Propstra Square's clock falls back a week early

Computer upgrade needed since daylight saving time change in 2007

By Sue Vorenberg, Columbian features reporter

Published:

 
photoDon Swem watches as a cast bronze bell is lifted to the Salmon Run Bell Tower at Esther Short Park when it was first installed in 2002. The tower is still using the same computer system, which is why the clock marked the end of daylight saving time a week early this year. Congress changed the end of daylight saving time from October to November in 2007. The clock will get a much-needed computer upgrade in mid-November.

(/The Columbian)

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Time decided to “fall back” a little early this year in Vancouver’s living room.

As workers strolled back from lunch across Esther Short Park at about 1 p.m. Tuesday, the Propstra Square bell tower rang out the correct hour — although it did it 12 times over.

Apparently, nobody told the clock’s computer that Congress moved the end of daylight saving time from October to November back in 2007.

“Fall back” time really shifts this weekend on the morning of Nov. 3.

“What we’ve got is some old programming in that (clock and bell) system,” said Dan Norfleet, superintendent of facilities for the city of Vancouver. “We’ve actually got the manufacturer coming out on Nov. 18 to upgrade it.”

The Verdin Co. of Cincinnati installed the bell and computer system in the Salmon Run Bell Tower in the spring of 2002. And that somewhat clunky old system has kept things going until now.

“Actually, over 10 years is pretty good, considering computers usually only last about five years,” Norfleet said. “But it’s time. It’s a little awkward for us to change right now. You sort of have to go through an old DOS (operating) system.”

Congress extended daylight saving time by about a month as part of the 2005 energy bill.

Both the extension and the original concept of daylight saving time are aimed at saving electricity costs by extending the amount of daylight into the evening when more people are awake. But the effectiveness of that plan remains a subject of much debate.

Once Norfleet learned that a time warp had occurred in the Propstra Square tower, he quickly dispatched workers to manually reset it Tuesday afternoon.

“Not to blame Congress or anything,” he said with a laugh. “But when we changed daylight saving time, it really threw us for a spin. We’ve had to change it manually every year since then. Forgive the pun, but, we have to change it twice a year, like clockwork.”

The new system will fix the problem, he added.

“The new system will be much more user-friendly,” Norfleet said. “We’re kind of excited to get it upgraded. The tower has become a great icon for the city.”