Garbage Billing Is Botched In a Big Way

Computer Snafu: An Emergency Fix
Could Cost San Jose Up To $360,000.

Excerpt from San Jose Mercury News,
Wednesday, November 13, 1996.

By Scott Herhold, Mercury News Staff Writer(Emphasis added).

  "A computer snafu has thrown San Jose's garbage billing system into massive disarray, stopping bills from going out and prompting the city council to spend up to $360,000 for an emergency cure.

"In her memo, the city manager said the crisis first became evident the weekend of Sept. 28-29, when city officials were performing maintenance on the computerized utility billing system. When that process was stopped because of a temporary lack of file space, the officials attempted to recreate key billing information by using a backup computer tape from the previous Friday, Sept. 27.

". . . But Williams said the officials had not verified the accuracy of the backup tape.

"The backup tape and another from Thursday, Sept. 26, were both massively flawed.Williams said they had been damaged because a tape drive - a mechanical device - had malfunctioned. When the backup tapes were loaded onto the computer, they erased the original system's information, meaning the city lost crucial current records.

"The city manager told the council that the lower-level officials had opted not to verify the backup tapes because the procedure took an extra four hours, delaying the time that the main system could go back into operation.

"'They were doing the backup tapes,' she explained later in an interview. 'What they weren't doing was periodically going through the process of looking at the data.'

"Williams called it 'unfortunate' because the city could have bought equipment to shorten the time needed to verify the tapes."

End Excerpt.


Selected Phrases For Discussion:
  • Had Not Verified
  • Both massively flawed
  • Took an extra four hours
  • $360,000