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Panel denies more money for Y2K consulting firm
Company says city progress hard to gauge; officials say study was set up to fail
By Felicia Thomas-Lynn of the Journal Sentinel staff
Last Updated: Sept. 23, 1999
The firm that produced a report categorizing the city's year 2000 efforts as mostly "very weak" will not be given more money to complete the job, a Common Council panel decided Thursday.
Although the firm was given a $125,000 contract to evaluate the city's progress toward Y2K compliance for such critical areas as fire and police services, firm consultants said incomplete information made it difficult to determine conclusively if the city is prepared for the 2000 computer problem.
Representatives of New Jersey-based RCG Information Technology presented their report to the council's Finance and Personnel Committee. "We were looking for accountability and proof," said Jim Jestus, senior vice president of the RCG Central Region, who said the firm was given "summary data and not detailed information."
The report gave the city very low marks for its preparations, indicating that it cannot show that vital systems will work come Jan. 1.
But aides to Mayor John O. Norquist disputed the contents of the report from the very beginning, and complained that the one-month turnaround time to have data back to the consultants wasn't long enough.
"This was set up to fail from the beginning," said Kenneth Munson, the city's deputy director of administration. "This could not be done in one month's time. The focus was not on getting the job done, it was about supplying mounds of paperwork."
But Common Council President John Kalwitz said the city hasn't established the written burden of proof that the city's system will be ready.
"If we don't have a paper trail, how can we be sure?" said Kalwitz. "Nobody can run and hide here. What we're trying to do is establish accountability."
Munson assured the committee that the city is on its way to being ready for Y2K. "I'm convinced we are going to be compliant," he said.
The so-called Y2K problem is a result of computers recognizing a year by its last two digits. Unless they are reprogrammed, many could stumble when they read the year as 00.
Some state and municipal officials are worried that the glitch could lead to power failures, breakdowns in municipal water or sewage systems and even the failure of security systems at prisons.
-- Homer Beanfang (Bats@inbellfry.com), September 24, 1999