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New 911 would change addresses

July 24, 1997

By DON AINES

Staff Writer, Martinsburg

MARTINSBURG - Virtually every street address in Berkeley County will be changed if the county decides to implement an enhanced 911 system.

An ordinance to adopt the system is the subject of a public meeting Wednesday at 4 p.m. at the Berkeley County Courthouse.

Streets with the same or similar names would also be changed to prevent confusion for police, fire and ambulance personnel responding to emergencies.

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"Everybody's street number outside of the city of Martinsburg is going to change," according to 911 Director Mary Kackley. Every 5.28 feet of street frontage will get a number.

"No one can build on 5.28 feet of property," she noted, but the system guarantees the county won't run out of street addresses whatever the level of growth. Emergency vehicles will be able to gauge how far they are from a location by using odometers if bad weather obscures addresses.

Houses on the right side of a road will get even numbers and those on the left will get odd numbers. Kackley explained that even on streets with addresses, the numbering is often haphazard.

"We do know there are approximately 28 state and county roads that have duplicate names," said Kackley. That doesn't include duplicate or similar names in subdivisions and private developments. Many county addresses are only route and box numbers.

In January the county allocated $199,230 for the project. Soon field crews will identify homes, businesses and other structures to put into the 911 system's computers.

The system would take months to implement, and not everyone is happy with the idea of changing the names of roads, streets, and lanes that have become familiar over the decades.

"I'm totally in favor of the upgrade of the 911 system, but I believe some serious questions need to be asked," said Richard Augustine, the president of the Deerwood Homeowners' Association in southern Berkeley county.

Augustine said about a dozen streets begin with the word "Sun" and most will be changed. In private developments residents will pay to replace signs. Even if names are not changed, signs will be replaced if they don't meet state codes.

"All the private developments in the county are going to have to pay to change their street signs," while those living on county and state roads would not, Augustine said. He feels the county should pay, since each phone line has a $1.50 surcharge for 911 service.

"I think they should take a step back and see if they can disrupt fewer people's lives," said Augustine, who spoke with Commissioner Jim Smith about the issue on a local radio talk show yesterday.

Smith said Wednesday he will be among those having to pay for a sign for the unnamed road leading to his home.

Street and address complaints could be taken to the county 911 Advisory Board. Historical significance and the number of people on a road would be taken into consideration in the name changes.

The project is part of a $3.6 million, five-year program to upgrade the 911 system.

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