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Adams County Elections Secure Under Watchful IT Department

Adams County’s Technology Department Chief Phillip Walter told members of the Adams County Council of Governments (ACCOG) on Wednesday that his department will play a vital role in securing the vote during the upcoming election on Nov. 8.

“We train pollsters, teach them how to use software, scanners, and other devices, and what to do in case of equipment issues,” Walter explained. He said the department had been working diligently to meet new state standards. As election night unfolds, his department will help with the central scanner, opening envelopes, and have rovers go to different sites to check out any units that may have a problem. “We take cybersecurity very seriously,” he said, adding that live streaming will also be available on election night.

Walters told ACCOG members the IT department has been making many changes in the past few years, including the current transition of its website from adamscounty.us to adamscountypa.gov. The IT department is organized into four areas — work orders, department projects, IT projects, and organizational alignment.

“We are woven into the fabric of what departments do. We look at what their business is and then determine how we can enhance each area to help move government forward.” The county will now use only encrypted devices such as phones, laptops, and tablets that will be secure if lost or stolen.

Walter said that as part of the plan to help the county streamline its technology, training would be provided to ensure employees can get the best use of the software.

9/11 Memorial Trail

Dennis Hickethier, secretary of Healthy Adams Bicycle/Pedestrian, Inc (HABPI), gave a presentation regarding the 9/11 Memorial Trail. Thirty-six miles of trails in Adams County will form part of the 1300-mile trail, connecting three memorials to honor those lost during the 2001 terrorist attacks. The multi-use trail that links the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the Flight 92 Memorial in western PA will begin at Caledonia State Park, continue into the borough of Gettysburg, and then extend eastward into Hanover.

“We are fortunate the trail comes through Gettysburg,” Hickethier said. While there is no direct funding for the trail’s completion, many municipalities are promoting its use, and that should eventually bring more people into Gettysburg to see what Adams County has to offer, he said.

David Laughman, Legislative Chair for ACCOG, asked how the trail will interface with the planned Adams County Historical Trail and Hickethier said parts of the 9/11 trail would merge with it.

Hickethier said the county office of planning is creating maps for the trails. Once completed, the alliance will send letters to the seven municipalities involved, asking for approval for trail signs to be placed in appropriate locations. He encouraged the municipalities involved to embrace the project and said the signs would be free of charge.

Broadband Project

George Mauser, vice-chair of the Adams County Broadband Community Task Force, asked for a spot on future ACCOG agendas to update county governments on a study to provide unserved and underserved areas of Adams County with broadband networks. Mauser said that surveys would be distributed within a couple of weeks through hard copies, mailings, and the county website to determine where coverage is and isn’t available.

Mauser encouraged county governments to distribute the surveys as widely as possible so that residents would hear the message multiple times through multiple sources.

Two meetings took place recently to seek public input into the broadband needs of Adams County. A draft of the survey distributed at the meetings asks a variety of questions concerning broadband usage, speeds, availability, and reliability, among others.

The Broadband feasibility study was designed to address the development and implementation of a county-wide broadband network using available federal funding if awarded.

Adams County Commissioner Marty Qually said the survey would provide information needed to qualify for the funding. “At the end of the day, it’s ‘Can we get the funding?’ We need boots on the ground,” he said.

Commissioner Report

Adams County Commissioner Randy Phiel said the coming county budget is tight, but no tax increase is anticipated. “We’re in good shape,” he said. Phiel reminded municipalities that all ballots for the Nov. 8 election must be in election offices by 8:00 p.m. and that ballots post-marked after that time will not be counted.

Response and Recovery

Adams County Response and Recovery Fund (ARRF) applications are now being accepted through Nov. 21. Sherry Clayton-Williams, director of the county office of planning and development, said two applications have already been received.

ARRF focuses on utility infrastructure improvements and large-scale community development projects. A grant of five million dollars has been received for these projects from the US Department of the Treasury as part of the state and local fiscal recovery programs. The minimum project amount is $250,000. Clayton-Williams invited anyone with questions to contact the county office of planning.

In other council business, Carl Pietrzak, President of Destination Gettysburg, announced that the county experienced a strong tourist season, with hotel occupancy rates up seven percent over last year. He said travel behavior is still very strong, despite gas prices and economic uncertainty. But he said there are still challenges when it comes to staffing.

ACCOG president David Bolton announced that as he retires and Vice-President Terry Scholle steps up to replace him, there will be an opening on the ACCOG council. “We are looking for someone from a borough who would like to serve as vice president next year,” he said and appointed David Laughman as head of the nomination committee.

The next ACCOG meeting will take place on November 17.

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Judith Cameron Seniura is a freelance reporter. She began her journalism career in the early ‘70s and has written for newspapers, magazines, and other media in Ontario, Canada, Alaska, Michigan, Nebraska, San Antonio, Maryland, and Pennsylvania.

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