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City set to complete Year 2000 computer fix

January 05, 1999

Frank WilliamsBy DAN KULIN / Staff Writer

photo: JOE CROCETTA / staff photographer




With 1999 less than a week old, the City of Hagerstown is set to complete its attack on the Year 2000 computer bug.

Monday was the first day on the job for Frank Williams, whose primary duty during the next few weeks, and perhaps months, will be to review a dozen city computer programs and make changes to ensure the programs will be able to operate come Jan. 1, 2000.

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The computer programs Williams will review include a loan program used by the Community Development Department and an investment program that keeps track of the capital improvements program.

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Williams and others working to head off the Y2K problem are charged with making sure that the city's computer systems will recognize 2000 and not mistake it for 1900.

The problem is that many computer systems use programs that record years by using only the last two digits. Williams, like many programmers, probably will fix the glitch by changing programs so they record dates using a four-digit number, he said.

Before Monday, Williams was the only piece missing from the city's overall Y2K strategy, according to William "Skip" Flaherty, the city's computer systems supervisor.

Many companies paid to maintain computer software for the city have updated their programs, Flaherty said.

For example, Flaherty said the program that computes payroll is ready for the year 2000, and the programs that handle city billing should be ready for the year 2000 within the next four weeks.

The city has established a committee to review how prepared each department is for 2000.

"Our goal is to have everything tested and Y2K ready by June 1," said Terry Weaver, chairman of the city's Y2K committee and manager of the city's light department.

New computer systems have been purchased for the police and finance departments. Those systems, which together cost about $900,000, replace systems that were not 2000 compliant, according to city Finance Director Al Martin.

The year 2000 computer glitch is expected to be costly for other local governments, too.

The Washington County government is expected to have to purchase as much as $1.5 million worth of computer software to prepare for 2000, according to Washington County Administrator Rodney Shoop.

Williams, 60, is a computer programmer working in the city's data processing office. Although he will focus on the Y2K problem for now, he also is responsible for maintaining some city computer programs and providing computer assistance to employees who use the 170 personal computers owned by the city, he said.

Williams' annual salary is $36,774.

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