Malicious virus threats a concern, Luzerne County IT head says

By Jennifer Learn-Andes -
Luzerne County Courthouse -

Advanced threat protection costing approximately $26,000 a year has been added to Luzerne County government’s proposed contract renewal with Microsoft Corp. out of necessity, county Information Technology Director Mauro DiMauro told council last week.

Cases of hackers and scammers seeking personnel and bank account data or attempting to disrupt operations have increased, DiMauro said at the work session.

“We’re starting to see more and more targeted attacks that are aimed towards Luzerne County and other counties and other government agencies,” DiMauro said. “We don’t think we can afford to not have this new protection.”

The protection package extends beyond typical virus scans because Microsoft will proactively analyze threats and attempt to stop them before they hit the county’s system, including new threats not yet recorded in anti-virus signature files, he said.

• Under the proposed three-year contract with Microsoft, the county would pay $1.328 million from July 2018 through June 2021 for software acquisition and operating system licensing. DiMauro said. Approximately 41 percent of the expense will be covered by state, federal and other funding.

Instead of buying desktop personal computers already loaded with software, the county in 2015 switched to devices known as “thin clients” that hook up to monitors and retrieve data and updated software stored on central servers.

Council is expected to vote on the contract at its May 22 meeting.

• County council appointed five citizens to outside boards last week: Neil Kaufer, Recreational Facilities Advisory Board; Francis Scarnulis and John Bonin, Children and Youth Advisory Board; Karen Metta, Ethics Commission; and Joseph Cotter, Convention Center Authority.

• Continued delays redoing the deteriorating county-owned Chase Road in Jackson Township came up during last week’s work session.

The project has been approved for 80 percent state funding, and county officials have submitted all requested plans, sometimes more than once, said county Manager C. David Pedri. At this point, construction is set for the end of the 2018 season.

Pedri said the administration has been working with the state Department of Transportation on the project for three years.

“This is the number one road we receive the most phone calls on,” Pedri said. “It needs assistance. I really hope PennDOT comes through for us,” Pedri said, attributing some of the delay to changes in state engineers assigned to the project.

• A roof replacement at the county-owned Penn Place Building on the corner of Market Street and Pennsylvania Avenue in Wilkes-Barre is scheduled to begin this week, Pedri said.

• A council majority voted last week for a $249,389 budget reserve transfer needed to purchase 220 electronic poll books from Election Systems & Software. The machines will speed up and improve voter processing on Election Day, officials have said.

Councilman Harry Haas was among the nine council members supporting the transfer, saying he expects the books to yield efficiency savings and reduce long lines, particularly in presidential elections.

• County Operational Services Division Head Edmund O’Neill told council he sought a proposed contract to lock in fixed rates for natural gas through UGI Energy Services because the rate quadrupled during January due to cold temperatures and high demand.

UGI will provide the fixed price on May 22, the day council is set to vote on the contract. The estimated price was $3.053 per dekatherm (dth) but dropped to $3 the day of last week’s work session.

• The county has added $5.77 million in real estate to the tax rolls to date using a new software program that detects missed property based on aerial photographs, said county Budget/Finance Division Head Brian Swetz.

This equates to $34,500 in additional county tax revenue, he said. School districts and municipalities also receive additional revenue for properties picked up in their jurisdictions.

County officials have predicted revenue from added properties eventually would exceed the $50,000 software purchase from Rochester-based Pictometry International Corp.

Luzerne County Courthouse County Courthouse

By Jennifer Learn-Andes

Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.

Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.