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Seeking some wisdom

April 07, 1999

Memo to: Solomon

While we're well aware that it's been thousands of years since the end of your reign as the King of Israel, and that as a result, your skills as an arbiter of the people's difficulties might be a bit rusty, we wondered whether it might be possible for you to stop by and provide some of your fabled wisdom to Berkeley County, W.Va.

Officials there are in a quandary over what should have been a simple task - updating the county's address system for 911 dispatches to eliminate similar-sounding street names so that ambulances sent to "Red Run Road" wouldn't go to "Home Spun Road" instead.

Since the idea behind the change was to save lives, officials were surprised by the public's response, for a couple of reasons. Many residents initially did not reply or express a preference. Then, when the county made its decisions, the complaints began, and two lawsuits were filed.

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Like you, we're big fans of compromise and recommended it in this case, knowing that if a judge overturned the plan, a whole lot of time and money would be lost in doing it over. To its credit, the county agreed to yield, deciding to allow citizens to appeal (until the end of this month) the new names their streets had been assigned.

Whatever system the county comes up with will likely be imperfect, since what the commissioners are contemplating involves trying to make sure that every resident on a street is happy with whatever new name is chosen.

We all know that isn't going to happen; people resist change and there will be some expense and trouble involved in changing stationery, address labels, official documents and driver's licenses.

What we need from you, or from some wise soul from the 20th century, is a way to communicate the idea that while this new system may be imperfect, it wasn't devised to make citizens' lives difficult, but to save their lives in emergency situations.

If you can help, please get back to us. We've also got a little problem called Y2K that we'd like to get your input on.

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