Colorado Springs is in hot water : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

City behind on fixing Y2K problem

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) - City officials are scrambling to beat the clock to avoid Year-2000 computer problems and wondering why something wasn't done long ago.

A $5.4 million project to upgrade the city's payroll computers and exterminate the Y2K bug will cost at least $2.5 million more, city officials said Thursday.

But the question to some is why the City Council and its staff ignored auditor warnings a year ago that the project was in trouble.

City Manager Jim Mullen is investigating what went wrong. The focus is on city staff and consultants hired to implement the software and make all computer programs compatible.

If the computers aren't fixed by Dec. 31, City Hall could find itself unable to pay employees and vendors on time, employees' benefits could be miscalculated and departments may not be able to track their budgets adequately, leading to operational problems.

Mayor Mary Lou Makepeace called it "a mess" and "a major embarrassment."

Computers worldwide could fail Jan. 1, experts warn, because many weren't programmed to recognize 2000 as the new year.

Mullen said he was misled by project leaders and staffers who indicated the project was progressing. That was the message given to the City Council.

"All the Y2K briefings we received was that everything was on track," said former Councilman Randy Purvis, who left office on April 20.

The issue dates to 1997 when the city decided to replace an outdated mainframe computer.

A search team and consultants eventually led to the city signing a $1 million computer software contract with PeopleSoft, of Pleasanton, Calif., in December 1997. It also hired The Firm, now based in Tampa, Fla., to implement the software.

But the city auditor's staff issued a report to the council in May 1998 saying there was a problem.

Auditors called the software "difficult to implement" - a problem compounded by employees' unfamiliarity with the software and their part-time participation in getting it operating.

In October, auditor Randy Breeding again warned of problems.

In a Dec. 10 memo to the council, Mullen acknowledged the project has had problems but questioned Breeding's objectivity because he had favored another software provider.

The problems became so great and The Firm fell so far behind that the city terminated the contract in February after paying most of the $1.5 million contract. In its place, Crestone International, a PeopleSoft-recommended consultant, has been hired to salvage the job - at a cost of another $2.5 million.

Meantime, city officials and contractors are working frantically to get the computers on line.

The council has asked City Attorney Pat Kelly to look into possible legal action against the contractors involved.

-- regular (zzz@z.z), May 03, 1999


Well, what a shock!!! Here is a copy of a letter I wrote to Jim Mullen and the mayor *LAST JULY* And, here's another shock, it was actually returned!:

************************************************ X-Sender: X-Mailer: QUALCOMM Windows Eudora Light Version 3.0.5 (32) Date: Tue, 21 Jul 1998 13:49:14 -0400 To: From: Sean ---------- <> Subject: A former CS citizen's concern Cc:

Dear Mayor Makepeace,

Firstly, I must tell you that I was surprised and elated to see that you have become mayor since last I resided in the Springs, and I congratulate you. My family has always been a big supporter of your's, we placed a very visible sign on our lawn near the SE corner of ---------- and -------- Avenues for two of your campaigns, as I remember. You may recall my mother, Kim ----------, who is a real fan of your's.

But, to the reason I write. I am writing to inquire as to what the city is doing in preparation for possible (most experts on the problem are now saying *likely*) infrastructural and supply-chain disruptions due to mainframe and embedded systems failures caused by the so-called "millenium bug" or "y2k" in the computer jargon. I think that Colorado Springs has an incipient catastrophe on its hands. Neither do I use that word lightly. I think that disaster looms on the near horizon, and from my (admittedly cursory) review of the Springs Online website, there seems little by way of contingency planning in place. This leads me to the uncomfortable conclusion that the Springs may well be woefully unprepared for problems due to the date change. For a rather alarming introduction to the subject see:

especially the link:

Ed Yourdon is a computer programmer, and consultant who has worked extensively on this problem, and has written a best-selling book. I believe that, in retrospect, his words will seem extraordinarily prescient, even prophetic.

Please, I utterly implore you, do not place faith in those who would dismiss this problem as "a computer thing," and therefore largely irrelevant to the average citizen. In time, their attempts to assuage increasing anxiety over this issue will be viewed as irresponsible, and having contributed to dangerous inaction. This issue threatens so many systems as to be worrisome had it only threatened them successively over a ten-year period, yet it is literally *programmed* so as to take place at the same time (making allowances for the four hour time zone difference for the date change itself). Furthermore, this problem is uniquely ubiquitous.

Neither need one accept my pessimistic analysis, since alarmingly pessimistic, and qualifiedly expert opinions are amply documented throughout various media. I ardently hope that you will take some time out of your very busy schedule to become somewhat familiar with this topic. It may become very helpful in launching a preparedness program. I would be most happy to volunteer whatever writing skills or other services I could provide in such a cause. I may well be relocating to Colorado Springs out of concern over just this problem. I believe Philadelphia (where I am currently a graduate student) will be even more aversely affected by this systemic problems. I include exemplary links to the following areas:

[Web sites omitted, but I'll be glad to post them for any newbies or especially CO residents, to which they might be particularly interesting]

I hope that you will take the opportunity to become as educated as possible on this vitally important issue. I hope and pray that these words do not fall on deaf ears.

Thank You,

Sean ------- University of -------------


I received a boiler-plate answer from the y2k manager, Bob Kelso, whom they had hired, and I sent him back a long rebuttal of the premises upon which that boiler-plate answer was based. He was a bit taken aback, from what I could tell by his response.

I was impressed by the Springs' website on their project, but now I realize what a dupe I was for being so. I wonder if they've actually done anything at all.

Sorry so long, but I'd love to hear from fellow Colordoans on this one.

-- Sean (, May 03, 1999.


"Mullen said he was misled by project leaders and staffers who indicated the project was progressing. That was the message given to the City Council. "

Wish I had the time to accumulate the EXCUSES that will be pouring out of these politicians. Probably be the makings for one heck of a book.

Get ready for some of the most outrageous excuses one has ever heard.


-- Ray (, May 03, 1999.

And of course, regardless of what recommendations were made and upon what deaf ears they fell, we all know who the fall guys will be: 'The council has asked City Attorney Pat Kelly to look into possible legal action against the contractors involved.'

At this point, whether consultants bail out or stay the course, they are going to be the sponges to sop up all that overspilling blame. A truly sad situation.

-- Shelia (, May 03, 1999.

Looking for Polly responses on this thread!


-- Ray (, May 03, 1999.

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