The Bern Township Board of Supervisors gave conditional approval to UGI Utilities, Inc.’s site plan on Tuesday for construction of a new Training Center complex on a 40-acre site on Stinson Road.

While additional steps regarding permitting and site development are still necessary before UGI can begin construction, UGI is hopeful that groundbreaking can take place in the Fall. Construction of the facility is expected to take approximately one year.

“UGI thanks the members of the Bern Township Board of Supervisors, the Planning Commission, and the Municipal Authority for their hard work and cooperation in helping to make this project possible,” Hans Bell, UGI Chief Operating Officer, said. “This new state-of-the-art Training Center will help ensure UGI continues to provide safe and reliable natural gas service across our 45-county Pennsylvania service area.”

The Training Center will be anchored by a 47,500 square foot Training Building. The Training Building will include seven classrooms and two lecture rooms that can open into a single large space that can seat approximately 135 people in a classroom-style setting. Four labs within the building will accommodate specific UGI departments, including Construction and Maintenance, Safety, Service, and Meter and Regulation training programs.

The Training Center will also include a number of facilities and features that will provide employees with “hands-on” training experiences designed to simulate real-life situations.

For example, one innovative feature of the Center will be “Safety Town.” Safety Town will prepare employees on how to deal with various scenarios they may encounter in the field.

Three townhouse-style buildings with full basements will be used as simulators to allow participants to experience various types of emergency situations and apply appropriate remediation techniques. A separate Safety Town office building includes a classroom where participants can review the video of their performance.

Other features of the facility include: Training areas for firefighting instruction, pipe corrosion and protection, and backhoe excavation. A separate 10,500 square foot Welding Building available for training on welding, stopping, and capping natural gas lines. Two indoor pits to simulate confined-space welding.

“The new Training Center represents a significant milestone in UGI’s commitment to enhancing our safety culture,” Bell said. “In addition, this facility will provide the best possible preparation for our current and future workforce and constitutes an important investment for UGI Utilities as we move forward.”

UGI is purchasing the land from the Greater Berks Development Fund, an affiliate of the Greater Berks Chamber Alliance.

“This is a tremendous project for a great company,” Dan Langdon, Chairman of the GBDF, said. “We are fortunate to have this quality development be our initial venture in Bern Township.”

“UGI is setting a very high standard with this project,” Ed Swoyer, President of the GBDF, said. “We will endeavor to emulate their effort on the 60 or so remaining acres we have available.”