Local governments expect nonevent

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Local governments expect nonevent

Friday, May 7, 1999

BY GORDON HICKEY Times-Dispatch Staff Writer

Don't worry, your local government will still know where you live when you wake up Saturday morning, Jan. 1, 2000.

The stove will light and the toilet will flush.

The traffic signal at the end of your block will still make you wait interminably, despite an utter lack of cross traffic.

The tax assessor won't forget who owns your house.

Jail inmates won't suddenly rush into the streets because some computer failed to lock them in. In fact, Richmond City Jail spokeswoman Lisa Bacon said the jail wishes it had computers locking the doors. It doesn't. The City Jail doors are still locked by jailers.

It might be true that the computer revolution will turn into a computer revolt Jan. 1, as some Y2K doomsayers are predicting. But local government officials believe they've got things well in hand. As Petersburg City Councilwoman Annie M. Mickens put it: "There are countries out there that haven't done what [the city has] done." It's the same story all over central Virginia. Most local governments have spent years and thousands, if not millions, of dollars bringing themselves into what is commonly referred to as Y2K compliance. Most local governments have been working for at least a year and a half on the problem, and some have been going at it for three years. And all of them say that though they don't anticipate any big problems, they have contingency plans to make sure government services continue. Chesterfield County In Chesterfield County, officials expect to be substantially finished addressing Y2K issues with various departments and systems by June 30. As of April 28, 88 percent of 66 Y2K projects were completed. County departments have been developing plans to continue providing service in the event that Y2K issues, ice storms or other disasters knock out their systems. A test of those contingency plans was scheduled for yesterday and today, with additional unannounced tests scheduled for the fall. "We're just going to take a system down" in the fall, said Lynda Price, the county's emergency services coordinator. To give county employees another day to address any Y2K problems that may arise Jan. 1, Chesterfield has changed the New Year's holiday for employees from Dec. 31 to Jan. 3. Henrico County Like Chesterfield, Henrico County hired a consultant three years ago, said Steve Lewis, assistant director of information technology. "What they provided to us was a report which we've really used to start -- and soon to complete -- all of our Y2K efforts," Lewis said. He said the Henrico Department of Information Technology is responsible for about 18,000 separate computer programs, a total of more than 4.5 million lines of computer code that keep the county running, Lewis added. "What we have done, and are continuing to do through the end of this quarter, is to go through and look at each of those programs and all of that code," Lewis said. The target to have all systems countywide ready for the big day is the end of June, said Deputy County Manager Leon T. Johnson, who oversees county administration and heads the Y2K readiness effort. The county school system also is working to complete its Y2K preparations by midsummer, said Kenneth R. Crush, assistant superintendent for operations. The fiscal 1999-2000 budget, approved April 27 by the Board of Supervisors, includes about $860,000 for the school system to replace non-Y2K-compliant software and hardware in various schools. The county also made software available to its employees who use personal computers in their work to check out their machines for Y2K problems. "There are probably 3,000-plus personal computers that are out in the county right now being used by county employees," Lewis said. "So far we have found only one instance of a machine that was not Y2K-compliant or was not fixable in terms of becoming Y2K-compliant, and that's scheduled to be replaced." Hanover County In Hanover County, Director of Information Technology Ben Blanton said that in late 1997 the county forwarded the date to Dec. 31, 1999, with a public safety computer. It rolled over to 2000 with no problems. "Everything performed fine . . . and it appeared to us the system was going to function without any problems," Blanton said. He said the county has tested nearly all the other systems tied to its central computers the same way, without finding any major problems. "Paychecks will go out. Dispatching for public safety can occur with no problems at all. All of the major things that are very important can function fine." Blanton said that by the end of June, the county wants to recheck its public safety systems and finish testing personal computers and other systems that aren't supported by central computers. After June, the county will turn its attention to other concerns, including contingency plans. County officials want to be ready in case a critical system fails despite having been checked, Blanton said. Richmond "We cannot identify any area we're nervous about," said Richmond's director of information technology, Elizabeth L. Mounts. She said all the hardware that runs city programs is Y2K-compliant, as is the software for operating systems. There are also more than 90 applications run in individual departments, and "we have a schedule we have been working under for a year and a half." The city spent $700,000 this year on Y2K compliance and has a contingency budget of $750,000 for next fiscal year, which starts July 1. She said the department found problems with many systems, but nothing that would affect "the citizens' life