Luzerne County administration seeks more cameras, lighting for security

By Jennifer Learn-Andes -
Luzerne County Courthouse -

Luzerne County’s administration has asked council to fund two new security projects — cameras to monitor and record people in and around several county buildings and additional lighting outside the courthouse and annex in Wilkes-Barre.

The cameras would cost approximately $287,243, according to an agenda submission up for discussion at Tuesday’s work session.

More lighting, primarily for the courthouse and annex parking areas, would cost an estimated $449,500 to $714,500, depending on the scope, the agenda said.

The recommended funding source was not stated in the agenda packet.

Only $664,246 would be left in the capital projects budget if council approves another $1.3 million in work recommended by the administration — primarily parking lot repairs and additional courthouse restoration.

Meanwhile, county officials have not yet figured out how they will fund two more upcoming capital projects that the administration has said are unavoidable — new paper-trail voting machines estimated to cost $4 million and a 911 radio communications system overhaul projected at $20 million.

The county has nearly $5 million in reserve in this year’s budget — money that could be programmed for capital projects if it is not needed for emergencies. Another $1.2 million windfall is set to arrive soon from an expired tax-diversion program.

County administrators sought proposals for security cameras last September to get a handle on the cost.

County Sheriff Brian Szumski said at the time the current camera system was “incredibly outdated” and had coverage gaps.

With the exception of the prison and 911, the courthouse and several other county buildings rely on an insufficient number of cameras installed in 2001, officials have said.

In addition to the courthouse and annex, both on River Street, the following county-owned properties in Wilkes-Barre would receive additional cameras under the proposal: Bernard C. Brominski Building, North Street; Penn Place and the human services buildings, both on Pennsylvania Avenue; the courthouse parkade, Emergency Management Agency and voting machine warehouse — all on Water Street; and the engineering/road and bridge building, Reichard Street.

Also in the plans are the county’s new record storage building in Hanover Township and two Wilkes-Barre properties the county leases to house human service offices on State and Union streets, according to the proposal.

The combined $287,243 cost came from a proposal submitted by SimplexGrinnell, of Allentown, which was included in the agenda. The company said in its proposal it has extensive experience installing and maintaining video management systems, including projects at the county prison and county government buildings in neighboring Lackawanna County.

Architecture & Engineering Group, also known as A+E Group, in Plains Township prepared the budget estimate for the lighting project last month at the request of the county engineer’s office, the agenda said.

The company recommended more light poles and fixtures at the courthouse annex parking lot. The $109,500 estimate included a $90,000 budget, $6,000 for design fees and a 15 percent contingency of $13,500.

Its $605,000 estimate for the courthouse would cover additional lighting at the south lawn parking area, the courthouse lawn and rear courthouse parking lot. The budget was $500,000, with $30,000 for design and $75,000 for unanticipated overruns.

The cost could be reduced to $340,000 if the lawn lighting is omitted, A+E said.

County officials have beefed up security screening, protection and training at county buildings, in part due to a May bomb scare that turned out to be unfounded and a March 2017 firebombing at the county Children and Youth offices on Pennsylvania Avenue. The fire damaged the building but was quickly extinguished without injuries.

“We need to make sure our citizens and workers are safe,” county Manager C. David Pedri said Friday.

Luzerne County Courthouse County Courthouse

By Jennifer Learn-Andes

Luzerne County Council will discuss the request for cameras and lighting at Tuesday’s work session, which follows a 6 p.m. voting meeting at the county courthouse on River Street in Wilkes-Barre.

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

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