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Judge won't stop 911 street renaming

March 26, 1999|By BRYN MICKLE

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Dissatisfied Berkeley County residents will have until the end of April to lodge complaints with the Berkeley County Commission over proposed street name changes that are part of a new enhanced 911 system.

Thursday's decision by the county to extend the appeal process came on the same day Berkeley County Circuit Court Judge David Sanders ruled against two groups that had filed for injunctions to derail the address change process.

The hearing drew more than 60 people to the second-floor courtroom in the Berkeley County Courthouse to listen to arguments on the county's right to rename private roads.

While the gallery sat silently for most of the proceeding, Sanders threatened to have people removed after a misunderstanding about the address appeal process prompted an angry response from the spectators.

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"We're not going to have a free-for-all here," said Sanders.

Sanders said the county's decision to stop hearing new complaints on the issue earlier this year was "rightfully received" by the public as "an insensitive act of government."

The county's decision to reopen the appeals process played a role in Sanders' decision to find in the county's favor on both lawsuits seeking injunctions, he said.

Sanders also pointed to a $190,000 contract the county has already signed for the conversion plan and said substantial delays in the process could cause the county to default on the contract.

Hedgesville homeowners Paul D. and Carolyn S. Oliver filed a lawsuit claiming a proposal to rename a road in their development Big F Park Road carries a negative sexual connation that would drive down the value of the $205,000 home.

The Olivers' lawsuit was followed by a suit filed earlier this month by a citizen group seeking to take the 911 street renaming process back to square one.

Berkeley County Citizens for Common Sense 911 have alleged that changing the names of 500 county roads will cost businesses and homeowners millions of dollars and would damage the county's tourism business.

Despite Sanders refusal to grant their request to freeze the county's 911 plan until July 2000, Common Sense 911 members claimed victory.

"We gave another month to the people who aren't happy with their road names," said Tom Grove.

Grove said Common Sense 911 members still plan to continue with a civil lawsuit that seeks to block the renaming process and force the county to place Common Sense 911 members on the county's 911 advisory committee.

The group's lawsuit also asks for monetary compensation for increased costs from the address changes and for properties they say will be devalued by the name changes.

An attorney for the Olivers declined comment on the court decision and said no decision had been made on any possible appeal.

County officials have said the plan to rename roads as part of a county-wide address conversion would eliminate similar-sounding road names that can create confusion in an emergency situation.

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