AMED hopes to make bid soon

Construction could begin in October

AMED hopes to advertise soon for bids for construction of its proposed ambulance substation on Shand Avenue in Lakemont — a building that will also house the authority’s overall headquarters, which are now on Seventh Avenue in Altoona.

The advertisements could run in two or three weeks, so construction could begin in October and end as early as April on the $2 million facility, depending on the weather this winter, said AMED Executive Director Gary Watters at a meeting Monday.

But approvals for land development, environmental impact and an emergency exit driveway all need to be obtained before going to bid, said architect Dave Albright, who declined to predict when the ads would run or construction would begin.

It would be nice if the Farmers’ Almanac is wrong and this winter turns out mild, given the probable construction schedule, Watters said.

Albright is 75 percent finished with the final drawings, but there have been “hurdles,” he said.

Those include the requirement for environmental impact clearance, which was thought at first to be unnecessary, Albright said.

Environmental impact clearance is required for projects of an acre or more, and the property is a little less than an acre, he said.

But a bigger parking lot, sidewalk construction and especially the access driveway to Park Avenue pushed the project over the threshold, he said.

The access driveway, intended mainly to keep ambulances heading out on calls with their sirens wailing and their lights flashing from going through the nearby residential neighborhood “seems like a no-brainer,” Albright said.

But there’s no guarantee PennDOT will approve, he said.

A consultant hired by AMED is currently working on a study required for obtaining the driveway permit, he said.

Design challenges have included establishment of security and flow controls, given that there will be first responders stationed at the building 24 hours a day, administrators stationed there during daylight and EMS workers and community members coming at various hours to a training room, Albright indicated.

The law requires two bid advertisements in each of two newspapers, but Albright will recommend supplementing those with notices in the builders’ exchanges in Altoona, Pittsburgh and Harrisburg and with notices in the Dodge Report and Connect Construction Pages, national publications with a regional distribution, Albright said.

Advertising more widely can generate more competitive bids, although it can also generate bids from firms about whose reputations are unknown locally, he said.

“You’re kind of at the mercy of whoever responds,” Albright said.

State law requires that the general, plumbing, electrical and HVAC contracts be separate, according to Albright and Watters.

That requirement, applicable to public projects, with variations for governmental types and project size,

probably stems from lobbying from trade groups, Albright said.

The bid advertisements will determine the remainder of the schedule, Albright indicated.

They can’t be done until required approvals are set, because the bids are only good for 30 or 60 days, as contractors can’t hold their prices any longer, Albright indicated.

AMED is building the Lakemont facility because it moved out of its former rental space in the Lakemont Volunteer Fire Company station, because the fire company needed more space and the parties couldn’t reach an agreement on expansion of the station that would have been paid for by a rental increase for 10 years — due to the lack of a guarantee that AMED could remain after that.

AMED left in May before its lease expired and is now working out of an office near the ticket booths at Lakemont Park.

Ambulances remain outdoors, which means that medications must be brought inside between runs to avoid temperature problems and the ambulances themselves must be kept warm in winter for the comfort of patients, Watters said.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.

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