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Construction of Lebanon County’s new $30 million 911 Center is on schedule for completion in June, with plans to be fully operational by the end of 2023.

LebTown recently toured the site, located in the 1800 block of Cornwall Road in North Cornwall Township, with Bob Dowd, director of the Department of Emergency Services, and Jamie Wolgemuth, chief clerk/county administrator.

Aerial view of the 10.45-acre lot where Lebanon County’s new 911 Center will be located, taken during an earlier phase of construction. (Provided photo taken by Paul Weidman)

Dowd said the main 41,062-square-foot building is crafted for multi-dimensional uses. 

“This building is designed to check a whole lot of boxes,” said Dowd. “It’s not just a 911 Center. It’s the core for public safety technical assistance. It’s emergency management. It’s 911. It’s special operations (including hazmat). It’s a technology hub. It’s public safety training. And, it’s also the COOP (Continuity of Operations Plan) for county government.”

Graphic showing a rendering of how the 911 Center will look once completed. (Provided graphic)

Wolgemuth said in addition to having numerous conference rooms, it will contain enough space to oversee large-scale disasters from the large conference room, which will be located near the front of the building.  

“If there is a briefing to be held on a natural disaster or something else, it can happen in here,” said Wolgemuth, referring to the area where the large conference room will be located. “Training for first responders can happen in here – it’s a flexible space. This room will have some size to it. You can really get a couple hundred people (standing, or seating for 100 individuals) in there.” 

That same space could be used in the event of an emergency at the county building in Lebanon, providing the necessary room to bring a skeletal crew to keep important county government functions operational. 

“It’s designed so that if something happens at the courthouse, we can bring all the critical services, critical functions here,” said Dowd. “We have the space for that functionality.”

Dowd had said last year that the schedule called for the building to be under roof by this winter.

As a cacophony of construction sounds mixed with music booming from stereo speakers set around the building, it was observed that the roof over the one-story building was, in fact, completed – a major achievement in keeping the building’s construction timetable on schedule.

A new Lebanon County 911 Center is currently under construction in North Cornwall Township. The project is anticipated to be complete by this summer. (James Mentzer)

When asked how many rooms the main center will have, Dowd noted the building is built for adaptability. Conference rooms will be located to the left in the first half of the building while offices and storage space will be to the right. The 911 Operations Center, which will be located to the rear of the main building, will be transferred from the county courthouse last, near the end of 2023. 

“The building was designed to suit public safety needs – ideally we shouldn’t have to change the interior for the next 50 years,” said Dowd. “We can adjust walls as necessary, we can divide space, when the time comes, or take on whatever new roles we’re going to take on.”

“At this point, if you take the number of staff vs. the number of offices, it’s built for expansion in the future,” said Wolgemuth. “We’re not building just for the (current) needs when it’s finished. It’s going to have multi-uses and address what this department looks like, 20, 30 years from now.”

There is land available for main building expansion, if necessary, on the site’s 10.45-acre lot, but the building’s exterior is built to last, according to Dowd. He noted that the walls are 12 inches thick, the roof is 8 inches thick and that both contain multiple layers of reinforcement so that the 911 Center can “survive just about anything.”

“Fifty years without changing the inside of the building, but, with this type of construction, this is a 100-year building,” said Dowd. “We might have to add on to it, but it’s solid construction. This is one of those, do it once, do it correctly so you don’t have to do it again (projects).”  

The second building, located behind the ops center, is 19,660 square feet and looks like a typical fire hall. It contains 10 bay doors and will house the county’s hazmat vehicles. There’s also warehouse space to store emergency management supplies. 

Vehicle bays towards the rear of the new Lebanon County 911 Center, currently under construction in North Cornwall Township. The bays would be used to store hazmat vehicles. (James Mentzer)

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the county filled every available inch of the courthouse building with PPE masks since the county lacked storage space, and this portion of the building will fill a huge need.

“One of the most important things we do is preparedness,” said Dowd. “For us, it’s having the equipment in times of an emergency. There’s a lot of technical equipment that doesn’t get used every day, but when you need it, you need it and you can’t wait to get it.”

Two other structures at the 911 Center will be the helipad that’s being built near the center’s entrance for helicopters to take off and land for emergency transports and the first responder memorial that will be located to the left of the front entrance.

Read More: First responders’ commitment to Lebanon County is thick as a brick

Lebanon County administrator Jamie Wolgemuth and Lebanon County Department of Emergency Services director Bob Dowd in front of the helipad under construction at the county’s new 911 Center. (James Mentzer)

“There will be several – I think the plan right now is for four – monuments dedicated to first responders and public safety professionals who made the ultimate sacrifice,” said Dowd. “There will be flagpoles arranged around what is a kind of a memorial-style, hardscaped area.” 

Dowd added the monument will mesh with the building’s architecture and may contain granite or stone with matching colors and plaques that pay tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty.

The exterior will consist of metal siding and will be a mix of gray and red.

“It will match the colors inside,” said Wolgemuth. “Again, it’s a building where people work 12-hour shifts. So we brightened up the kitchen area to give it some flair, spice it up a bit.”

Dowd noted the memorial is in the early planning stages, adding the design will need to be approved by the county commissioners before it will be constructed on site.       

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James Mentzer

James Mentzer is a freelance writer whose published works include the books Pennsylvania Manufacturing: Alive and Well; Bucks County: A Snapshot in Time; United States Merchant Marine Academy: In Service to the Nation 1943-2018; A Century of Excellence: Spring Brook Country Club 1921-2021; and Lancaster...