Scheduling is major worry for airlines

By Tony Fyffe
Associate Editor

One of the biggest fears surrounding the Y2K conversion is that when the new century rolls around, money in checking, savings and other bank accounts will be wiped out because of computer glitches.

That's not so, say officials of the four banking institutions in Johnson County.

Officials with Citizens National, First National, Family and Matewan banks say steps are being taken to ensure that their customers' money will be safe during and after the Y2K transition.

At Citizens National, for example, a five-member committee has been formed to oversee the transition process.

Carol Pelphrey, the bank's vice president of technology/operations and chairman of the committee, said the group was created to "ensure that computers, systems and third-party providers are Year 2000 ready."

Working since June 1997 on the Y2K situation, the committee has completed phases such as assessment, renovation, testing and contingency planning, she said.

"Our testing results reflect that everything will work as planned for the turn of the century," Pelphrey said. "We will continue to do testing procedures during the remainder of the year."

A similar committee is also in place at First National, where president Bob Bayes says officials have been working for a year and a half to prepare for the year 2000.

Bayes says fears that customers' money and records will be lost if anything goes awry are unfounded.

"That's never going to happen," he said. "We do back-ups (on records) all the time."

Bayes and John Blackburn, president of Family Bank, acknowledged that some customers will make a run on banks to withdraw their money as 2000 approaches, but both say that is not a good idea.

"We very strongly feel that the safest place (for their money) is in the bank vault," Bayes said, noting that First National's vault door was installed in 1905 and has no computer chips to malfunction when the new century arrives.

"I would just caution people not to panic," added Family Bank's Blackburn, who said customers would be making a mistake if they withdraw their money because of the Y2K scare.

"There's going to be a lot of con artists out there preying on that kind of mentality," Blackburn said.

Blackburn and Bayes said some customers have already taken their money out of the bank, but added they don't expect a "mad rush" as the year 2000 gets closer.

Jim Edwards, chief operations officer of Matewan and coordinator of the bank's Y2K project, said his bank began addressing the situation in October 1997 and has spent $700,00 to become Y2K compliant. Now, he said, Matewan will begin an education and awareness campaign to assure customers that their money will be safe at the turn of the century.

"Getting the truth out to the consumers is one of the biggest tasks we'll have," Edwards said.

Education and awareness will be the focus of a community meeting planned for later this year by all four local banks. Bayes, of First National, said the local Chamber of Commerce will be asked to sponsor the forum and to invite other local businesses and service providers to participate.