Gov. Tom Corbett helped break ground Thursday for a new Cetronia Joint Operations Facility near the Lehigh County Sports Fields in South Whitehall.
The 68,000-square-foot facility -- formally known as the Cetronia Ambulance and Lehigh County Joint Operations and Medico-Legal Forensics Center -- will house Cetronia Ambulance’s fleet, a regional education center and the Lehigh County coroner's office. The communications center at Broadway and Parkway roads will bear the name of John E. Walson, the former head of Service Electric whose family donated $275,000 toward the project.
Corbett said advocating for strong public services is an integral part of government.
"This project gets at the very core functions of government as I see them, education, helping our neediest citizens, and maintaining our roads and bridges. But the number one function of government is public safety," said Corbett. "The building is a symbol of how state, county and local government can work together to provide for public safety."
Other local officials, like state Sen. Pat Browne (R-Lehigh), agreed. "People tend to not think about [emergency services], but they demand them when they need it."
The $1.7 million that the Corbett administration contributed to the project was "the people's donation," said Corbett. "That's not [the government's] money, that's taxpayers' money, and it's going back to the people."
One section of the facility will house and provide security for Cetronia Ambulance’s fleet and Lehigh County’s emergency vehicles and equipment. Cetronia Ambulance’s fleet includes 19 ambulances, 12 paratransit trucks, a supervisor’s vehicle, a medi-car and a fire rehab unit.
A second section will provide a regional educational center, offering community public health training programs to both the public and private sectors.
A third section will house offices for the Lehigh County coroner and staff.
Several officials see the $10 million project as an investment in the community.
"I view this as planting a seed here, and hopefully a mighty oak will spring from this. And 57 years from now, it will still be here," said Joe Schmieder, Pennsylvania Director of the Bureau of EMS.