Pa. county closer shared regional emergency services facility
The centralized Chestnuthill Twp. location could help with recruitment, officials say
By Brian Myszkowski
CHESTNUTHILL TWP., Pa. — Chestnuthill Township is one step closer to a new shared emergency services facility following the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee's funding approval.
U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright announced that the subcommittee's fiscal year 2022 funding bill, which included $1 million for the township to build a new facility in the West End, was approved on July 1. The "new and improved" facility will serve as a host to 10 emergency services organizations in Monroe County.
Sponsored by Chestnuthill Township, the new facility will be located at the intersection of State Route 715 and Firehouse Lane, in the heart of the community. The all-in-one building will house the West End Volunteer Fire Co., the West End Community Ambulance Association and a Regional West End Emergency Operations Center serving Chestnuthill, Jackson, Eldred, Ross, Polk and Hamilton townships.
It will also serve as an administrative backup location for the Monroe County Control Center, as well as the Monroe County Office of Emergency Management.
"Our first responders need state-of-the-art facilities so they can focus on their No. 1 job: protecting northeastern Pennsylvanians during emergencies," Cartwright, who submitted the Community Project Funding request for the facility, said. "This new facility is a smart investment in Monroe County's public safety infrastructure, and I commend the county and township leaders for their vision. I'm proud to advocate for this federal funding to help this project get done."
The need for the centralized facility became apparent after Chestnuthill Township hired JLN Associates to conduct a complete Emergency Services Capabilities Assessment for the West End Volunteer Fire Co. and the West End Community Ambulance Association in 2013.
"Many items of the JLN Capabilities Assessment have been completed to date but the current facilities of the West End Volunteer Fire Company, the West End Community Ambulance Association and the Chestnuthill Township Office of Emergency Management no longer meet each Department's needs," a narrative for the Shared Emergency Services Facility Project reads.
Key issues include the fact that the fire company's main ladder truck does not fit inside the Brodheadsville station; increased facilities maintenance costs due to the antiquated design of the buildings; the need for a more centrally located facility for the West End Community Ambulance; and the necessity for a permanent location for the Chestnuthill Township Emergency Operations Center, which is currently housed in a closet in the meeting room of the Municipal Building.
Township Manager David Albright said that the new regional center will save money, provide more timely aid to residents, and enhance the collaboration between townships, especially in emergency situations involving multiple agencies requiring shared information.
"This all-in-one shared regional emergency services facility will meet the requirements of the PA Emergency Services Code for up to six municipalities in Monroe County," Albright said. "Furthermore, it will work to protect against, mitigate, respond to and recover from all emergency incidents within the 8th Congressional District."
West End Volunteer Fire Co. Chief Eric Hoffman said the new facility is a necessity, as the company's original Brodheadsville building is nearly seven decades old.
"We've just outgrown it," Hoffman said. "We have the Effort station, and that's not a problem because it's a newer building, but for the Brodheadsville station, the main station, when we buy apparatus we have to design apparatus to fit the building because we're restricted with door heights and lengths and things like that."
In addition to providing more space and opportunities for efficient teamwork, there is also a hope that the new facility could catch the attention of potential volunteers in the area.
"I would think that might be attractive to people that want to go and help out and see that there's a nice new facility there," Albright said.
Hoffman noted that West End has been more fortunate than many stations with their "good core group," yet new recruits are always welcome.
While the bill has passed the first hurdle of the subcommittee, there are still several steps to go. The full Appropriations Committee will review the bill during a markup on July 13 before consideration on the House floor and negotiations with the Senate.
Cartwright has expressed that he will continue to fight for the funding throughout the voyage.
And even though $1 million will cover a significant amount of costs for the project, Albright noted that the township is still pursing funding with the help of local politicians, including Rep. Jack Rader, Rep. Rosemary Brown, and Sen. Mario Scavello.
Estimates for the total cost of the facility were pegged at $6,797,200 in February, though Albright speculated that due to price escalations in building materials, that number could increase.
Materials including lumber, iron, steel, plumbing, fixtures and other necessities have gone up, sometimes rather substantially, due to the pandemic, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the National Association of Homebuilders.
"We're hoping to go out to bid in the winter on this project and be constructing the facility in the spring, but we're always looking to match as many dollars as we can for the project," Albright said.
On July 6, Rader announced that nearly $107,000 in funding generated from slot machine revenue had been awarded to fire and EMS stations in the 176th District through the 2020-21 Pennsylvania Fire Company and Emergency Medical Service Grant Program, including $14,372 for West End Fire Co.
"The lifesaving service first responders provide to our communities is invaluable and they are deserving of this state support," Rader said. "COVID-19 made their job that much more challenging due to the limitations the pandemic placed on their fundraising efforts. I am pleased this program is available to help keep our local fire departments and ambulance companies in operation."
(c)2021 the Pocono Record, Stroudsburg, Pa.