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Council urged to be leader in ‘Y2K’ preparations

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Fort Frances should hope for the best but prepare for the worst was the message the Year 2000 Action Group brought to Monday night’s regular council meeting.

Group spokesman Eric Alcock, an envoy with the Salvation Army here, urged councillors to take “strong leadership” in raising community awareness of the “Y2K” problem--and have an plans in place in case of emergencies stemming from computer failures on Jan. 1.

Alcock even presented a contingency plan template that has been developed by Caper Jones, chief scientist at Software Productivity Research Inc. in Burlington, Mass., which details a month by month check-list to avoid a worst-case scenario.

While some have criticized such actions as being “extreme,” Alcock noted more and more people are starting to take the “Y2K” problem seriously.

“How extreme is it that this past week the U.S. National Guard, a force of nearly one half-million troops in all 54 states and territories, are being mobilized for a national test in preparation for any ‘Y2K’ caused civil unrest?” he argued.

“How extreme is it when last week FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency of the USA, issued its first official warning to fire and emergency services, community, and the public to get ready now for ‘Y2K’?” he added.

Alcock noted few organizations have time to fix all “Y2K” glitches and are now concentrating on essential systems.

Darryl Allan, Administration and Finance manager for Fort Frances, said that’s what the town has been doing so far. He presented an update Monday night on the “Y2K” preparedness initiative so far, noting the essential system at the water treatment plant have all cleared the millennium bug check.

Public Works is continuing to check its equipment, Allan added, and the sewage treatment plant is next on the list.

“The fire department has determined its equipment is not date sensitive,” he said. “[The Public Utilities Commission] system will continue to function as long as Ontario Hydro can give power.”

Mayor Glenn Witherspoon said a Y2K preparation sub-committee will be established under the Municipal Control Group. To be composed of both council and community members, it will be formed “as soon as possible”--which is exactly what the Year 2000 Action Group was hoping for.

“Council cannot afford to wait for the evening newscasts to decide about ‘Y2K’ preparedness and contingency plans, nor can council make blanket statements that all will be well in the district in the next 12 months,” Alcock warned.

“I believe council must invest significant efforts to get fully informed themselves of ‘Y2K’ related risks and instead make the headlines with a comprehensive ‘Y2K’ strategy for this town,” he stressed.

“In any emergency, this town will sink or swim on the leadership and preparations put forth by those in this room,” he said.

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