City ready for Y2K problems, mayor says

Fixing computer glitches will cost $15 million

April 09, 1999|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,SUN STAFF

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke said Baltimore will meet a Dec. 31 deadline for solving its year 2000 computer problems, but fixing the electronic glitches will cost taxpayers $15 million.

"I'm trying to make sure we don't create a sense of hysteria here," Schmoke said yesterday at his weekly news conference. "We're continuing our efforts throughout the year on Y2K preparedness."

Computers and software not designed to handle the date change from 1999 to 2000 when the clock strikes midnight Dec. 31 might fall victim to what is called the year 2000 computer or "millennium" bug. Older computers might not register Jan. 1, 2000, wreaking havoc with government, utility, financial and other services. Some unrepaired computers might crash.

Schmoke and the city's Y2K coordinator, Victor Hoskins, said yesterday that all city agencies are more than 50 percent compliant with federal government standards. By fall, they expect to have full compliance and begin testing the computer systems.

"All of the departments are currently on track," Hoskins said.

Hoskins said the city has given priority to such agencies as the Department of Public Works, police, fire, finance and housing and community development, to ensure that major services are not cut off by computer problems.

The next area of concern is the mayor's office, personnel, planning, the law office and the school system, Hoskins said. Such programs and agencies as Baltimore Development Corp. and the arts and cultural programs are third on the city's list.

The city's leading concern has been water and sewer service, both of which should have no problems Jan. 1, Hoskins said.

He said the city is developing contingency plans in the event of computer failures.

Schmoke said residents should take precautions in case problems do arise. He advised people to stock battery-powered devices such as flashlights and have warm clothes available because it will be winter.

"I think we ought to follow a rule of reasonableness," Schmoke said. "If you knew there was going to be a major snowstorm in Baltimore, you would take certain precautions."

But "we don't want runs on banks," he said.

Schmoke said the city and the state also are coordinating with local utilities to ensure that those services are not victims of Y2K problems.

City officials plan to set up a public information system where residents will be able to learn about the city's progress on Y2K problems and ask questions.

"We think we're moving in the right direction," Schmoke said.

Pub Date: 4/09/99

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