Addressing Cybersecurity Concerns in Lowell City Council Meeting

Members of the Lowell City Council gathered in the Council Chamber at City Hall for their first meeting of the term on Jan. 2, 2024. The councilors in attendance included Councilor Kimberly Scott, Vice Mayor Paul Ratha Yem, Mayor Dan Rourke, Councilor Sokhary Chau, Councilor Rita Mercier, Councilors Corey Robinson, Erik Gitschier, Wayne Jenness, John Leahy, Vesna Nuon, and John Descoteaux. (Aleah Landry photo)

In a focused meeting at City Hall Tuesday night, the Lowell City Council discussed various matters pertaining to the city. The agenda featured only seven motions, a significant departure from previous meetings that typically had over 25 motions for action by City Manager Tom Golden and his team.

Unlike the previous term, this council is adopting a strategy similar to the School Committee, sending more items back to the front office for clarification or revision and to subcommittees for further consideration.

Two ordinances, related to amending the fee schedule for residential parking signs and parking rates, were returned to Golden’s office for review. Another ordinance proposing the creation of a deputy chief information officer position was referred to the Technologies and Utilities Subcommittee for further discussion.

Golden provided an update on the city’s recovery efforts following a cyberattack last April that disrupted the municipal network.

“We’re currently out of disaster recovery mode and on the right track. We successfully rebuilt our system without significant data loss,” he reported.

During discussions about implementing a 311 system and the status of Wi-Fi in the Senior Center, Chief Information Officer Mirán Fernandez highlighted the opportunity to enhance the city’s free Wi-Fi service following the cyberattack.

Fernandez explained that the service, initially established in 2004, was expanded to cover various locations across the city, including public buildings and schools. The service, intended to bridge the digital divide, was enhanced to accommodate high-demand activities like streaming and gaming.

Restoring the free Wi-Fi service required sourcing new equipment, licensing agreements, and collaboration with a state-approved vendor. The service is now operational across the city with some limitations and operating hours from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Councilor Erik Gitschier emphasized the need to reflect the Wi-Fi project in the MIS’s capital planning budget discussions, which are set to begin in May.

During the meeting, Assistant City Manager Shawn Machado informed the council that the Pollard Memorial Library elevator repairs were progressing, with expected repairs to the traveling cable and hydraulic jack by late April.

In another development, the council approved a National Grid request for a housing project at 733-735 Broadway St. The $30 million project, featuring affordable housing units, received unanimous approval from the council.

The meeting also provided an opportunity to recognize Women’s History Month, with Mayor Dan Rourke honoring Councilor Kim Scott and Councilor Rita Mercier for their contributions to the city.

Following the meeting, the council adjourned to executive session to discuss ongoing negotiations concerning the Senior Center ownership.

The Senior Center, owned by the city but under a lease agreement with City Barns Trust, has been a topic of concern for the council due to maintenance issues.

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