Gaming grants make their way to Back Mtn.

First Posted: 3/18/2012

Two municipalities in the Back Mountain were awarded grant money Tuesday from gaming fund revenues for projects that will benefit the entire community.

One of the big-ticket items to receive funding is the Back Mountain Community Partnership’s plans for a regional emergency management center – $975,000 was allocated toward the project.

Vice Chairman John Wilkes Jr. said the project wouldn’t have been able to get off the ground without any financial support, though the group initially requested about $1,229,000.

“We’re absolutely tickled with the generosity we did get,” he said. “Without the amount of money we did receive, it wasn’t going to go anywhere.”

The center is planned to be located at a former medical building off Route 118 in Lehman Township. Dallas Fire & Ambulance Inc. purchased the building in 2010 with the hopes of eventually building a similar center. The project also includes the construction of a pole building on the 9-acre property.

The space will be used for equipment and medical supply storage, partnership and other civic organization meetings, emergency responder training, sleeping quarters for evacuees and a control center for the Back Mountain Regional Emergency Management Agency.

Mark Van Etten, president of Dallas Fire & Ambulance Inc., said the project is the first he knows of in terms of regional emergency cooperation.

“Back Mountain communities are willing to be able to enhance their emergency response and services to Back Mountain residents at no additional cost to taxpayers on a joint regional basis,” he said. “This is a great day for the Back Mountain and its residents.”

Wilkes said the facility and supplies will also be available to neighboring municipalities in the event of an emergency, not just the six member municipalities.

“There are no borders in an emergency,” he said.

The partnership consists of Dallas Borough and Dallas, Franklin, Jackson, Kingston and Lehman townships.

The project was developed after the series of natural disasters throughout the northeast, including tropical storms Irene and Lee.

“After the events of last year, we saw a huge potential for the Back Mountain to be severed off from the rest of the county during emergencies,” said Partnership Chairman James Reino Jr. “This will make disaster-handling a much easier function and we’ll have a much more rapid deployment of resources.”

Harveys Lake Borough received $78,220 to renovate an unused recreation center for police department use.

Council President Larry Radel said no solid plans have been put into place for the project, and there were no plans to pursue it if the grant money wasn’t awarded.

Radel said the plan is to renovate the building and move the police headquarters to the site, located near Lake-Noxen Elementary School, a Little League field and the municipal garage.

“It kind of makes sense to relocate the police department to an area that requires surveillance and makes it a safer environment for children,” said Radel.

Mayor Clarence Hogan said the building itself is made of cinder blocks and concrete, which will also provide a safer environment for officers.

“The building they’re in now, it’s served us very well, but it’s just not safe enough to have the office in there, in a wooden structure,” he said. “It is more ideal to move them into the (recreation) building.”

He said much of the work needed to complete the project will be on the interior, noting the building recently had a roof replacement. Hogan said the building was constructed in the late 1970s and has been vacant for about a year.

Hogan and Radel said the building will offer a better work environment for officers, including interrogation rooms, upgraded facilities and other perks.

Radel said the borough is “on a tight budget” already, but he hopes the project will get off the ground before summer.

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