With the first crucial hours of Year 2000 having passed quietly

With the first crucial hours of Year 2000 having passed quietly,communities across the country are undertaking the final checks of computer-based government operations today before closing down theiremergency coordination centers.

Year 2000 project managers, satisfied that electricity, water, phone and other public services have made the transition, are turning their attention to internal government systems that were not running during the initial Year 2000 roll-over.

While all major applications were tested prior to the rollover, some problems might crop up as ticketing systems and other "Monday morning applications" go into use, said Barrett Murphy, the City of Chicago's Year 2000 project co-manager.

Some state and local governments hoped to mitigate such problems by testing primary systems over the weekend, reporting their status to either the Year 2000 coordination center or to a central information systems office.

New York state agencies, for example, tested their systems throughout the weekend, expecting to have it wrapped up by 8 p.m. Sunday night. Maine did weekend testing as well, beginning early Saturday morning, and posted the results on its Web site as agencies called them in.

But while agencies were reporting no Year 2000-related problems so far,"some of the jobs that run weekly or monthly may not show up for a while,"said Val Wood, manager of Maine's Bureau of Information Services. Monday morning also will be the first test of many schools and businesses. Over the weekend, Chicago began inspecting schools and other city facilities that incorporate computers or embedded computer chips, Murphy said. The city plans to get in touch with businesses Monday to make sure they are in good shape, he said.

Many localities plan to keep their centers operating through Monday or even into Tuesday, but with a largely reduced staff. In some cases, the police or other public safety officials will take over the centers, allowing general agency and IT staff to go home.

Seattle, for example, sent staff home on Saturday, although it was keeping some people on call, said Pam McCammon, an officer with the police department.

The Portland, Ore., coordination center also sent many staff members home Saturday morning, when the first rush of calls from the field were followed by several hours of silence, a staffer said. The San Diego County center began folding up Saturday morning as well.

In fact, as had been expected, the biggest concern for some government agencies was making sure that people did not find Year 2000 problems where there were none.

For example, about 4,200 Seattle residents saw their power flicker as the new year began. But the problem stemmed not from Year 2000 but from fireworks or other objects hitting power lines, city officials explained at a press conference. Meanwhile, an Oregon power plant had to reroute electricity when a transmission tower was vandalized.

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