Shov­els in ground for foren­sics cen­ter in Northamp­ton County

The Morning Call - - LOCAL NEWS - By Tom Shortell

Thurs­day’s ground­break­ing for the $11 mil­lion Northamp­ton County foren­sics cen­ter had all the trap­pings of a typ­i­cal public works cer­e­mony. Lo­cal me­dia recorded and mem­bers of County Ex­ec­u­tive La­mont McClure’s ad­min­is­tra­tion ap­plauded as McClure, of­fi­cials in his cabinet and mem­bers of Northamp­ton County Coun­cil shifted a few clumps of dirt with gleam­ing chrome shov­els.

But un­like most ma­jor county public projects, this one took decades to get off the ground de­spite long­stand­ing bi­par­ti­san sup­port.

Over 23 of his 27 years in of­fice, Coro­ner Zachary Ly­sek lob­bied five county ex­ec­u­tives to build ad­e­quate space for his of­fice. As he waited, he re­lied on the charity of area hos­pi­tals, who pro­vide lab space for au­top­sies and room to store the de­ceased un­til their next of kin claim them. A di­lap­i­dated, ver­min-in­fested farm­house in Louise Moore Park pro­vides of­fice space, but not enough to store ev­i­dence, sup­plies and doc­u­ments for as long as Ly­sek would like.

That should change in Septem­ber 2020, when the 27,847square-foot foren­sics cen­ter in Up­per Nazareth Town­ship is com­pleted. The fa­cil­ity will pro­vide the county with two au­topsy rooms, a cooler to store bodies, view­ing ar­eas where peo­ple can iden­tify the dead, stor­age, of­fice space and a garage.

“For nearly 30 years, county coun­cils have re­peat­edly called for build­ing a foren­sics cen­ter but have never put their money were their mouth was,” McClure said.

Over the years, Ly­sek has stressed the need for the pri­vate meet­ing rooms, say­ing griev­ing fam­i­lies de­serve bet­ter. In the cur­rent of­fice, a clut­tered con­fer­ence room also serves as a lobby, ev­i­dence stor­age room and meet­ing space for fam­i­lies.

“This is an im­por­tant day. This ad­min­is­tra­tion is ad­dress­ing the needs of our of­fice,” he said. “Any fa­cil­ity that im­proves on what we have will be bet­ter.”

Sev­eral it­er­a­tions of county coun­cil have rec­og­nized the need for a morgue or foren­sics cen­ter but have faced set­backs. In 2013, then-Ex­ec­u­tive John Stoffa pre­sented the need for the foren­sics cen­ter a month af­ter coun­cil took out an $11.4 mil­lion bond to ad­dress bridges. Had the projects been tied to­gether, the county could have funded them both.

“It’s about time!” said Scott Par­sons, who served on coun­cil at the time but now works as deputy di­rec­tor of public works.

The foren­sics cen­ter could be the last ma­jor public works project the county tack­les for the next few years. Last year, the county re­struc­tured its fi­nances to buy its hu­man ser­vices build­ing in Bethlehem Town­ship, which it had been rent­ing. That cleared re­sources to build the foren­sics cen­ter. In ad­di­tion, the county razed the Milides build­ing across the street from the county court­house in Easton to make way for park­ing.

Morn­ing Call re­porter Tom Shortell can be reached at 610-820-6168 or tshort­[email protected]

AMY SHORTELL/THE MORN­ING CALL

Northamp­ton County Coro­ner Zachary Ly­sek, right, chats Thurs­day af­ter the ground­break­ing for a county foren­sic cen­ter, which is sched­uled to be com­pleted by Septem­ber 2020.

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