Plans for Cetronia Ambulance, Forensics Center Unveiled
Construction of the new Cetronia Ambulance Joint Operations, Regional EMS Education Center and Lehigh County Medico-Legal Forensics Center is expected to get under way in August.
Plans for a new facility and joint venture between Lehigh County and the Cetronia Ambulance Corps were unveiled Tuesday night during the first of three town hall meetings.
The new 75,000-square-foot building, which will rise on 9 acres of county-owned land at Broadway and Parkway roads in South Whitehall, will contain three distinct areas, according to information provided at the meeting:
* A section to house and provide security for Cetronia Ambulance’s fleet (19 ambulances, 12 paratransit trucks, a supervisor’s vehicle, a medi-car and a fire rehab unit) and Lehigh County’s emergency vehicles and equipment.
* A regional educational center, offering community public health training programs to both the public and private sectors.
* Offices for the Lehigh County coroner and staff.
The facility also will be capable of expanding Cetronia’s command center to assist in regional emergency operations.
“It’s not about bricks and mortar,” said Cetronia Ambulance Chief Exectuive Officer Larry Wiersch. “It’s about emergency medical services and where we’re going in the future.”
Only a few people turned out for the town hall meeting on the Cetronia Ambulance Joint Operations, Regional EMS Education Center and Lehigh County Medico-Legal Forensics Center. The meeting was held at the Cetronia Fire Company social hall.
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Many of ambulance corps throughout the state are “islands onto themselves,” Wiersch said, meaning that although they may provide excellent pre-hospital medical care, they mostly operate with small staffs, find themselves hanging on by a shoestring financially and do not coordinate with each other.
“The community ambulance corps are fragmented. It's not a system that works today,” he said.
Unlike the state’s bigger cities -- Allentown, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh for example -- Cetronia does not receive grant money from the state. Funding to support the non-profit organization is realized through donations from businesses and individuals.
Wiersch pointed out, though, that for this project, Cetronia received a $1.75 million allocation from the state under its Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program, along with bi-partisan support from the state legislature and Gov. Tom Corbett.
To help contain costs, Wiersch said the building, designed by Spillman Farmer Architects, Bethlehem, will be pre-engineered.
“This is designed not to be a Taj Mahal, but be practical and efficient,” he said.
Wiersch said the collaboration between the county and the ambulance corps was in the planning stages for as long as he’s been associated with Cetronia --more than 30 years. He said the corps has saved and managed wisely to bring about the collaboration that will provide advanced public health and safety benefits to the people of the Lehigh Valley and surrounding areas.
That collaboration came together in fall 2011 when Lehigh County commissioners approved a 99-year land lease agreement between the ambulance corps and the county for the parcel of land in South Whitehall, near the Lehigh County soccer fields.
Lehigh County Coroner Scott Grim said, “On behalf of the coroner’s office, we are certainly looking forward to this project.”
Added Wiersch, “What a great marriage this will be between the county and Cetronia. We can work -- and learn -- together.”
Construction of the Cetronia Ambulance Joint Operations, Regional EMS Education Center and Lehigh County Medico-Legal Forensics Center is scheduled to begin in August. The facility is expected to be completed by the fall of 2013.
The public can get a closer look at the plans at two more town hall meetings:
- Thursday, May 10, 5:30 p.m. at the Whitehall Township Municipal Building
- Tuesday, May 15, 5:30 p.m. at Fogelsville Elementary School