County Plans August Test For Y2k

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Come Jan. 1, 2000, Gila County officials say the electronic cell doors at the Gila County Jail in Globe will open and close on cue, the assessor will still be able to access computer records and court will convene as usual.

Although not all Gila County departments are fully ready for Jan. 1, when some outdated computers are expected to go haywire, Mariano Gonzales of the county's emergency services division said they will be by late summer or early fall.

"We conducted a countywide systems overview in February," he said, "and have been working with our vendors to obtain repairs or letters of compliance. We're focusing on our major systems -- the ones that provide services to the public -- but some departments are working faster than others."

To date, the officials overseeing court, jail, fleet and building heating and cooling system upgrades are among those said to be on the fast track.

The Gila County Sheriff's Department recently received a U.S. Justice Department grant to upgrade all of the department's computers, Gonzales said, and that project should be complete by November.

Many of the other county departments upgraded their computers in the past five years or included computer and software upgrades in their normal budgets this year, he said.

That kind of planning has greatly reduced the cost to the county in its preparations for Jan. 1, 2000, when all electronic calendars will flip over, confusing outdated software, computers and embedded computer chips that depend on the last two digits of the date to tell them what year it is, he said.

"But from jail cell doors to software, we should be nearly compliant within the next 30 days and fully compliant by November," he said. "We're going to perform a countywide Y2K disaster exercise in August to test our systems and people's reactions to possible problems as a prelude to the state's Y2K disaster drill in September."

The state will coordinate a Y2K disaster drill this fall to test government systems statewide.

"I think the problem areas we'll be facing will be the systems nobody thought of," he said. "There are quite a few little systems -- clocks, radios, typewriters -- that may not be compliant, but are hard or impossible to check. We're trying to go after the major systems that might impede services to the public.

"We've also been working closely with the Town of Payson, the City of Globe and the utilities, and I haven't seen anything that worries me. We've had good contact with them and they seem to be making good progress.

"There are things that can affect us -- things we can't control -- but for our own local services, we're doing everything we can to make sure they continue as normal."

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