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EMS training center underway Carbon commissioners give details of project

A state-of-the-art fire, police and EMT training facility is currently under construction in Nesquehoning.

Carbon County Commissioners Wayne Nothstein and Rocky Ahner held a press conference Monday to give details of the building project.

“We want to show the residents of Carbon County that our emergency responders will no longer have to travel out of the county for training purposes,” said Nothstein in his opening remarks about the new Emergency Operations Training Center.

After many years of planning and following the tearing down of a small training facility in Lehighton due to structural damage, the new center will be a four-story structure built to simulate a variety of potential emergency scenarios. There will be three burn training areas, towers for high-angle rescues, laddering for four stories, automatic sprinkler simulation, as well as configured small access spaces where firefighters have to crawl through to rescue victims.

“Another tower will be for instructors to observe police training,” said Nothstein. “There also will be a camera system to observe and record training tactics.”

Nothstein mentioned that firefighter training is a “huge undertaking.”

Candidates have to take multiple training courses and 120 hours of conducting actual tactical operations.

Due to the growing shortage of volunteers, it is the hope that the training facility should attract more.

“Right now, our volunteers have to go as far as Harrisburg to train,” said Nothstein. “That time away is detrimental to their families so this location is so much better.”

Mahoning Valley Assistant Fire Chief Jay Michalik remarked that sending inexperienced firefighters into a burning building is dangerous.

“It’s important that our personnel are skilled to not only save the lives of possible victims, but that the firefighters themselves get to go home to their families,” Michalik said.

Currently, the access road to the facility site has been widened to accommodate emergency vehicles. The building site ground has been leveled. Electric and water lines have been installed and a retention pond has been dug to alleviate flooding at the site.

Nothstein pointed out that better training results in more lives saved. The facility will also be equipped to coordinate the efforts of fire, police and EMT personnel, which is necessary for emergency operations to run fluidly.

The groundwork for the building is being done by Kobalt Construction Company and is expected to be completed by November. The construction of the building is to begin in the spring and the entire facility, which will include a storage building for emergency vehicles, is to be finished by next fall.

Nothstein reported that thus far, $800,000 has been spent for road improvement on the project that is expected to cost an estimated $6 million.

He also stated that over $1.5 million has been contributed through grants and a quarter of a million by Gov. Tom Wolf under the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Capital Assistance Program and the Commonwealth Financing Authority. Financial assistance has also been provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development and the County of Carbon. Applications for further grant assistance will be an ongoing process.

Commissioner Ahner thanked Nothstein for his tireless efforts that had begun many years ago in the planning of the new center.

Commissioner Chris Lukasevich, who did not attend the press conference, offered his comments about the new training center.

“We must strive to ensure that our first responders and selfless volunteers should be the best trained, educated, incentivized, and compensated in the state; however, it must be done in a financially responsible manner.”

Lukasevich reported that the current version of the Emergency Operations Training Center is significantly scaled down in cost and scope from its February 2018 reported $14 million “Taj Mahal” price tag.

“This version more closely reflects the necessity of striking the balance between the critical training needs and preparedness of our first responders with the ever-increasing property tax burden on county residents.

“It is my commitment to work aggressively to ensure the unknown operating and maintenance costs for this facility are derived by user fees for noncounty entities and not by further burdening county taxpayers,” he added.

Carbon County Commissioners Rocky Ahner and Wayne Nothstein hold a press conference at the site where the Carbon County Emergency Operation & Training Center is being built. BOB FORD/TIMES NEWS
A crew from Kobalt Construction from Swiftwater works at the site where the Carbon County Emergency Operation & Training Center is being built in Nesquehoning. BOB FORD/TIMES NEWS