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Martinsburg, Berkeley Co. prepare for Y2K

April 28, 1999|By BRYN MICKLE

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Months of preparation for the impending arrival of the year 2000, or Y2K, will hinge on Allegheny Power's ability to deliver electricity on New Year's Day, according to administrators for the City of Martinsburg and Berkeley County.

While generators would be used to power essentials such as emergency dispatch and treatment of water and sewage, other Y2K preparations made by the city and county will be rendered useless if there is no electricity.

"Electricity will be the major obstacle that most agencies will be dependent to run operations," said Martinsburg City Manager Mark Baldwin.

An Allegheny Power spokesman said the company is on target to have its power supply systems Y2K-compliant by the end of June and does not anticipate any interruptions in power on Jan. 1, 2000.

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Baldwin and Berkeley County Administrator Deborah Sheetenhelm have been meeting with everyone from department heads and utility companies to suppliers and manufacturers to avoid being caught off-guard when the clock strikes midnight New Year's Eve.

The Y2K bug occurs because many computers programmed to recognize only the last two digits of a year may not work properly beginning Jan. 1, 2000, when machines might assume it is 1900.

The city is installing a $400,000 computer system that will be immune to the confusion and has determined its emergency vehicles do not have any embedded date-sensitive computer chips, Baldwin said.

While the county has a Y2K-ready computer system for most operations, Sheetenhelm said there are concerns about having the county's new enhanced 911 dispatch system installed by July.

Citizen complaints about the 911 address conversion plan have created delays. and Sheetenhelm said the county needs to have the new system installed by July to ensure it will work on Jan. 1, 2000.

"We're in pretty good shape with everything else," Sheetenhelm said.

Despite extensive planning for the year 2000, Baldwin said it is difficult to predict the trickle-down effect that could occur with Y2K problems.

The city has been told its fuel supplier is Y2K-compliant, but Baldwin said a power outage that lasts more than a few days could make it more difficult for the city to get fuel for backup generators.

"If it gets into a matter of weeks, then you get into more serious issues where the public and private sector will start competing for a lot of the same resources," Baldwin said.

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