AASD can follow lead by AMED

Criticism and second-guessing of the decision-making process leading up to the controversial construction-renovation project currently underway in the Altoona Area School District seems destined to continue for years after the project’s completion. The total cost, which exceeds $80 million, does not sit well with many district taxpayers, regardless of how it ultimately will benefit the school system’s educational mission.

Many taxpayers paid attention to developments as the planning proceeded, but many probably still don’t comprehend fully the challenges the district has been facing for years and the additional challenges district officials envisioned for the future.

As with the school district, many people — probably, it is safe to say, most people — do not understand fully the issues, current realities and projections surrounding AMED’s — the Altoona Mobile Emergency Department — decision to construct a new facility, rather than remaining attached physically, although not operationally, to the Lakemont Volunteer Fire Company.

Likewise, probably most people of AMED’s ambulance-coverage area probably are not up to date on why AMED intended initially to embark on a $110,000 project involving an addition to the Lakemont fire station but will be ending up with a new, separate organizational-headquarters facility on Shand Avenue at Reimer Street costing $3.4 million.

This editorial will not rehash the considerations leading up to AMED’s ultimate decisions; Mirror reporter William Kibler provided a good explanation in a front-page article in Sunday’s edition.

The central point on which this editorial seeks to dwell is the good judgment of AMED board member Dr. Dave Cowger in urging that the ambulance service document the rationale for its various major decisions leading to the larger-than-originally-intended project.

Cowger admits that for him it’s a personal matter. He wants to protect his legacy as a member of the AMED authority that embarked on such a major initiative, should changes in the nation’s health-care situation invalidate authority presumptions that made the expanded effort seem the logical best step at this time.

But all authority members and other management personnel who offered input on how to proceed should welcome Cowger’s idea and concern.

People of the AMED coverage map must understand that decisions weren’t rooted in grandiose, Taj Mahal-like thinking but rather on practical needs for the ambulance service, going forward.

Altoona has been growing in most elements of its existence since the mid-1960s, and AMED has been growing along with it in terms of needed capabilities and the excellent-quality service it provides.

AMED, which was formed in March 1969 by what was then Altoona Hospital and the former Mercy Hospital, with an ambulance located at each facility, now operates with 10 ambulances, more than 60 emergency medical technicians and paramedics, wheelchair vans, a mass-casualty trailer and a command vehicle.

Meanwhile, AMED leaders over the years have been exemplary in the management of that vital community entity, in the same way that current leaders have acted diligently and responsibly in what currently is underway.

No decision — by AMED or any other entity — is immune to second-guessing either in the short- or longer-term, and a time will come when no current authority member still will be serving.

AMED is rightly considering compilation of an in-house report detailing the project’s decision-making, and perhaps such a document also would be beneficial to the Altoona Area School District.


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