Cranberry ambulances are on the move.
The emergency services unit soon will relocate to a building being constructed by the township.
It's part of a plan to solidify an agreement that will bring the independent nonprofit into a closer relationship with municipal government.
"This is part of a cooperative effort between our two groups," said Cranberry manager Jerry Andree. "It's the fulfillment of a vision that [was crafted] in the mid-1990s."
The new building is to be constructed off Route 19, adjacent to the existing fire station. The township will pay for $1.6 million structure then lease it to the Cranberry Emergency Medical Service for $3,800 a month -- a figure that's below market rates, Mr. Andree said. He explained that the cost of the building will be recovered but at a slower pace.
In exchange for the five-year lease, the ambulance company will enter into an agreement with the township "assuring residents they will continue to bring the same quality services and performance" that residents receive from other first responders -- the police, which operate under the auspices of township government, and the fire department, which also is an independent, nonprofit group that receives annual funding from the township in the form of dedicated tax revenue.
Until now, the township's support of the ambulance company has been in the form of $25,000 of free fuel annually. That fuel subsidy will continue.
Mr. Andree said the new "closer" relationship helps the township to ensure a state-mandated service.
"It's a basic responsibility of township government to ensure top-notch public safety services. This is the third leg," he said.
The township paid about $4,000 in 2008 for an organizational review after the state Legislature passed an act clarifying the relationship between municipalities and ambulance services, calling for closer coordination.
At the time, the ambulance company's board of directors asked the township to partner on a long-range plan.
The ambulance company has had its share of troubles in recent years.
In March 2011, the former executive director was accused of a sexual assault. In 2007, an ambulance was involved in a fatal collision caused by a driver who was determined to have been drinking before her shift.
"They've had some organizational crises, but there's never been a degradation of the service. We want to ensure that that quality service continues," Mr. Andree said.
Cranberry EMS employs more than two dozen and has a handful of volunteers. The agency handles about 4,000 transport and emergency calls annually.
Planning director Ron Henshaw said the existing building used by the ambulance company, a rental property, is off Thomson Park Drive and is about half the size of the new building.
The 8,103-square-foot structure will have sleeping quarters for the crew and space for vehicles and offices.
"It will be a modern, up-to-date facility," Mr. Henshaw said.
The building will be ready for occupancy by fall.
Karen Kane: firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-772-9180.