After almost two decades, Summit Hill has a permanent ambulance station once again, owned and staffed by the Lehighton Ambulance Association.

The association dedicated its new garage on the 300 block of East Ludlow Street Saturday morning. Residents, local officials and members of the association gathered to observe President Sandra Miller and Summit Hill station manager John Reinbold cut the ribbon on the new facility.

"There are so many people I want to thank," said LAS administrator Joni Gestl during her remarks.

Gestl expressed her gratitude to the board of directors, the building committee and the various subcontractors who participated in the building process, including Buckno Architects, Motola Paving and Stoney Lonesome Excavating as well as Carbon Engineering. She was especially grateful to the construction manager Jason Pezzuti of CMG, Easton for all the work he did in managing the project.

Pezzuti spoke briefly and thanked the committee members for their assistance.

"They made the process easy," Pezzuti told the audience.

As a former paramedic, Pezzuti said his background helps him in his current position to work with health care groups and determine their building needs. For the Summit Hill station, he said the design included a two-bay facility, a lounge area, bathrooms with showers, an eat-in kitchen, an office and two storage rooms. The facility is designed to accommodate the 24/7 staffing the garage will have in the hilltop community.

After Pezzuti spoke, Gestl introduced the Rev. William Thompson, chaplain of Penn Forest Fire Company.

"I appreciate the work Lehighton Ambulance does throughout the county," Thompson said, adding that prior to his chaplaincy with Penn Forest, he worked as an EMT for Mount Carmel, so he is well aware of the dedication and service Lehighton Ambulance provides to the municipalities it serves.

Thompson concluded his remarks with a prayer of dedication for the building and a blessing for the volunteers and employees of Lehighton Ambulance Association as they provide their services to their communities. Reinbold and Miller cut the ribbon after the prayer.

Officials attending the dedication included state Rep. Doyle Heffley, Carbon County Commissioners Wayne Nothstein and Bill O'Gurek, St. Luke's President Bill Moyer and Summit Hill Councilman Billy O'Gurek Jr.

"We are pleased they decided to make the investment in the borough," Councilman O'Gurek said. "They are a good neighbor and even invited their neighbors here to the dedication. They want to be a part of the community."

O'Gurek said the property looks much better than it did before they constructed the building. The ambulance garage was built on the dirt lot that was east of the former Summit Hill Rod and Gun Club.

Pezzuti said one of the challenges was the red tape that needed to be navigated to construct the building, due to the DEP moratorium on building in the Panther Valley communities of Summit Hill, Lansford and Coaldale. He said they were able to work through that issue.

Gestl said the building was the culmination of seven years of service to the community. Lehighton Ambulance was first brought to Summit Hill by the Summit Hill Borough Council in 2005.

It originally rented space in Harry Miller's garage in 2006 and were tenants until the building was completed last month.

The ground on East Ludlow Street was purchased in 2010 and construction began in October 2011.

Gestl told the audience the Lehighton Ambulance Association employs 44 EMTs, 26 paramedics and two registered nurses staffed in four locations in Penn Forest, Jim Thorpe, Lehighton and Summit Hill. The staff includes both volunteers and paid employees.

For more information about volunteering, Gestl said people can call (610) 377-5155, extension 0, or visit www.lehightonambulance.org.

Guests were treated to hot dogs and picnic fare after the service concluded.