Area officials say they’re Y2K OK | CraigDailyPress.com

Area officials say they’re Y2K OK

Christina M. Currie

Officials representing the city, county, utility companies and emergency services gathered Thursday to assure residents service providers are ready for whatever may happen as the clock turns on Dec. 31.

Preparedness for any possible disaster has been foremost on the minds of officials as predictions for the New Year range from minor glitches to major disasters caused by computers not recognizing the date change from 1999 to 2000.

Colorado Northwestern Community College-Craig sponsored a “State of the County” Y2K luncheon Thursday to give residents an idea of what local officials are doing to prepare for the millennium bug.

Moffat County Emergency Manager Clyde Anderson acted as emcee for the meeting, warning audience members to be prepared for an emergency, but not to overreact. He suggested people have at least 72 hours of supplies on hand in preparation for any emergency, not just those predicted for Y2K.

“If you can take care of yourself in an emergency, it makes it easier on us,” he said.

Anderson is convinced the dire predictions of “Armageddon” beginning at midnight Dec. 31 probably won’t happen and are designed to “scare the liver out of people” and make a profit.

“The federal government is not expecting major disruptions. They think the electricity is going to work and that banking is going to work,” he said. “It’s really pretty encouraging stuff.”

After speaking with representatives of US West, Anderson is concerned telephone systems may have problems, not because of the year 2000, but due to an increased volume of calls locking up telephone lines.

According to Anderson, an emergency management center will be established on New Year’s Eve, and city and county officials and law enforcement personnel will be on hand. He believes, and Craig Police Department Chief Walt Vanatta echoed his point, the center will be a training device.

Several people spoke at the luncheon on their specific interests and preparations for Y2K.

Banking

Tonya Watley, Community First Bank president, spoke about preparation for any problems.

As one of the first industries to recognize the potential problems associated with the year 2000, the banking industry was one of the first to be prepared.

“On the surface it doesn’t seem like a really big deal, but it is a big deal,” Watley said. “The banking industry is really concerned.”

According to Watley, Community First Bank has gone through phases of analyzing its systems, upgrading necessary systems and generating contingency plans.

“The banking industry, individually and as a whole, is in very good shape for Y2K,” she said. “Hopefully people are reassured their money will be safe in the bank on Jan. 1.”

Watley urged people to take precautions of their own by staying informed, keeping paperwork and records and being on the lookout for Y2K scams. She also told people not to cash their interest-bearing investments.

“The safest place for money is still in the bank,” she said. “Keeping it under your mattress is not going to keep your money safe,” she said.

Electric

John Sagerser, instrument and control engineer at Tri-State Generation and Transmission, has been solving any problems. Tri-State operates the Craig Station electric power plant.

In early 1998, Tri-State Generation and Transmission began efforts to prepare for Y2K. A consulting team was hired that identified 98 types of devices with potential problems association with the year 2000 date change. Of those 98, only 21 actually had problems, Sagerser said.

“Of the 21 problem devices, we have successfully corrected all but eight and those eight are not critical to operations,” he said.

Tri-State has been testing systems, using dates such as Sept. 9, 1999, Jan. 1, 2000 and inputing leap year information. The Craig Station has also had two Y2K readiness drills. All tests have been successful, Sagerser said.

In addition to testing, the Craig Station has also stocked up on critical inventory such as coal and limestone in case their suppliers have problems associated with the year 2000.

Tri-State has also been working with the North American Reliability Council and Public Service Company of Colorado to ensure there is a contingency plan for the western power grid.

“The current assessment of Tri-State is very positive,” Sagerser said.

Neil Hurst of Yampa Valley Electric Company believes this region is the place to be in 2000.

According to Hurst, residents of Northwest Colorado are in a great place if any disaster should occur because of the millennium bug. Because of the proximity of two power stations, if the Yampa Valley Electric Association (YVEA) power supplier has problems, YVEA can tap into the power generated by the Hayden station.

“If the rest of the country drops off because of Y2K, we’re OK here,” Hurst said.

YVEA itself is ready for the new millennium because its system is mostly manual.

Hurst did warn people planning to use generators to be careful. Generators hooked up to a house without electricity can explode if the power comes back on or if linemen ground the system.

Law enforcement

Sheriff Buddy Grinstead of the Moffat County Sheriff’s Department is preparing for any contingencies.

The Sheriff’s Department has done a lot of planning this year for possible Y2K disasters, Grinstead said. The department is facing two issues internal and external planning.

Internal refers to the computers and software within the department. According to Grinstead, he was told at one point his department was Y2K compliant and then it was later found it wasn’t. Those systems are in the process of being replaced.

Externally, plans have been made to deal with people once the New Year sets in. Large parties are a top concern for deputies as people get set to ring in a new millennium.

Grinstead, too, is hoping people make some preparations. He believes Moffat County has a real “neighbor helping neighbor” community which will provide for people not prepared in the event of a power outage or supply shortages.

Officers will work in 12-hour shifts to give the department double man power. Grinstead will also use the resources of the Sheriff’s Posse if necessary.

Craig Police Department Chief Walt Vanatta is also working on equipment and public reaction.

The department is facing two issues, computers and people, Vanatta said. The first involves software malfunctions and the second includes people who will be at New Year’s Eve parties.

Vanatta’s officers will also work in 12-hour shifts, so he anticipates 12 police officers on duty New Year’s Eve.

The Police Department has made contingency plans down to the smallest detail, Vanatta said.

Municipalities

Rex Splitt, Y2K representative for the City of Craig, said the city is prepared.

According to Splitt, the city is 98 percent complete in preparing for the year 2000 and he really has no concerns. A recent table-top disaster drill did not reveal any major problems, he said.

All employee vacations have been cancelled from Dec. 28 through Jan. 3 and normal reserves will give city vehicles up to seven days of fuel.

According to Splitt, city software, including utility billing and finance programs, has been checked and deemed Y2K compliant.

“So, you will get your bills in January,” he said.

Medical

Alice Rigney of The Memorial Hospital said the hospital has been working on the problem for years.

The Memorial Hospital has been working on the Y2K problem since 1997, Rigney said. In 1998, hospital officials talked to vendors and suppliers and budgeted more than $200,000 for equipment upgrades. Officials also adopted a Y2K plan and are working with it.

The hospital has a back-up generator that is tested monthly and has enough fuel for three to five days. According to Rigney, the county has agreed to provide more fuel if needed.

In March, the hospital held a Y2K drill with the help of YVEA. Power to the hospital was actually cut out.

The drill was successful, Rigney said.

On Dec. 31, all department managers and one extra staff person per department will be on call.

Water plant

Joe Theaman, supervisor at the Craig water and wastewater plant, said power is the key to his system.

The Craig water plant has few internal Y2K problems to contend with, Theaman said, because many functions are still run by manual on and off switches. The only problem would come if the power goes out, he said.

“Then we’re dead in the water,” he said.

According to Theaman, it’s not feasible to have the massive back-up system that would be needed to keep the plant running. The system would be too expensive.

If the power goes out, homes can still get water because they are fed by gravity. There are three to four days of water available in the 7.5 million gallons of finished water stored in the water tanks, Theaman said.

If people lose power, he urges them to immediately begin conserving water.