HARRISBURG (JUNE 25) – Today state Senator Lisa Boscola (D-Northampton) and Senator Pat Browne (R-Lehigh) voted in favor of House Bill 911 which updates the state’s 911 system.  More importantly, the bill, as amended in the Senate earlier this month, preserves the City of Bethlehem’s and the City of Allentown’s stand-alone 911 systems with the ultimate goal of working with Lehigh and Northampton Counties towards a regional Lehigh Valley 911 Center.

Following a unanimous vote (49-0) on concurrence in the state Senate today (June 25), the bill now heads to the Governor for his signature.

“911 systems serve as the backbone of public safety operations in the two biggest cities in the Lehigh Valley,” Boscola said. “While the version that passed the House initially eliminated both City systems, Senator Browne and I worked across the aisle with help from Senators Mario Scavello (R-Monroe) and Randy Vulakovich (R-Allegheny) to keep the systems in place.”

“I want to thank my colleagues in the Senate, specifically Senators Boscola, Scavello and Vulakovich, for helping to get the amendment into the legislation and for recognizing the importance of two long-standing 911 Dispatch Centers located in the cities of Allentown and Bethlehem,” Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Pat Browne said. “Allowing these two cities to continue to receive state funding along with the state’s 67 counties through the Commonwealth’s 911 Emergency Communications Law, ensures that residents of each city are receiving fast and accurate response when calls are place to 911 in an emergency.

“I also want to thank my colleagues in the state House of Representatives, specifically the bill sponsor Representative Steve Barrar (R-Delaware) and Representative Peter Schweyer (D-Lehigh), for helping keep the amended language and Allentown’s and Bethlehem’s ability to provide these critical emergency services in the bill.”

Representatives from the cities of Bethlehem and Allentown, along with the counties of Lehigh and Northampton have indicated that they will be commissioning an independent study to evaluate each of the four 911 centers. The study will evaluate the current operations of each center and explore how the cities and the counties can work together to share and consolidate services, equipment and personnel as a region.

“The Allentown and Bethlehem 911 call centers are an integral part of the public safety network in the Lehigh Valley. Allowing them to remain independent for the next four years is most wise,” Schweyer said. “I wholeheartedly thank my colleagues from the Senate for their bipartisan efforts in ensuring their continued operation.”

The funding for the Bethlehem and Allentown 911 dispatch centers contained in House Bill 911 will allow the discussions of regional sharing to continue at the local level with the people who work directly in these public safety environments and have first-hand knowledge of how best to conserve resources without sacrificing services.

“I want to take this opportunity to thank Senator Boscola and Senator Browne for their efforts in getting the City of Bethlehem’s 911 Communications Center back into the legislation as a stand-alone center,” Bethlehem Mayor Robert Donchez said. “The city will continue to discuss with Northampton County the legislation and effects on both 911 operations.”

Senator Boscola echoed Senator Browne’s and Representative Schweyer’s acknowledgements that this took a full bipartisan effort.

“I have been in Harrisburg some time now and I have learned that working cooperatively behind the scenes is often the way to get the important work of the people done,” Boscola noted.

The Governor will have 10 days to sign this legislation into law or veto it.  Failure to do either will cause the bill to become law automatically.

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