New centrally-located EMA building built with state gambling revenues

First Posted: 8/7/2014

Residents driving on Route 118 past the Luzerne County Fairgrounds probably have noticed a newly-remodeled building at the site of the former Nesbitt Medical Clinic.

The building is the new home of the Back Mountain Regional Fire and EMS and is being built by Champion Builders in Kingston.

The land and building were purchased six years ago for under $200,000 by Dallas Fire and Ambulance which was looking for extra storage space for its vehicles, says Mark Van Etten, president of the board of directors of Back Mountain Regional Fire and EMS.

Three years ago, after Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Ivan barreled through the area, leaving many without water and power for weeks, the Back Mountain Community Partnership talked about the idea of a self-sufficient Back Mountain emergency building.

“If there is one thing I am most proud of, it’s the work I did to help get this building started,” said Jim Reino, a Kingston Township supervisor.

Meeting with members of the Back Mountain Community Partnership (which includes most Back Mountain towns), Reino suggested the area apply for a state grant for gambling money. He suggested they ask for $2 million to build a multiple-use building that would serve as a self-sufficient emergency center, a storage facility for emergency vehicles and a meeting house for training and community groups.

The reasoning was that in an emergency the Back Mountain could not count on help from the Wilkes-Barre area where towns would have their hands full dealing with challenges.

The new facility has two meeting rooms that can accommodate 25 to 85 people, about 100 chairs, is self-sufficient with back up generators, gas power and will house at least one ambulance “medic” unit at all times. The building also has security and surveillance capabilities for municipal meetings. The fire station on Lake and Center Hill Road in Dallas will continue to operate.

“This is a great thing,” Reino said. “We needed an EMA building. Now we can be anywhere in the Back Mountain within seven to 10 minutes, from this location.”

Future plans call for more bays to accommodate extra emergency vehicles. Van Etten says the project so far has cost $1,250,000. Two thirds of the money came from the state gaming funds and the rest from Dallas Fire and Ambulance.

In case of a natural disaster, the facility will be used to distribute water, provide showers, a few generators will be available and it will be a communication center.

A bonus feature is a decorative stone and brick vehicle bay sided with full glass windows which will be the permanent home for the well-loved, historic 1927 Mack firetruck, the Dr. Henry M. Laing.

The truck is named after Dr. Henry Laing, a Dallas physician who lived on Lake Street and whose wife offered $1,000 if the fire company could be named after her husband. The Dr. Henry M. Laing Fire Company was organized in 1927 and later became the Dallas Fire and Ambulance Company.

Dr. Laing’s father, Dr James Laing, a surgeon, was the last doctor to drive a horse and buggy in Dallas for his whole life from 1831 to 1909 and was known to operate on patients with his pocket knife on kitchen tables when necessary.

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