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Township supervisors give ok to shared emergency command post vehicle

By Len Righi, WFMZ.com Reporter
Published On: Sep 05 2013 11:22:57 PM CDT
Updated On: Sep 06 2013 06:42:21 AM CDT
Upper Macungie Township Supervisors

Upper Macungie Township Supervisors

UPPER MACUNGIE TWP., Pa. -

The second of two Lehigh County townships is officially on board with a plan to spend a half-million dollars on an emergency command post vehicle they would share.

Upper Macungie Township supervisors voted unanimously Thursday night to endorse the plan that was approved by neighboring South Whitehall Township's board of commissioners 24 hours earlier.

The townships will use different methods to pay their respective shares for the high-tech vehicle with meeting room for 12 to 14.

South Whitehall's portion will cost each taxpayer $4.73 this year and $6.76 each of the next four years, if no other funding is secured from state, federal or private sources.

Upper Macungie supervisors decided to pay the township's portion from the Local Services Tax fund, so that no property taxes would be used.

Supervisors vice chairman Samir Ashmar said $50,000 has already been allocated from the fund in the 2013 budget, and another $200,000 would be drawn from it to cover Upper Macungie's contribution over the next four years.

The fund currently has a balance of $1.6 million, and is expected to grow by another $500,000 by the end of the year, said Ashmar.

The money in the fund comes from the $1 a week tax collected from the paychecks of people who work in the township, explained supervisor Kathy A. Rader. The levy used to be known as the occupational privilege tax, she noted.

Earlier in the meeting, the supervisors listened to a 15-minute presentation by South Whitehall emergency management director Jim Kelly laying out the need for such a vehicle and why the two townships should cooperate in getting one.

Kelly noted the similarities in the populations of the two municipalities, and said the vehicle could be used during large-scale weather emergencies, major fires and other sizable threats to public safety, as well as to handle events where large numbers of people gather, including those at Dorney Park and Parkland High School.

Kelly said he and his counterpart in Upper Macungie, Grant Grim, would try to get local corporations to contribute to the cost of the vehicle.

He said that two years ago, when the plan to buy the vehicle was first floated, corporations indicated they would pony up $10,000 to $15,000 a year. "But they wanted to see a commitment from the townships before they were willing to commit," he said.

Kelly pegged the annual cost to run and maintain the command post vehicle at $5,700, which the townships would split 50-50.

He added that the Cetronia Ambulance Squad has offered to keep the vehicle at its command center for free.

After the meeting, Ashmar said if all goes well, he expects the emergency command post vehicle to go into operation by the beginning of 2015.