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Fiscal Y2K passes without a hitch

July 01, 1999|By JULIE E. GREENE

Several Tri-State area governments, emergency services and hospitals said they didn't experience any year 2000 computer problems Thursday despite the beginning of fiscal year 2000 for some of them.

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"We didn't fear there'd be a problem today. We've been doing testing for some time now," said Al Martin, finance director for the City of Hagerstown.

Terry Weaver, chairman of the city's Y2K oversight committee, said nothing has "jumped out" that might cause a problem as far as serving the public. Billing software for electricity, water, sewer and garbage will be upgraded in two weeks, he said.

"There is no 'FY2K' bug," said Washington County government spokesman Norman Bassett.

Leon Kappelman, co-chairman of the SIM Working Group that is helping governments and private businesses around the globe prepare for Y2K, disagrees.

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"We're already seeing problems. Nobody's going to advertise them any more than they advertise security breaches or computer fraud, because to admit you're having Y2K problems is basically to admit you're incompetent," Kappelman said from his Dallas home office.

"There's going to be some problems. I don't think in most cases, they're going to be anything we can't work our way through," such as computer data corruption errors, Kappelman said.

"The bottom line is, although this is a global thing, this is ultimately a local event. Communities, enterprises and families need to be prepared and manage risks locally," he said.

Governments, businesses and other groups using computers have been checking and, when needed, upgrading their computer systems to avoid the Y2K problem that could stem from many computer programs recording dates as two-digit abbreviations to save space.

Many people fear computers and machines with computer chips will fail when 2000 arrives because they may interpret "00" as 1900 instead of 2000.

The Y2K problem was expected to arrive with the year 2000, but other trouble dates were suspected such as April 9, 1999, because it was the 99th day in the year and July 1, 1999, because it is the first day in the fiscal year for many operations, said Kathleen Williams, Y2K project coordinator for Summit Health, which owns hospitals in Chambersburg, Pa., and Waynesboro, Pa.

"We have not experienced any problems because of the fiscal year," Williams said.

Washington County Hospital spokeswoman Cassandra Latimer said there were no operational problems Thursday, but it was too soon to tell if there would be any glitches with the accounting system.

Waynesboro Borough Manager Lloyd Hamberger said he expects the borough to be Y2K ready by Aug. 31.

"There's a million little things we have to check, but I think we'll be OK as long as the electricity doesn't go off," Hamberger said. Some of the things Hamberger said he has checked are traffic signal equipment and whether their police cars would start since they too contain computers.

Allegheny Energy spokesman Allen Staggers said "mission critical" systems - those that would affect the production and delivery of electricity - are Y2K ready.

Preparing for Y2K is expected to cost the utility as much as $20 million and 80,000 employee hours, Staggers said.

Some governments and businesses in the area won't start new fiscal years until Oct. 1, 1999, or Jan. 1, 2000.

Sarah Johnson, director of quality, risk and management utilization at Jefferson Memorial Hospital in Ranson, W.Va., doesn't anticipate any problems businesswise on Oct. 1, when the hospital's new fiscal year starts.

But there may still be problems externally, she said. The state is supposed to have Medicaid and worker's compensation programs upgraded, but that hasn't happened yet, she said.

"A lot of times it's a waiting game. You really have to depend on others. Everybody is trying to get their house in order, but it's tough," Johnson said.

Washington County Fire and Rescue Communications Chief Ronald H. Karn knows how Johnson feels. He must rely on the 911 system's vendors, who have assured emergency officials the system will be OK.

"We're at their mercy. We have to accept what they say. What we can test we will. I don't foresee any major problems," Karn said.

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