New PEMA headquarters rising up in Susquehanna Township - abc27 WHTM

New PEMA headquarters rising up in Susquehanna Township

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"This is gonna be the new headquarters of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency," said PEMA Director Glenn Cannon as he looked at a swarm of construction workers and a crane busily building a structure off Elmerton Avenue in Susquehanna Township.

Just a construction site now, it'll be open for business and about 200 employees next summer.

It will be 132,000 square feet at a cost of $42 million and will have another $10 million in equipment and furnishings.

Cannon insist it is money well spent. "Taxpayers can know it's a tool that will allow the state to support their local governments to make their communities safer."

For the past 15 years, Cannon says, PEMA has spent $1.4 million a year renting a building, also in Susquehanna Township. He says it's too small and ill-equipped for 21st Century emergency management.

"We cannot do the things we need to do in the building we're in today."

The new headquarters will be state-of-the-art on state-owned land near the Farm Show Complex. So far, it's on budget and state employees are working hard to keep it that way.

"We have a combination of factors to make sure that commonwealth taxpayers are getting the best bargain for their dollars in terms of this building or any other building that's using taxpayer dollars," said Troy Thompson, spokesman for the Department of General Services which oversees the project.

Whether its hurricanes, blizzards, cars stuck on icy highways or a terrorist attack, officials need real-time information, real fast. This new facility will house various agencies under one roof working together.

"You need to have enough capability to overcome whatever the threat is," Cannon said. "If you don't, your rescue mission becomes a body recovery mission and that's not acceptable."

One possibility Cannon has to accept is that although he helped get the project off the drawing board and broke ground on it, another governor's PEMA Director may be cutting the ribbon on it next summer, when it's scheduled to open.

"It is gonna stink," Cannon conceded at the prospect of Governor Corbett losing in November and a new administration opening a building that Corbett shepherded through the process.

"What you hope is after you build a high-performance race car like this, if you turn the keys over to somebody they don't drive it into the wall in the first turn. But other than that, I fully expect to be here to open the building and make sure it's operational."

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