Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Bids High For Bethlehem's New EMS Center

Last year, City Council approved a $6 million line of credit for a new EMS facility and other projects. But when administrators diverted the money to pay for employee benefits, City Council was forced to impose a 5.3% tax hike. This time, the estimated $1 million in proceeds was restricted to replacing the City's aging EMS facility and purchasing a new fire pumper.

But when Council's Finance Committee met on June 27, they learned that neither project has been started. A matching grant for a new firetruck has fizzled, which will mean at least one year's delay. But what about the new EMS facility on Illicks Mill Road?

Each of the City's seven ambulances carries temperature-sensitive drugs and should be stored indoors, but there are only three bays at the aging Stefko facility. In January, when Parks and Public Property Director Ralph Carp unveiled plans for the Illicks Mill Road EMS center, they included five bays that could store up to ten ambulances. Carp estimated that it would be done by Fall.

It has not even started.

According to Carp, technical specs were assembled in January and February. In March, bids were solicited, but they came back high. So he rebid the project, but they came back high again, in excess of the money allocated. But Carp is unwilling to downsize the 12,000 sq. ft. facility, explaining he wants something that will serve City residents for the next 15-20 years. He indicated construction costs are at $120 per square foot, compared to an average of $170-200 per square foot. "I think we can make it," he said. "It's a question of how close we can get to the number we need to be."

Council member Dave DiGiacinto suggested taking the $250,000 dedicated for a new firetruck, and reallocating that to the EMS center, so long as it is clear there is no way a new pumper can be bought this year.

Chairman J. Willie Reynolds suggested that the Finance Committee revisit this matter, but was a little more concerned about a recommendation from the City's independent auditor that a separate account be created for these restricted tax proceeds. "We don't care," was Business Administrator Dennis Reichard's response, suggesting that City Council might want to create an account under their own control.

He didn't have to say it twice. Dave DiGiacinto recommended the creation of a separate City Council account for these restricted funds, as well as excess casino funds. His motion passed unanimously, and will move to City Council.

In other business, water and sewer resources director David Brong presented plans for $9.4 million in upgrades to the sewage treatment facility, which was built in 1953. Brong explained that in January and February, the system is unable to pump. He added that the City's capacity is dwindling. "We gotta' get on this or it will retard development," he added.

In addition to increasing capacity, renovations will increase the production of methane gas and reduce the production of biosolids.

Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority is considering a low-interest loan, and is expected to make a decision in July. Brong asked for a nonbinding "show of support," and he got it. The Finance Committee agreed unanimously to recommend this application to Council.

In addition, Reynolds complimented Brong and his staff for their hard work and dedication.

Bring told DiGiacinto that, if financing is approved, renovations will take between 18 and 24 months. The $304,000 annual cost to the City will be borne by ratepayers, not taxes.

Controller Meg Holland attended Council's Finance Committee hearing.


Zorn said...

Carp can not be trusted to complete any project on time (think ice skating rink). His word is useless in city hall - no one except JC supports him.

Richard's attitude and management abilities are pitiful. He should be cut loose.

But no one answered the real questions. What has happened to the tax money? What was the $250,000 diverted for? Who authorized the diversion? Will the fire truck cost more next year?

There is no accoutability here. Council and the administration are both jokes.

Anonymous said...

Perfect opportunity to think more regionally.

Why not have a county wide EMS center? Nancy Run in Bethlehem Twp want to expand at a cost of well over $1 million, Freemansburg should be part of the city etc, etc, etc...

Anonymous said...

My question is the ambulance may carry these medications however by the time they
are really adminstered you could have the patient to one o the hospitals in town and didn't they have a new firetruck that they don't have in use. My other question is why are the not housed with the engines and ladders instead of
the chief vehicles in the bays the respond to the same calls and would probably have a quicker response time sounds to me like piss pour mangement of valuable resouces and a waste of money to put this building up when they can't manage money right now

pope paul said...
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FU KD said...
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