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Berkeley Co. makes name plan

April 05, 1999|By BRYN MICKLE

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - With less than four weeks until the Berkeley County Commission's self-imposed deadline for street name appeals, the county is trying to figure out what shape the appeal process will take.

The county helped avert legal action against its 911 conversion process last month when it agreed to extend the deadline for appeals until the end of April, but it has not yet formalized the appeal process.

Calling the April 30 deadline "not realistic," County Commission President D. Wayne Dunham said the process will likely run into next month.

The commissioners have asked Berkeley County Administrator Deborah Sheetenhelm to prepare a draft complaint review process and are expected to vote on a process Thursday.

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One of the principal concerns with setting up an appeal process lies in making sure most residents on a given road are satisfied with any name changes, said Sheetenhelm.

"The commissioners want to be as fair as possible," she said.

The appeals process will require complaints to be submitted in writing, set specific dates for complaints to be filed and set a specific end date for appeals to be heard, she said.

A final decision on new road names needs to be in place by July so that workers can begin feeding addresses into the new enhanced 911 system, said Sheetenhelm.

Enhanced 911 systems automatically show addresses, and sometimes maps, pinpointing incoming calls, allowing faster and more accurate response.

The current system is not Y2K compliant and the county wants to ensure it has enough time to test the new system before Dec. 31, she said.

The county's attempt to convert its emergency systems created controversy after the county decided to rename some roads as a way of eliminating similar-sounding road names that might create confusion in an emergency situation.

Sheetenhelm said county offices received "a number of extremely nasty letters and ill-tempered phone calls" after a Berkeley County Circuit Court judge last month ruled against a pair of lawsuits filed by citizens who objected to proposed road name changes.

Circuit Judge David Sanders criticized parts of the process as "an insensitive act of government" but lauded the county's decision to reopen the appeals process.

While Dunham does not expect the extension to satisfy everyone, he said the commission's decision to reopen the process will iron out some of the problems that have faced the county up to now.

"We're opening up another door and moving a step closer to getting (enhanced 911) done," he said.

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