Douglas County's computer upgrades are nearing completion and drawing praise from county employees enjoying the benefits.
About one year and about $1 million later, an update of Douglas County's computer systems is nearly complete, and the county will be ready for the year 2000.
That information was part of a technology update given Monday to the Douglas County Commission by Jim Lawson, information services coordinator.
"All in all, we've accomplished a lot in the last 12 months," Lawson told the commissioners.
The county has:
- Linked all county departments with e-mail and intranet systems.
- Set up an imaging system for voter registration cards, eliminating the daily use of paper cards.
- Built fiber optic connections between the courthouse, the Douglas County Judicial and Law Enforcement Center and the public works building.
- Set up a computerized mapping system that can be used by both county and city departments.
- Gotten ready for a computer problem, called Y2K, expected to occur Jan. 1, 2000, when some computers will mistakenly register the date as Jan. 1, 1900.
The commissioners seemed pleased with the results.
"We didn't just go out and put a Band-Aid on the Y2K problem," Commission chairman Dean Nieder said. "The county ought to be proud of the fact we didn't do that. We tried to do it right."
But Nieder said he was bothered by the way the expenses were brought to the commission.
"Nobody ever told us how much this would cost," he said. "It came at us in increments."
Commissioner Tom Taul held up an early proposal requesting a little more than $300,000 for computer work, which at the time was taken to be the sum needed.
By the end of the year, the county will have spent about $1 million on its computer systems, said Pam Madl, director of administrative services.
Some improvements cost more than expected or were unanticipated when the project began, Madl said.
"We learned more as we got into it," she said.
A new court system in particular was more expensive than first thought. And a new system for the district attorney's office wasn't part of the original plan.
New systems are expected to go online in the district court, district attorney and register of deeds offices in June. A new tax system is to be up and running in July.
The final pieces to both the updating and year 2000 puzzle are new payroll, budgeting and accounting systems, the selection of which are under way.
Lawson has earned praise from various department heads as he has orchestrated the computer changes.
Lawson plans a test of the year 2000 problems on Sept. 1, when he will roll the computer dates up to Jan. 1, 2000, to see what will happen.
The systems now in place will be able to adapt both next year and into the future as new technologies continue to make the day-to-day work of the county easier, Lawson said.
"We've got a system we can grow with," he said.
-- Kendrick Blackwood's phone message number is 832-7221. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.