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From the Desk of County Commissioner
 Jim Martin

(8/2012) The year 2012 is a milestone year for a special group of people. Several weeks ago on the square of Gettysburg and in Biglerville this special group, 4-H of Pennsylvania, celebrated their 100th anniversary by sharing free ice cream and cake with the community. The 4-H was founded in PA in 1912 and has grown to be an important part of the lives of youth and adults. By partnering with caring adults, 4-H empowers youth to reach their full potential through working and learning. This mentoring partnership inspires young people to learn and grow by doing; it is a "hands on" philosophy. Through its numerous programs, members learn leadership, citizenship, and life skills.

Recently I attended a regional 4-H camp, and it was evident that the young people were developing many life skills. They showed self-confidence, accountability, responsibility, respect and the value of setting and achieve goals. Did you know that Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee U.S. Senator, is a former 4-H club member who was given the opportunity to develop his life skills in the 4-H environment? For information about membership and opportunities, call (717) 334-6271 and ask for a 4-H representative.

Come see the 4-H in action at the Annual South Mountain Fair on August 21, 2012. August 21st is 4-H day at the South Mountain Fairgrounds, located a short distance west of Arendtsville, PA along PA Route 234. A complete fair guide is available at the Adams County, Penn State Extension office, which is the headquarters for Adams County 4-H. Their phone number is (717) 334-6271, if you need more details. I hope to see you at the 90th Annual South Mountain Fair August 21-25, 2012, for great families, great fun, and great food.

I discuss the Adams County 4-H not only because this is their 100th Anniversary, but it brings to light that 4-H represents something very important. That is, the value of good decision making which leads to achieving honorable goals and wholesome results. Many young people and adults today are making poor decisions that result in damaged lives, for which we as a county must seek to find solutions. The Countyís Children and Youth Services and Juvenile Probation have to deal daily with truancy, drugs, and alcohol problems associated with young people. Not only are we trying to restore lives that are on a destructive path, but also there is a great financial burden placed upon the state and county in confronting the issues. The solution is difficult, but the answer is simple, change the heart and changed lives will follow. But, until that happens we regularly deal with the symptoms.

If you are involved in ministries or outreach organizations that provide positive direction for our young people , do not quit. Your efforts are truly valuable and a worthy investment of your time in the future of many lives and our county. If you see or know of a struggling young person, perhaps you are the one who can make the difference in that individualís life. Letís pray that God will give us the wisdom to guide and instruct our young people to make wise decisions concerning their lives.

Recently I attended the 2012 Nation Association of Counties conference. One of the focuses of the leadership for the coming year will be the evaluation of alternative programs to reduce the rate of incarceration of non-violent offenders, many who are DUI or drug offenders. I agree, it is time to place heavier focus on this matter, not only to correct offendersí behavior, but to cut the cost to our prison system to house non-violent offenders. In search of alternative programs, the county will be evaluating the adult division of the Teen Challenge rehabilitation program. The average age of participants in the program is 37 and this program offers a 78% success rate. There are a number of counties in Pennsylvania successfully using this program at no cost to the county. Several Adams County inmates have already expressed an interest in getting details about the program. By the way, it is not a simple short-term program. It is a volunteer program that requires a commitment of 14 consecutive months to complete.

The magnitude of the DUI situation is noted in a recent FBI report. It shows that 1.4 million people are arrested annually for driving under the influence. Recidivism is frequent. On average, 36% of those on probation or parole, and 66% of those incarcerated are repeat, hardcore drunk drivers. Not only is this a serious safety concern, but economic conditions over the last several years have increased the number of defendants who are unable to post bond; this increases prison populations and the average time of incarceration.

To deal with this dilemma, electronic monitoring, GPS tracking, house arrest-curfew monitoring and Continuous Alcohol Monitoring are being seen as cost-effective options for balancing community safety and offender accountability. By employing these programs, research indicates that savings of $71.00/day in incarceration cost could be achieved. Obviously this is something that merits review by county officials and the courts.

Also along the lines of public safety, the new county-wide emergency radio system project is presently going through the Technical Review Stage. This review is part of the implementation process. It requires approximately 14 days of detailed analysis to determine if the proposed/original design needs to be refined and/or modified based upon any recent findings. Once this is complete, the physical implementation of the construction process will follow. To insure that the project moves forward as intended, a local work group of area professionals, including the county commissioners, meets monthly to review the progress. We, the county commissioners, thank these individuals for their valuable volunteer service to Adams County and their dedication to a successful project.

Another project of interest to county residents is the Belmont Bridge construction. Recently the county commissioners attended a construction update conference with engineers and the contractor. By the time this article is published the north and south foundational aprons should be near completion or completed. The contractor anticipates that by Labor Day the main supporting structure spanning the railroad cut will be in place. Barring any significant weather interruptions and material delays, it is likely that the bridge will be open by Thanksgiving, 2012.

I will close with one reminder and an announcement. The reminder is, the 90th Annual South Mountain Fair will be from August 21st to August 25th. There is FREE parking and children 12 and under have FREE admission. Come see what is new and enjoy FREE entertainment. In ending, I want to announce that by the time you read this article, Adams County will have an official County Banner presented as a gift to the county from its designer Bob McIlhenny and the Adams County Commissioners. This banner is a handsome symbol of the rich history of Adams County and a bold display of the Coat-of-Arms and Seal of the County of Adams. It will be displayed in the Countyís Ceremonial Court Room. Best regards and good health to all, Jim Martin

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