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For some, it's just another night shift

December 30, 1999|By BRENDAN KIRBY

When the clock strikes midnight tonight and revelers celebrate the end of the 1900s, Trish Bartles will be at the drive-through window of City National Bank in Martinsburg, W.Va.

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Bartles, who has worked at the bank for about three years, volunteered for the special 12-hour shift that ends at 7 a.m. Saturday.

"It's something different. I wouldn't be doing anything anyway," she said.

Keea Clifford, 19, also volunteered.

"I'm not old enough to go to a party anyway, so I figured I might as well be here," she said.

Bartles and Clifford are among hundreds of Tri-State area workers who will find themselves on the job when 2000 begins. Although many businesses and local governments in recent weeks have scaled back the number of people they will require to work, it will still be an unusual New Year's Eve.

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Years ago, when Y2K was a concern only to a few techies, it seemed like Dec. 31, 1999, was destined to be a blast to remember.

"When I was a little girl, I thought I was gong to be at a big blowout party," said Maureen Theriault, a spokeswoman for Washington County Hospital. "But it turns out we're going to be working."

The City National Bank at 420 S. Raleigh St. is one of seven of the bank's branches that will remain open in West Virginia throughout the night. Bank officials decided to keep the branch open to alleviate any lingering concerns over the Year 2000 computer problem.

The Corning Federal Credit Union branch in Greencastle, Pa., also will have special hours for customers who want to check accounts. The office, which is normally closed on New Year's Day, will be open this year from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

That means five employees who would normally be off on New Year's Day will be working.

"It's just a matter of putting our members at ease," said Dan Redner, the branch manager.

Allegheny Power has scheduled 1,200 employees to work on New Year's Eve, up from about 75 on a normal shift. One of them, lineman Lance Nigh, took it pretty much in stride as he thought about what he might do if he were off.

"Nothing too spectacular," he said.

Since so many people will be working tonight, some area businesses plan to hold New Year's Eve celebrations.

City National Bank, for instance, will have a small party at the Martinsburg branch tonight and Washington County Hospital will have a party in its cafeteria.

Theriault said the hospital will provide music, party favors and a free meal.

"It will make it a little more festive, if you can call work festive," she said.

Citicorp Credit Services will throw a party for employees in its cafeteria. One of the credit card processing center's employees, who is a disc jockey, will provide music and the company will set up a large-screen television so workers can watch the ball drop on Times Square in New York.

"We're doing something a little different this year, because it is special," Citicorp spokesman Philip A. Kelly said.

Because of Y2K, many agencies that normally have employees working on New Year's Eve will have even more on hand tonight and Saturday.

Washington County Hospital's patient care units, for example, will have about 50 percent more people on the job than on a typically New Year's Eve. The exact numbers were unknown since staffing varies according to the number of patients.

Carey O. Leverett, the hospital's information services director, will spend the evening monitoring computer and communications systems to make sure they all perform as they should after the rollover.

"Obviously, I would rather be home with my family, but it's part of the job, and I knew that a long time ago," he said. "We'll celebrate ours next year, in 2001. That's when the real millennium is anyway."

Jocelia Rotz was charged with gathering volunteers from departments that are usually closed on holidays - such as billing and personnel - to provide extra help tonight.

"I'm sure they're not excited about it, but everyone has stepped up," she said. "I think it's important the community knows adequate resources are there."

Police also will be out in force tonight.

Waynesboro Police Chief Glenn R. Phenicie said the town will have 11 officers on duty - about 2 1/2 times as many as on a normal New Year's Eve. Three officers who have not yet completed training will help out, he said.

Phenicie said the department beefed up staff because of the New Year's celebration planned for the square. He said he had to cancel two vacations.

"When you take this kind of job, it's part of the territory," he said. "Families probably might be upset. My wife's not thrilled. This is the first New Year's Eve she's had off in a while."

Hagerstown City Police will have three times the normal number of officers on all three shifts.

"Very few people will be off New Year's," Chief Arthur R. Smith said.

All of those extra employees may be bored, though, if officials from government and the private sector are right about their rosy Y2K predictions.

"It's going to seem strange if 10 or 12 of us are sitting around with nothing to do," said Hagerstown city engineer Tim Young, one of about 35 additional city employees on duty tonight.

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