VIRGINIA PILOT:"Y2K threat caused only minor woes in region" (details failures) : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread


Jan. 6, 2000

Y2K threat caused only minor woes in region

BY LOUIS HANSEN, The Virginian-Pilot
Copyright 1999, Landmark Communications Inc.

The Y2K menace hardly spooked a computer system in Hampton Roads municipalities over the New Year's weekend.

As city offices reopened Monday and Tuesday, city computer experts reported no interruptions in vital services, such as fire, police and ambulance dispatching.

So far, it looks as if city records, from property taxes to police files to utility bills, survived the double-00 threat, too. Minor glitches were reported in Chesapeake, Norfolk and Virginia Beach, but none seemed to affect city residents.

City officials said the exhaustive and expensive projects to protect city computers from the Y2K problems were well warranted. Hampton Roads cities spent more than $10 million combined to combat potential problems.

``I'm glad we took the effort,'' said David Sullivan, chief information officer for Virginia Beach. The city spent about $2.5 million on consultants and hardware upgrades.

City halls in South Hampton Roads, except in Norfolk, were closed Monday, Jan. 3, as a precaution to possible computer problems. Normally, local government offices would have been closed Friday, Dec. 31, for the New Year's holiday, but leaders in most of the cities decided it was better to give government workers Monday off, just in case they needed time to fix a Y2K meltdown. Norfolk had about 40 staffers running computer systems checks over the weekend, officials there said.

Chesapeake: All the major systems had passed the Y2K test within 45 minutes of the stroke of midnight, according to City Manager John L. Pazour. All of the city's other computer systems had been checked out and cleared by early Sunday, he said. The city encountered five minor glitches, and all have been resolved. After the year change, the computer-aided dispatch stopped automatically transferring data to the fire records management system.
The problem, which was quickly fixed, ``had no impact whatsoever on our ability to respond to emergencies,'' Pazour said.
The city's new geographic information system, which allows officials to map out the city's topography, land uses and drainage systems, had a temporary software problem because the vendor had failed to provide the Y2K-compliant version. That was also resolved, Pazour said.
The city's Public Works Department on Tuesday began taking down the 250 stop signs it had placed at 123 intersections in case of power failure. The signs, which had been encased in black plastic bags, will be placed in the city's stockpile.
The ease with which the city slipped into the new year, Pazour said, does not mean that the two years and at least $3.2 million spent on preparation were unwarranted.

Norfolk: Officials reported only minor glitches. In part, that was due to the estimated $5.3 million the city has spent over the past four years upgrading computers or replacing outdated systems, said Ramesh K. Kapoor, director of Information Systems and the city's Y2K chief.
``It had to be done,'' Kapoor said of the expenditures. ``If they were not fixed, they would not be working and we would be looking at an entirely different scenario.''
As one example, Norfolk officials decided not to upgrade the software in a card-activated security system that opens interior doors in the Granby Municipal Building. The city planned to replace it in the future. As a result, the security system shut down when midnight 2000 rolled around, and it had to be turned off to open the doors.

Kapoor reported other small Y2K-related glitches. Among them: a software program in the commissioner of revenue's office wouldn't calculate personal property assessments; a system that tracks enrollment in recreation classes wouldn't allow users to access the files; software that police use to record false fire alarms wasn't working; software that Information Systems employees use to log in work activity didn't recognize 2000.
By Wednesday, the problems had been corrected or were being remedied, Kapoor said.

Portsmouth: ``We didn't have any problems here,'' said Mark Gardner, the city's system service manager. As a precaution, city technicians saved essential computer files to disks before the midnight hour. During the past two years, city workers have debugged and reprogrammed several of the city's computer systems.
Last year, the city spent about $1 million to replace obsolete equipment, Gardner said.

Suffolk: Officials have had no reports of Y2K glitches, said Capt. Jeffrey T. Messinger, the city's emergency services coordinator. Computers, communications, security systems and building controls all came up clean, he said.
The total amount Suffolk spent on Y2K preparations was not immediately available Wednesday. Messinger said the preparations were worth the effort and expense. ``I don't regret any of it,'' he said.

Virginia Beach: Sullivan said no major problems afflicted the city's computer systems. The city had planned to keep its emergency operations center open until 8 a.m. New Year's morning, but closed at 2 a.m. because the emergency systems were running smoothly. About 100 staffers watched for system breakdowns over the holiday weekend. Saturday morning, city workers caught an error in the water billing system. Delinquent clients would have been over-billed for late charges, but Sullivan said the problem was quickly corrected by a software patch.

If several weeks pass without Y2K incidents, computer experts agreed that the cities will become more confident that their preparations paid off.

``We'll all be glad to say goodbye to Y2K,'' said Portsmouth's Gardner.

Staff writers Jon Glass, Meredith Kruse, Lewis Krauskopf and Jennifer Peter contributed to this report.

Reach Louis Hansen at 446-2293 or


-- John Whitley (, January 09, 2000

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