent to work from home in March and had a baby in May,” she said. “It’s a lot – they say it takes a decade to really learn this job.”

Norma P. Rex