and liberty." For example, glitches were found in the emergency 911 system, but they would have only caused reports to be misdated. Bruce Jenkins is chairman of the 18-member Year 2000 Executive Committee. The issue for the committee largely is embedded computer chips -- the little things that no one thinks about until they don't work. An example would be the chip that turns on the "low fuel" light in your car when you're almost out of gas. "We had every department go through every function that they do," Jenkins said. "We've stuck our ears and eyes and minds into everything we do." He said it's been an involved process, and several embedded chips were found and replaced. But "we never got any [sense] catastrophe was coming." Goochland County One final test is planned in July or August in Goochland County -- the big one. "We're going to come in on a weekend, shut it all down, change the date and see what happens," said Bill Cleveland, Goochland's director of information and financial resources. "I hope it will be a wasted weekend -- we came in, saw it and have comfort knowing we'll be in good shape." In the past year, Cleveland upgraded or converted county computers. "If we have power, this will be a nonevent. We're ready." The sheriff likewise expects an uneventful day on Jan. 1 but said precautions couldn't hurt. "We're going to prepare as if there were a storm on the horizon," said Sheriff James L. Agnew. "We're going to hope for the best and prepare for the worst." Powhatan County "I don't expect any interruptions," said Pamela P. Benos, Powhatan County's director of finance and personnel manager, who is on family leave. "Hopefully, it will be quite uneventful in Powhatan," she said. "We don't have so many public services impacted by the change, no water or public utilities system." Powhatan's 911 system is 6 years old and out of date. The county is installing a new system this summer that will be Y2K-compliant, said Sheriff Lynn Woodcock, adding that the system is at the mercy of the telephone company. New Kent County Jonathan Stanger, an information systems manager in New Kent County, said the county purchased and installed a new mainframe computer in July after a task force of department leaders was formed. Stanger said his primary concern was that "we wouldn't be as far along now as we are. We were under a bit of a time deadline. I think we've progressed very well." The county has replaced most of its equipment that might have been a problem and will buy hardware that is Y2K-compliant, Stanger said. Some departments have run tests and more are planned in August. By then, he said, he hopes to have replaced a critical system in the treasurer's office and developed a contingency plan. "The contingency plan is something we'll very much be working on. More importantly, I'm working to make sure we don't need it." Colonial Heights So far, Colonial Heights has spent more than $250,000 to convert software and hardware. An additional $200,000 has been appropriated to replace equipment that is not yet Y2K-complaint. The Finance Department had to replace its financial administration and payroll software. The city also has received letters from vendors saying the equipment at the main sewer pump station is Y2K-compliant, along with traffic signal controllers. The only major system that is not yet Y2K-ready is the enhanced 911 system. The City Council appropriated funds in January to replace that system. Colonial Heights Assistant School Superintendent Kenneth Wright said the school system will have to replace its payroll system. It expects to have the new system in place by July. Wright said the school system also is replacing all old hardware and software that has date-sensitive information, such as graduation information, transcripts and other critical school information. Petersburg In Petersburg, a Year 2000 Committee created three possible scenarios for Jan. 1. The scenarios, as explained by committee members to the City Council at a recent meeting, outline potential disruptions in services such as water supply, gas services, electricity, cellular telephones and pagers. Based on those scenarios and recommendations from the committee, the city has spent $180,000 to purchase permanent and portable generators, a software upgrade for the emergency 911 system, an upgrade to the computer-aided dispatch program and new embedded chips that control heating, air conditioning and security systems throughout the city. Dinwiddie County In Dinwiddie County computer systems in government and schools are being updated, according to county officials. Hopewell In Hopewell conversion is under way, partly through a new $1.5 million computer system being installed, said City Manager Clinton H. Strong. Prince George County In Prince George County, software has been upgraded in the mainframe computer, which is used to compute taxes and handle accounting and human resources data. Information systems manager Debra King said all personal computers are being surveyed and upgraded if needed, as are fire alarms, elevators, security systems and the 911 communications system. King noted that the county's computer systems interact with outside systems, which complicates the situation because if an outside system fails, it may affect the county's operations. "It's not Russian roulette," she said, "but you just hope that there isn't a bullet in any of those chambers."

-- Norm (nwo@hotmail.com), May 07, 1999


Norm, learn to format

-- this is (garbage@from.norm), May 07, 1999.

this is,

A peek at the document source indicates that Norm knows how, but tires easily.

-- peeked (peeked@document.source), May 08, 1999.

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