Dozens of Lehigh Valley leaders joined Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett today to break ground on a facility that will serve as the operations hub for Lehigh County’s emergency services.
The Cetronia Ambulance and Lehigh County Joint Operations and Medico-Legal Forensics Center in South Whitehall Township, tentatively slated for a spring 2014 opening, will improve the county’s response to everyday emergencies, as well as natural and other disasters, Cetronia Ambulance CEO Larry Wiersch said.
Corbett, who at the close of today’s ceremony donned a hard hat, grabbed a shovel and dug in with Wiersch, Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley and other officials, said the center is an example of what bipartisan cooperation can accomplish.
“This building is a symbol. It is a symbol of how state, how county, and how local government can work together to provide for public safety, to provide a core function of government,” he said.
State Sen. Pat Browne, R-Lehigh/Northampton/Monroe, Lehigh County Director of Administration Tom Muller and Pennsylvania Bureau of Emergency Medical Services Director Joseph Schmider also addressed the crush of dignitaries huddled out of the cold beneath a wind-whipped tent.
Once complete, the $8.2 million, 68,000-square-foot facility will be headquarters for Cetronia Ambulance and the county coroner. It also will feature an EMS training center and house vehicles and equipment for the county’s emergency management agency.
The building will sit at Broadway and Parkway Road on Lehigh County-owned land at the edge of Cedar Creek Parkway West.
The project, funded in part with a $1.75 million state Redevelopment Capital Assistance Program grant, has been in the works for more than a decade, Wiersch said. It would not have come to fruition without the support of public and private partners who support a regional approach to public health and safety, he said.
Among those partners are Service Electric Cable TV and the family of its former president, John E. Walson Jr. Walson’s son and daughter today presented checks totaling $275,000 to Cetronia.
The money is part of a multiple-year, $350,000 commitment Service Electric and the Walsons have made to the project, Wiersch said. The facility’s communications center is to be named for the elder Walson, who died in August.
Corbett, noting that he’s signed at least six emergency declarations in the past two years, said fast, effective emergency response is a top priority for his administration.
“We don’t really speak often enough about our emergency medical service providers,” he said. “People don’t think about it until they need it. You are thinking about it well before they need it and you should be commended.”