Lebanon County is still waiting on delivery of a critical component it needs to finish its new $30 million 911 center, which was originally set to open later this year.

Bob Dowd, director of emergency services for Lebanon County, said that while the building is close to completion, the electrical switch gear that is crucial to operating the center has not been delivered to the construction site along the 1800 block of Cornwall Road in North Cornwall Township.

“The discussion now is focused on making sure that, if we get to that point, we have a way to temporarily heat the building to prevent it from freezing,” Dowd told Lebanon County Commissioners at their biweekly meeting. “We’re going to do what we have to do to keep our costs low until that gear arrives and we’re actually able to turn on the systems within the building.”

Commissioner Jo Ellen Litz asked Dowd if he’d been given an ETA for delivery of the vital equipment. The delivery delay of the electrical switch gear is putting off completion of the project indefinitely,

“The first ETA was the beginning of this year,” said Dowd. “But every month it keeps getting kicked out a little bit further.”

County administrator Jamie Wolgemuth said the gear had been delivered to the assembly plant and asked Dowd whether the gear was located in Tennessee or Kentucky. Dowd had told LebTown in an exclusive article in August that the gear had to be assembled and then tested at the factory before it could be delivered to Lebanon County following delays due to supply chain issues.  

Read More: 911 Center construction hits snag; supply chain issues delay delivery of critical part

“Tennessee is where it is being built, assembled with parts from all over the country and some from overseas as well,” said Dowd. “Specifically, Italy is where some of the components are coming from.”

What is now further delaying delivery is the component did not pass testing specifications. 

“Upon inspection, they found something wrong with manufacture, so now it is being remedied,” said Wolgemuth.

“The parts arrived and it did not pass factory testing, it did not meet our specifications so they had to re-engineer it,” said Dowd, to which Commissioner Mike Kuhn replied, “We’ve got to get it right.”   

Dowd had told LebTown previously that this component is one of the most critical infrastructure pieces that allows the building to function as designed. That’s because the 911 Center is built with redundancy to ensure the building is always operational if power were to be interrupted.  

In a follow-up phone call after the meeting, Dowd told LebTown that there is no workaround, no way to “fake their way through this” so that the new center can open. It had originally been slated to open this summer. 

“We’re kind of at the mercy of the industry right now,” said Dowd during the call. “We have temporary power right now, enough to keep the building from freezing and to keep the building secure.”

Dowd also presented at the meeting two change orders for the construction project, totaling $47,841. An electrical change order in the amount of $18,280 was one of two orders approved in one motion.

“This basically fixes several things that were not correct in our drawings,” said Dowd. “It will add obstruction lighting to light poles, adding some security pieces that were not included in the drawings. And then connecting our tower shelter to the building power system.”

The second order, in the amount of $29,561, concerned long-term financial savings for the center’s landscaping by changing from mulch to a rock-based design.   

“This change order is to swap out everywhere we had mulch shown for to river rock,” said Dowd. “We looked at the long-term costs of the mulch and after speaking with some landscapers, it would be between $8,000 and $10,000 a year to maintain and replace it (the mulch). This is a lot of (initial) capital cost here, but it is going to be paid off in two or three years, so I think it is a wise move.”

In other county business on what was an otherwise light agenda, the commissioners voted to:

  • Approve two hotel tax grants for related but separate projects for the Lebanon Valley Conservancy in the amount of $3,375 each to reprint two maps for the Lebanon County Heritage Trail map series. One map is for Jonestown and Myerstown areas and the other for Annville and Palmyra areas. 
  • Agree to a hotel tax grant fund application for Gretna Productions doing business as Gretna Theatre in the amount of $7,500 contingent upon receiving a full report detailing their marketing expenses. This request was made because grant applications are set at a certain percentage of overall costs and it is believed by county officials that the application was filled out incorrectly. While the application listed their total cost and funding request both at $7,500, it is believed that the actual annual marketing budget for the organization is nearly $40,000.
  • Name Aidelsa (Delsie) T. Calaman and Deja Pyles, both of Lebanon, to the Lebanon County Commission for Women.
  • Give Commissioner chairman Robert Phillips grant signatory authority to sign all documents related to eGrant agreements with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation on behalf of the county.
  • Provide $5,061 to Swatara Township through the county’s liquid fuels tax fund program for a total estimated project cost of $10,000 for line painting.
  • Support a resolution requesting Lebanon County participation in America250PA and the celebration of the nation’s semiquincentennial (250th anniversary) in 2026.
  • Appoint Kuhn as the county’s liaison to the Governor Dick Park Board.
  • Grant a request for full real estate tax exemptions for two fully disabled veterans.
  • Accept the minutes of their Sept. 7 meeting, the treasurer’s report and various personnel transactions.

In other county news not related to the meeting, the county’s voter registration/elections office is seeking canvassers for Election Day on Nov. 7.

Department head Sean Drasher said at least 10 canvassers are needed on Election Day to help inspect and open mail-in packages and prepare the mail-in ballots to be processed through the vote tabulators. 

Drasher said there are added benefits in addition to being paid $100 for working a shift.

“Lunch is provided, you get to see how things work behind the scenes in the courthouse, you get to meet the esteemed press and other dignitaries that come to visit and observe the county (election process),” said Drasher. “There’s a sense of camaraderie here in the courthouse because we tend to have a lot of people who do this year in and year out.”

While some Pennsylvania counties have their employees process mail-in ballots, Drasher said Lebanon County uses volunteer canvassers. He added that husband and wives are paired together as are friends, so he encouraged individuals who might want to work together to contact his office.

Anyone interested in learning how to become an Election Day canvasser or to register as one, should call the elections office at 717-228-4428.

Editor’s note: This article was updated after publication to reflect the current rate of pay for canvassers. The rate of pay was bumped from $80 to $100 after publication.

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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; Lancaster...