Northampton County Council signed off on the first step of a plan that could ultimately expand and restructure the space where the 911 Emergency Services Center is located in Upper Nazareth Township.
Council unanimously approved a $134,350 contract Thursday night for an architectural and engineering study to be done by Schrader Group Architecture, of Philadelphia.
Once the study is done, council will hold two public hearings to discuss it, and if all goes smoothly, bids for the work will be sought in late July, with ground-breaking before winter and completion of the project by this time next year, said Robert Mateff Sr., director of the county's emergency management services.
County administrator Tom Harp said after the meeting that $1.9 million has been allocated for the work in the 2013 budget.
Mateff told WFMZ.com afterward that the county 911 operation, which employs 60 people and is based in a building near the Gracedale Nursing Home, could be expanded by as much as one-third if the project goes through. Expanding the center was first discussed by county officials in 2008, he noted.
A 10,000-square-foot garage would be constructed next to the existing building, and a hallway would connect the two structures, Mateff said.
Harp said some operations and equipment would be moved from the existing building into the new garage, and that equipment stored in three or four small garages spread around the Gracedale campus would be moved into the new climate-controlled garage, where it could be better maintained.
Council president John Cusick said the project will allow the center "to accommodate additional technology and possibly additional personnel."
Before the vote, Cusick urged Mateff to invite the victor in the Bethlehem mayoral contest and the winners of the city council races to tour the county Emergency Services Center. "I believe the city could save money by going along like the rest of the county with regionalization of [emergency] services," said Cusick, who has been trying for years to persuade the city to abandon its own 911 service.
Mateff pointed out that many candidates for office in Bethlehem have already toured the center at his invitation, but he promised to re-invite them.
In other business, council approved contracts for rehab work on two bridges that span the Monocacy Creek.
Bi-State Construction, of Forks Twp., Northampton Co., will be paid $195,150 to replace steel bearings on a bridge in downtown Bethlehem in the area where Musikfest is held each year, while Grace Industries, of East Allen Twp., Northampton Co., will be paid $19,938 to replace the existing overlay on a bridge along Blossom Road in Upper Nazareth Township.