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Suit could hamper renaming

March 01, 1999|By BRYN MICKLE

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A pending lawsuit in Berkeley County Circuit Court could have far-reaching ramifications for the county's 911 address conversion program, said one Berkeley County Commissioner.

"It will set a precedent (if the county loses). Anyone unhappy with their street name will be able to sue to get it changed," said County Commission President D. Wayne Dunham.

A Berkeley County couple is suing the county over its decision to change their street name from Boy Scout Road to Big F Park Road.

Paul D. and Carolyn S. Oliver contend the new road name has a negative sexual connotation and will drive down the value of their $205,000 home in the Birch Creek subdivision in Hedgesville.

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"Your address defines who you are. Most people take "Big F" to mean something else," said Paul Oliver.

The Oliver's lawsuit maintains the County Commission lacks the right or jurisdiction to change any road names in the county and has asked a County Circuit Court judge to reverse the changes or force the County Commission to pay damages.

"I don't object to enhanced 911 but I think the county has come up with the wrong way to do it," said Paul Oliver.

The lawsuit is scheduled to be heard March 24.

Dunham, however, said the county is acting in the best interests of its citizens.

"Someone had to take the initiative to provide better emergency services. The bottom line is that we are doing this to save lives," said Dunham.

The county is in the process of an address conversion plan that eliminates similar-sounding roads among the about 425 roads in the county and 61 streets in the City of Martinsburg.

The new system will use a computerized system to identify locations but emergency officials are concerned people in an emergency situation may get flustered and confuse streets that may sound the same.

With April 1, 1999, already set as a target date to finalize the address changes the County Commissioners had to draw a line on the name-change issue, he said.

"It's so late in the game. If we have to go back and change streets it will take forever," said Dunham.

County Commissioner John Wright said he was "not surprised" by the Oliver's lawsuit but refused to comment on pending litigation.

Wright has said the County Commission should be more receptive to citizen concerns about the street renaming process.

While the Oliver's lawsuit is set to be heard later this month more county residents are considering similar legal action.

A group of about 100 residents calling themselves "Berkeley County Citizens For Common Sense 911" will meet this week to consider filing their own lawsuit," said group member Tom Grove.

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