Prince George's County officials say all computer systems critical to the county's operations have been tested and fixed to function when the year 2000 rolls around.
The county also has contingency plans in place in case something unexpected goes wrong, according to a report released this week. Less essential computer systems will continue to be tested this month and into December.
"We are ready," Libby Clapp, the county's information technology director, told the County Council during a briefing Tuesday. "We have not finished everything, but we have contingency plans."
Clapp said the county conducted a test in mid-September to make sure its computer systems would interact properly. Individual systems such as those that control traffic signals were tested in July.
"We considered it a success, because we identified [problems] and fixed them," she said of the systemwide test.
One glitch occurred when the court system's computer sent records to the computer for the corrections department. A court case is assigned a number beginning with the last two digits of the year. But the corrections computer was programmed to drop zeroes in front of a number. So a court case that began with "00"--representing a case assigned in 2000--could not be identified properly in the system.
The problem was corrected by reprogramming the computer to recognize a zero as a legitimate part of the court identification number.
Council member Ronald V. Russell (D-Mitchellville) said he is optimistic that everything will work properly Jan. 1. But he and other council members also expressed concern that the public lacks information about the county's efforts.
"There has not been the kind of awareness or conversation about the issue that there should have been," Russell said.
Russell said he is concerned that a planned hot line for residents to call for information is not yet operational. He also wants assurance that the hot line will be able to handle a flood of calls.
Jay Creech, a county attorney who is chairman of the Prince George's Y2K committee, said a hot line will be in place within days.
County Executive Wayne K. Curry (D) announced in March that the county would not keep the public routinely informed through the media about its Y2K preparations.
"Prince George's County will not be using its resources to announce where it is at any given time," according to the statement released by his office. "Instead it will be using its resources to work effectively, deliberately and yes, quietly to resolve the problem."
The statement came in response to an article in The Washington Post that reported that the county was behind other local governments in the region in preparing for potential computer glitches that could occur Jan. 1.
Council Chairman M.H. Jim Estepp (D-Croom) said it appears that the county is back on track.
"We certainly seemed to have gotten off to a slow start, but we seem to have caught up," he said.