New funding is flying into county coffers thanks to a leasing agreement signed by the Lebanon County Commissioners on Thursday, Nov. 16, at their biweekly meeting.
Commissioners unanimously voted to approve an agreement with Colorado-based Air Methods Corp. to provide helipad space at the new 911 Center for $36,000 annually.
“They would like to house a 24/7 critical care team with a medical helicopter at our new facility,” said Bob Dowd, director of Lebanon County’s Department of Emergency Services. “They’re basically going to pay us $36,000 a year for the space. In exchange, there is a new available resource for Lebanon County.”
Dowd told LebTown that the money would be placed into the 911 fund to offset general fund obligation costs associated with operations at the center.
The lease agreement notes that the company will have about 1,145 square feet of space for crew headquarters and office space, totaling five rooms. They will also have the “non-exclusive right to use the helipad located on the property.”
Dowd noted that the tenant may keep its helicopter on the helipad but that they must move it if a third party needs access to the pad.
“We have other air medical partners in the county, and this lease requires Air Methods to move their aircraft in the event that someone else needs to use it,” he explained.
Dowd said the lease only becomes effective once the county has electricity flowing to the new center. LebTown has previously reported that the completion of the construction project at the 911 Center has been delayed due to several factors out of the county’s control.
Supply-chain issues delayed the delivery of the critical electronic components to the assembly plant and then, once received and assembled, the equipment failed to pass inspection.
Dowd said that while no new electrical equipment has arrived in the past two weeks, the current gear that is there is still being installed.
“We are close to the point, probably mid-December if everything stays on track … when we actually get to turn a light switch on,” he said. “None of our redundancies will work yet, though. We’re still pretty far away from having all of the equipment we need to be fully redundant, which is the final box we have to check before moving in critical services.”
Redundancy is critical to the operation of certain commercial buildings like 911 operation centers and hospitals to ensure that critical services can continue uninterrupted.
Dowd added that his department should be able to start provisioning systems and continue to prepare the center if the commercial power to the building is functional by mid-December.
“Staff that don’t require those redundancies could move in shortly thereafter,” he said. “Progress is being made but it is slow.”
LebTown asked Dowd, after an earlier comment by one of the commissioners, if the county might be facing a burn ban given the lack of precipitation and a double-digit deficit in the amount of rainfall across much of the southcentral region of the state.
“It has not been discussed at this point,” said Dowd. “In general, those burn bans are a result of either the fire chiefs coming collectively to ask or sometimes we will poll them proactively and ask them if they are interested. When we poll them proactively, it’s generally driven by an increase in wildfire events, which we haven’t had at this point.”
Dowd said if that changes, then he’ll come to the commissioners to approve a burn ban. Lebanon County administrator Jamie Wolgemuth noted that burn bans over winter months are “pretty rare occurrences” since fewer people are outdoors in winter months.
“The risk is definitely lower when people aren’t outside burning stuff,” added Dowd. “I don’t know that we’ve ever done one in the winter.”
In other county business on what was an otherwise light agenda, the commissioners unanimously voted to:
- Receive a third-quarter report from the administrator of the county’s pension plan.
- Issue a proclamation designating September 2023 as Hunger Action Month while also recognizing the launch of the United Way of Lebanon County’s 2023-24 annual fundraising drive. The goal is to raise $1 million through the end of June 2024. It was announced that the United Way is about one-third of the way towards reaching its goal.
- Agree to extend a $15,000 Marcellus Shale grant that the Lebanon Valley Rails-to-Trails (LVRT) received for work on Phase 1 of their rails-trails project. In another matter concerning LVRT, the commissioners passed a motion to apply for a grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development to purchase a small dump truck and heavy-duty trailer for use on the 25-plus-mile rail trail, which is slated for completion in 2027.
- Approve a liquids fuel tax grant application for North Annville Township for line painting on township roads for $2,267 for a project estimated to cost $16,047.15.
- Enter an agreement with Lebanon County Community Action Partnership and Adriel Pinero for medical assistance transportation services, effective July 1, 2023, through June 30, 2024.
- Recognize Greater Lebanon Refuse Authority member Barbara DeSantis for 20 years of service as GLRA’s chairperson. DeSantis will remain on the board as the representative of Millcreek Township at GLRA.
- Appoint Lisa Albert of Mountville to the Lebanon County Commission for Women, effective Dec. 13.
- Provide a real estate tax exemption to one fully disabled veteran.
- Accept the minutes of their Nov. 2 meeting, their Nov. 8 workshop, the treasurer’s report and various personnel transactions of the county’s Human Resources department.
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