Posted by Reblog: Lehigh Valley News.
Northampton County Council members approved a bond in June that included $4 million for five permanent generators at the Upper Nazareth Township nursing home.
Four months after Northampton County Council took out a bond to finance the installation of new generators at Gracedale, the county is still ill-prepared for an emergency scenario at the nursing home.
The Upper Nazareth Township facility had to rely on generators provided by FEMA for days after its own failed following the devastation of Superstorm Sandy last year. Even then, some crucial systems like heat were not operational until regular power was restored, said Administrator Millard D. Freeman. Elected officials addressed the generators by borrowing $4 million for five new generators as part of an $11.4 million bond in June.
But, during a finance committee meeting tonight, Director of Public Works Steve DeSalva informed council members the county has not even sent out a request for proposals for the project.
The news drew frustrated responses from council members. Councilman Robert Werner, a member of the Gracedale advisory committee, said the county should have learned what it needed for a request for proposals before the bond was even approved. Pushing it back until now could leave Gracedale residents in a life-or-death scenario if another prolonged blackout occurs, he said.
“We should have had this done four months ago,” he said.
DeSalva said the prolonged request for proposals process has been educational, as it allows him to gather information from other engineers about possible solutions. The county also knew the generators were dated before Sandy struck last year, he said, but that they had been pushed to the back burner.
“I have to be brutally honest with you. We are no better prepared now than we were last year,” DeSalva said.
Freeman noted that he currently has a portable generator ready to go in case the permanent ones should fail during an outage. He also noted that generator power does not restore the building’s heat or cooling but that could probably be addressed with some minor changes. Temperatures were still mild when Sandy knocked out power in 2012, so the county did not have to evacuate the building.
Frustration over a lack of progress on capital improvement projects has become a running theme among council members. Tonight, the council members also spent a lengthy period asking why elevator repairs at Gracedale still have not begun two and a half years after problems were first reported. Earlier this month, council members learned repair projects at Northampton County Prison scheduled for completion this year still hadn’t begun.
Council President John Cusick, who is leaving office at the end of this year, recommended to current members they form an active capital improvement committee in 2014. The current committee has not met in eight years, according to county council records.