Welfare department computer upgrades: one down, one to go

With one of its two mainframe computers successfully upgraded and "purring like a kitten," the Department of Information Technology is preparing to upgrade to the second one tonight.

Director Terry Savage said Sunday night's upgrade of the machine which handles the NOMADS welfare system and the Unity child support program "went as smoothly as you could want."

He said the second mainframe machine will get its processing ability expanded during the night, relieving the load on the Department of Motor Vehicles Genesis System and the state's executive budget system. That, Savage said, should go just as smoothly.

While Genesis continued to operate pretty well, the budget system was so overloaded at one point earlier this month that 20-minute delays to process a screen were common.

The upgrades, approved as emergency needs by Gov. Kenny Guinn, will cost the state a little more than $2 million.

Savage told lawmakers when he announced the planned upgrades that one of the two mainframes was "approaching meltdown" and that the other would soon follow if they didn't act.

Director of Administration Perry Comeaux said the computer upgrade is vital to his analysts who must prepare and put together the state budget for 2001-2.

"The governor needs the budget information as quickly as possible so he can make some decisions," said Comeaux.

The computer logjam prevented numerous agencies from inputting their budgets electronically. To meet this past week's statutory deadline for submitting their budgets, he said they had to send them to the Budget Division in Microsoft Excel format with, in some cases, paper backup materials.

Comeaux said now his office is trying to convert those files and transfer them into the budget system. Then, he said, the "number crunching" begins to put all the agency requests together and give Gov. Guinn a complete picture of agency needs.


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