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From the Desk of County Commissioner
Randy Phiel

(4/2016) Credit ratings are extremely important to government entities like Adams County when we want to borrow from financial institutions. These ratings directly correlate to our borrowing ability and interest rates. This Board of Commissioners is proud that our bond rating has increased twice during our tenure to Adams County’s highest level ever at Aa3. The following overview of Adams County fiscal health appeared in the February 3 issue of Moody’s Investor Service profile of Adams County. I have included four relevant excerpts below. Thank you to our administration, elected officials and staff for their achievement and expectation of continued good fiscal management.

Credit Overview: Adams County's credit position is strong; however, its Aa3 rating is slightly under the US county median of Aa2. The rating reflects a robust financial position, a modest pension burden, and a manageable debt liability. It also incorporates a healthy socioeconomic profile and a substantial tax base.

Finances: The county has a very strong financial position, which is favorable in relation to the assigned rating of Aa3. The cash balance as a percent of revenues (53.2%) is well above the US median and increased significantly between 2011 and 2014. In addition, the fund balance as a percent of operating revenues (39.4%) is materially higher than other Moody's rated counties nationwide.

Debt and Pensions: The debt and pension liabilities of the county are manageable. The Moody's-adjusted net pension liability to operating revenues (0.19x) favorably is materially below the US median; however, this ratio grew slightly between 2012 and 2014. In contrast, the county's net direct debt to full value (0.9%) is slightly above the US median and the county has significant exposure to variable rate debt and swaps. Approximately 43% of net direct debt outstanding is in variable rate mode.

Economy and Tax Base: Adams County has a quite healthy economy and tax base, which are consistent with the county's Aa3 rating. The total full value ($7.4 billion) is on par with other Moody's-rated counties nationwide, although it decreased from 2011 to 2014. Additionally, the full value per capita ($73,055) is consistent with the US median, and the median family income equates to a solid 106.2% of the US level.

Moving on to legislation that affects the county, our County Commissioners Fall Conference in November, CCAP members adopted a resolution expressing counties’ profound frustration with the FY 2015-2016 state budget impasse and the clear message that this crisis must never happen again. With that in mind, members of the Association also selected the commonwealth budget and human services funding as our top county priorities for 2016, which includes restoration of human services funding, expansion of the Human Services Block Grant, and reversal of the child welfare rebalancing initiative, as well as a call for timely passage of future state budgets. To that end, counties are engaging in strategies to use our grassroots, our media and our lobbying efforts to carry our message to the General Assembly and the Governor’s office. On Monday, February 8, as a member of CCAP’s Board of Directors, I spent the day at the capital with other CCAP Board members, meeting with Senate and House leadership to promote these priorities. Last year CCAP’s 911 Funding initiative was the top priority and was passed by the legislature at least partly due to CCAP efforts.

The Adams County Law Enforcement Firearms Training Range Committee continues to make positive progress in making a county law enforcement firearms training range a reality. After getting zoning approval, we are in the process of meeting storm water management requirements. The committee has been working with CS Davidson to meet all requirements and complete final design with approvals. As promised, the project will be completed without using taxpayer dollars. The Range Committee will soon begin a community capital campaign to fund the range that will be built beside the emergency management complex. The Capital Campaign co-chairs are Sheriff Jim Muller, Commissioner Randy Phiel and Honorary Chair Senator Rich Alloway. We hope and anticipate the community will step forward to support this important initiative.

As a result of numerous inquiries regarding the well publicized Oak Lawn Cemetery abandonment situation, the Board released the following statement at the public commissioners meeting on March 2nd regarding the situation. Also, the District Attorney, in conjunction with Cumberland Twp. Police Department, now has a form on the home page of the Adams County website that can be filled out and submitted for any residents wanting to file a concern or complaint regarding Oak Lawn Cemetery: County officials have received numerous inquiries regarding the situation at Oak Lawn Cemetery on Chambersburg Road. The Board of Commissioners has asked the county Veterans Affairs Director, Solicitor, Sheriff and District Attorney to review all authorities and remedies to this situation. According to Adams County Veterans Affairs Director Stan Clark there are 573 veterans interred at Oak Lawn. District Attorney Brian Sinnett has informed the Board that his office is conducting an active investigation. The cemetery records have been seized by authorities. We are also aware that the Cumberland Township Police Department is conducting an investigation and will be coordinating with the Adams County District Attorney’s office. The first priority is to assure that burials can continue as soon as possible. We will be using all resources available to us and coordinate with other agencies in attempting to ensure the residents and families of our community are protected and cared for in resolving this unacceptable situation.

The new 911 Digital Emergency Radio System has extreme significance to every resident of Adams County. I am very pleased to report that the installation of mobile radios is on-going for County fire vehicles with law enforcement radios already being distributed. Distribution of pagers is underway for fire and emergency medical personnel. The new digital 911 radio system continues to work extremely well - far surpassing our expectations and we have reports that emergency responders are very pleased.

The County and State await word from Washington, D.C. and FEMA for a possible Presidential Disaster Declaration which could bring hundreds of thousands of dollars in snow storm recovery relief for our municipalities, nonprofits, school districts and County government. This is in response to the Blizzard of 2016 in January.

The new Adams County Human Services Building (Herff Jones) design is in full swing. After meeting with department directors for input, Adams County Human Services Building Architect Crabtree & Rohrbuagh has been working with the core design committee to come up with a general interior design. At the point the general design is completed, it will go back to the department directors for review and comment. The design will then return to the core committee and the overall Design Team. Our objective is to have the design completed by the end of March, go out for bid in April, have bids returned in May - and begin renovation in June. This is an extremely significant project for our residents and the Board would like to thank everyone involved with the design for your efforts.

It’s the end of March and spring fever is in the air. While driving back the lane to my house, I was amazed to see that my neighbor’s tulip tree was beginning to bloom. Although this makes me optimistic - I could not help but recall the March 1993 Super Storm as the most significant blizzard I have ever witnessed. After three days at a standstill, I can recall the NPS having to get mega front end loaders from the stone quarry to open up Emmitsburg Road, the south end of the Park and the west end of the Park in the area of the Railroad Cut and the Peace Light. Despite that fading memory - I will still optimistically go ahead and get my lawnmowers tuned up. On behalf of the Board, I hope everyone had a wonderful Easter weekend. No matter what you do - get out there and experience all the historical, recreational, agricultural, natural and cultural opportunities.

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