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Computers will be shut down

Linda Hiller

Douglas County computers are being shut down from noon tomorrow until the morning of Tuesday, Dec. 9. It will be painful but not fatal, according to Matt Osa of the county’s Information Services department.

Osa, a programmer analyst with the county, said the shutdown is necessary so the current county-wide IBM 9406 model E50 system can be upgraded to the smaller, faster 500 series. The last time the system was upgraded was in 1988, he said.

The public access computer terminals located at various Douglas County offices – that of the assessor, treasurer, recorder, community development and Tahoe general services – will be unavailable from noon Thursday, Dec. 4 until Tuesday morning, Dec. 9.

“There are four main Valley locations that will be affected,” Osa said. “The Judicial and Law Enforcement Complex, the Minden Inn, the county courthouse and the communications center. County offices at Lake Tahoe will also be affected, along with animal control, the warehouse, and police substations.”

The upgrading process itself is time-consuming, and any errors in the process could result in losing millions of documents, Osa said. To assure that nothing is lost, two complete system saves will be performed before the old system is torn down. At noon tomorrow, all the county offices will go off the system.

“Then we’ll do two total system saves, which will take six hours for each one,” Osa said. “We’re allowing for a worst case scenario. In case something does go wrong with one of the saves, another copy will be available,” he said.

At 2 a.m., the first IBM technician will come in and begin to dismantle the old system. By 7 a.m. the next morning, the next IBM technician will come and begin to build the new system. After that, the process of adding the data back on from the saves will begin.

“It’s a straight conversion, but there can be no flaws in the saves,” Osa said.

The budgeted cost for the conversion is $120,000. Osa said the final costs may well come in under that figure, as parts of the old system will be sold and some returned to IBM.

The new system will give county workers 2-1/2 to 3 times the power at less than one-third the size of the old system. County employees should find the new computer has more speed and connective possibilities as well as enhanced performance, he said.

Douglas County Recorder Linda Slater said the seven employees in her office are prepared for the shutdown.

“We record from 200 to 250 documents every day, and we will have alternative printouts for people to use,” she said. “The only bad thing will be that we can’t put the documents on the computer so if someone wants to research a name they’ll have to use the printouts.”

Slater held a meeting Tuesday morning to preview the temporary process with her main users, which include title company personnel.

“It will be a slight inconvenience, but we’ve got it under control,” she said.

Douglas County Assessor Barbara Byington said her office had to hustle to finish their tax rolls yesterday instead of by next Monday, when they’d normally be due.

“We can still use our PCs, but we decided to close the Lake Tahoe office while the conversion is taking place,” she said.

Anyone who tangles with the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office while the computers are down will have their encounters written by hand, but that shouldn’t affect arrests, Osa said.

Although it’s never convenient to shut down the computers, county auditors carefully selected this time period as the most convenient, based on payroll and other factors.

“If we do get done early, we’ll be happy, but, again, we’re planning for the worst case scenario and should have no problem getting things up and running by Tuesday morning,” Osa said.