Chicago Putting in 55 Million for Y2K Fix --- Chicago Tribune : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

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By Monica Davey Tribune Staff Writer April 9, 1999

When Chicago's $217 million 911 communication center opened in 1995, officials proudly described it as a "visionary" network that would carry the city's antiquated emergency system into a new technological age.

Four years later, Chicago plans to spend another $5 million to make the center Y2K compliant.

Beth Boatman, leader of the city's Year 2000 Project Team, on Thursday defended the extra cost as unavoidable.

Boatman's comments came as she described to aldermen, for the first time, Chicago's $55 million plan to avoid Y2K problems in areas ranging from the Police Department to City Hall.

Overall, Boatman said, officials are confident the city will be prepared. Although the mayor's office said only 10 to 15 percent of the problems identified by technicians have been fixed so far, officials maintained all the work should be done by the end of the summer.

"We might have minor disruptions, but we don't think it'll be this Armageddon," Boatman told the City Council Committee on Energy, Environmental Protection and Public Utilities. Later, she added: "We're feeling pretty good about where we're at. (The problem) is less drastic than people not working on it think it is. But there are no guarantees."

Officials said the city's water system--one of the biggest concerns for those working on Millennium Bug problems around the region--should not pose a threat. They did not discuss the city's two major airports Thursday.

Officials could not supply progress reports for each of the city's 50 departments, but Barrett Murphy of the mayor's office said nearly all the city's potential problems have been identified. Now, officials are concentrating on fixing them, he said.

Five million lines of computer software code are being rewritten. Security systems, automatic garage doors, elevators and escalators needed checking at 500 city buildings. Computer chips in 100 of the city's 2,760 stoplights are in the process of being swapped.

Four outside companies, including engineers and consultants, will complete most of the work, which began in 1996. The Y2K concerns stem from the way many computers are programmed to handle dates: With the arrival of Jan. 1, those machines would read the year 2000 as the year 1900.

At the emergency communications center, Murphy said, the $5 million will go to replace computer software and embedded computer chips in items such as police officers' hand-held computers.

Ald. Joe Moore (49th) questioned the need to spend another dime on the fortress-like facility at 1411 W. Madison St.

"This was a huge ticket item--sold to us as futuristic, `Star Wars' technology," Moore said. "We're paying top dollar for a system that they couldn't look four years in advance and know this was coming? It boggles my mind."

But Murphy said city officials had no choice. Y2K-compliant technology--both software and computer chips--was not available from the companies the city was buying from at the time, he said.

"Everybody has hindsight that's 20-20," Murphy said. "They spent a lot of money, but that was a number of years ago, and it was the industry standard at the time. People really weren't addressing Y2K in '94 and '95 when we were doing this."

Chicago's total cost for the Y2K fix--$55 million--is significantly lower than that of Los Angeles, which has spent $109 million, and New York, which will spend $150 million before the new year arrives.

Chicago officials, who have met with leaders in East Coast cities to discuss ways to handle the problems, say the cost difference is a reflection of entirely different approaches. Some cities, for example, did all their work with city employees rather than outside consultants.

In Chicago, Murphy said, a power failure or "isolated blackouts" are among worst case scenarios. Even a major failure probably would not last more than hours or days, Murphy predicted.

Though residents have called some aldermen with fears about the water system, the city officials on Thursday said that is unlikely to be a problem. Most of the computer chips that could be vulnerable to trouble are not part of the city's pumping or filtration operations, they said.

In fact, Murphy warned, the most dangerous problems may come not from chips--but from fear.

"The next big challenge is to assure the public that this is not an issue to panic over," he said.

The city has opened a phone line, 312-744-7246, and a section of its Web page,, to deal with Y2K questions.(END)

Finally! A section on the web page! It's about @#%$& time. The city of Chi. could not have been any more silent about this issue.

This part, caught my eye: "the mayor's office said only 10 to 15 percent of the problems identified by technicians have been fixed so far, officials maintained all the work should be done by the end of the summer."(end quote)

I wish they were saying that last summer!

-- Deborah (, April 09, 1999


Thanks Deborah for these articles. My brother lives in Chicago and he said this morning that the paper is full of articles relating to Y2k. I just have not had the time to go to their web site. Thank you for bringing them here to the forum.

-- Linda A. (, April 09, 1999.

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