The district attorney’s office received permission from county commissioners to purchase four items to assist in their investigative work.

Jon Hess, chief county detective, presented four contracts for various hardware and software items to enhance their jobs. All four items, to be paid via a grant, were approved Thursday, April 6, by the commissioners at their biweekly meeting.

The county’s detective bureau is based within the DA’s office.

Hess said the first item to be purchased is a 3D laser crime scene scanner that can be used in any investigation.

“It recreates crime scenes – including outdoor crime scenes – and it recreates crime scenes virtually, basically,” said Hess. “It shoots lasers and measures and is accurate within millimeters or inches, anyway.”

Paperwork filed by the DA’s office with the commissioners noted the purchase includes operational equipment and accessories, associated computer and software for implementation and downloads of evidence, and incorporated training hours for the device. The bid was awarded to Collision Forensic Solutions of Papillion, Nebraska, in the amount of $105,551.77.

The second item is cellphone extraction software from Cellebrite, an Israeli-based digital software company, at a cost of $29,100. The software is designed to open the cellphones of a crime victim or missing child. 

“We currently use Cellebrite, but this is some extended options, so we’ll be able to unlock phones,” Hess said. “If we have a deceased victim, we can unlock their phone and access their phone without their pass codes and then extract information. Missing children, if we have their phone, we can unlock their phone and access their phone.”

Commissioner Jo Ellen Litz later asked, after Hess’s presentation, if the software would be used in a case where a person is deceased but no crime was committed. Hess said no, adding that the agreement is for a limited number of opens per year and is intended for use involving “serious crimes” or “endangered people.” 

The third purchase is for video enhancement software that will permit county detectives to unlock video evidence of a crime scene. The bid will be awarded to Axon Enterprise Inc. of Scottsdale, Arizona, at a cost of $31,980. The bid document says the purchase includes software for the extraction, conversion, enhancement, download, storage and review of video evidence; equipment and required accessories for utilization of software, training and maintenance.

“There’s so many proprietary systems out there for surveillance, so when we get video surveillance from a crime scene, we may have difficulty opening it,” said Hess. “So, this software is pretty much universal and they keep it up to date and it allows us to open almost any surveillance video.”

The final item is the purchase of 10 license plate readers that will be installed at intersections around Lebanon County. Hess noted that similar readers are being used in several municipalities across the county, including Palmyra Borough and North Cornwall Township.

“Basically, these will be statically positioned at an intersection and they will record the vehicle and the license plates as they go through,” said Hess. “They can tell an officer that’s nearby that an expired registration just went through. If we are looking for a particular suspect vehicle or a missing person vehicle, we can historically search the records.” 

This bid was awarded to Platelogiq LLC of Exton for $105,000. This bid includes the cameras, hardware and software, required accessories to monitor at five designated intersections, installation, maintenance, technological support and a five-year minimum warranty required purchase. Hess noted that the grant covers the first two years of the warranty with the municipalities picking up the cost for the final three years of the agreement.

The commissioners also signed off on a number of debt payments for a variety of bonds and loans administered through the county’s treasurer’s office. The approved payments were all from the general fund with interest payments due on April 15 for the following bonds or loans:

  • $669,874.30, general obligation bond, 2021 bank loan held in Fulton Financial to pay interest. 
  • $163,957.17, general obligation bond, Series of 2016 bank loan, held in Fulton Financial to pay principal and interest.
  • $27,653.54, general obligation bond, Series of 2017 bank loan, held in Fulton Financial to pay interest. 
  • $13,013.33, Fulton Bank loan, held by Fulton Bank to pay principal and interest. 
  • $3,066.25, general obligation bond, Series A of 2015 bank loan, held in Fulton Financial. 

In other business related to the treasurer’s office, the commissioners approved a resolution to change the signers for the Lebanon County Correctional Facility, and agreed to an intermunicipal agreement with Lebanon School District to collect real estate taxes on behalf of the school district. 

Treasurer Sallie Neuin noted her office has been collecting for West Lebanon Township, which is located in Lebanon School District, and this move adds all other municipalities within the district. Lebanon School District is the first of the six county-based school districts to have the county collect real estate taxes on their behalf.       

Concerning other action items, the commissioners agreed to:

  • Enter into an agreement with Greater Lebanon Refuse Authority to lease land from the authority for $1 per year for a countywide law enforcement shooting range. The leased premises will extend 200 feet from the west property line and south 550 feet from the north property line, forming a 110,000-square-foot rectangular-shaped lot in the northwest corner of the property. Access will be from the recycling center traveling south along the top of the water management berm to the leased premises. 
  • Match $143,300 from a state grant to operate Lebanon Transit for fiscal year 2023-24. The funds are distributed quarterly by the county in the amount of $35,858.25. In a separate action item involving Lebanon Transit, commissioners voted to reappoint David Warner and Jason Kratzer to the transit board. Their terms expired on Jan. 31.
  • Approve a bridge repair project on Hammer Creek, Heidelberg Township, in the amount of $36,240 to be paid through the county’s liquid fuels tax program to Wilson Consulting Group of Mechanicsburg for engineering and other direct costs not associated with the company’s payroll.
  • Accept the following applications for county aid from the following municipalities for highway projects to be conducted in the coming year. The requests are listed by municipality, project description, total estimated project cost and allocation requested approved by the commissioners: South Lebanon Township, purchase ice control salt, $13,289.86 project cost; $10,416 allocated by the county; and Myerstown Borough, general road maintenance, $3,094 project cost; $3,094 allocated by the county.  
  • Pay $5,200 to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection to spray along Swatara Creek as part of the black fly suppression program administered by the state. 
  • Pass a hotel tax grant request of $3,000 for the 75th anniversary celebration event for the Barbershop Quartet of Music in Lebanon County program as performed by the Lebanon Singing Cedar Chorus on Sept. 16.
  • Announce a joint passport acceptance and Pennsylvania firearm license permit registration day on behalf of the prothonotary and sheriff departments at the county building on Saturday, April 29. Employees who work that day will be awarded flex time. The sheriff’s office will be open from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and the prothonotary’s office hours will run from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Appoint the following new members to the Lebanon County Commission for Women, effective April 23: Natasha Beaumont of Lebanon, Tatianna Garcia of Ephrata, and Alicia Horney of Jonestown.
  • Appoint Andrea Anderson to the Lebanon County Mental Health/Intellectual Disabilities/Early Intervention board for a three-year term ending on Dec. 31, 2025.
  • Approve one real estate tax exemption for a fully disabled veteran.
  • Accept the treasurer’s report and the minutes of their March 16 meeting.
Lebanon County Probation Officer Ethan Weidle (center) is recognized Thursday at the county commissioners’ meeting with a proclamation recognizing 21-plus years of service in the probation department. Weidle is retiring from the department, and the proclamation was issued to recognize “the outstanding service he provided during his many years of service to the county.” Pictured with Weidle are President Judge John Tylwalk (left) and Audrey Fortna, director of Lebanon County Probation Services, both of whom noted in remarks that Weidle’s dedication and service will be missed. (James Mentzer)
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James Mentzer is a freelance writer whose published works include the books Pennsylvania Manufacturing: Alive and Well; Bucks County: A Snapshot in Time; United States Merchant Marine Academy: In Service to the Nation 1943-2018; A Century of Excellence: Spring Brook Country Club 1921-2021; and Lancaster...