by Nora Edinger
CLARKSBURG -- The hiring of a statewide contractor has West Virginia's 911 readdressing campaign on track for late 2006 completion.
Jimmy Gianato, vice chair of the West Virginia Statewide Addressing and Mapping Board, said addressing contractor Microdata will start on a pilot project in Kanawha and Putnam counties as soon as the contract has final approval. That was expected to happen late last week.
"That area has a mix of rural and urban addresses," Gianato said of starting around the state capital. "We want to make sure we get all the bugs out."
Once the pilot area is readdressed so that each home or business has a number and street -- instead of a rural route and box -- the contractor will begin moving into other regions.
"Areas that are already addressed with city-style addresses will not change," Gianato said. "They'll just be verified (that they are correctly done) and built into the system."
Regionally, that would include locations inside city limits such as Clarksburg and some entire counties that made the switch on their own prior to statewide adoption of the program. Lewis County is among the latter.
Gianato said the primary purpose of the project is to assist 911 emergency responders in locating patients. There have been potentially life-threatening delays in some areas because of the vagueness of the rural route-and-box system.
"We want to make sure that we develop a correct, statewide addressing system," he said, noting there are other potential uses for having an extensive record of where properties are around the state.
He said the data will also help with censusing, determining election precincts and promoting homeland security. More mundane activities such as package delivery and utility-line maintenance will also be assisted by an earlier part of the project that involved taking aerial photos of the entire state and creating digital maps.
Line location is behind the funding of the project, as well. Verizon agreed to pick up the $15 million tab in an agreement with the state Public Service Commission. The company wants more exact information on the location of its lines.
While regional counties wait for Microdata to arrive, county address coordinators are laying the groundwork.
One key part of that is settling disputes over road names. That became a critical issue in Marion County, which was also among those counties to do solo readdressing before the state got on board. A group of rural residents there so opposed the road name Pinch Gut Hollow that news of the fight reached the Wall Street Journal.
Addressing coordinators for Harrison and Doddridge/Ritchie counties say no such fights are known to be looming -- but you never know.
"There's always going to be controversy when you have to change a name," said Fred Smart, interim Harrison County addressing coordinator and 911/Office of Emergency Services director. "But, the aim is to eliminate the possibility of any confusion."
Smart said Harrison County will spend much of 2004 going through road names in each ZIP code, checking for duplicates and sound-alikes that could cause confusion when spoken by dispatchers. A permanent coordinator, Greg Skidmore, soon will begin training for that effort.
Terry Snodgrass, addressing coordinator and 911/OES director for Doddridge and Ritchie counties, said things are much the same there. He is beginning to send letters to residents who live on roads whose names will be changed.
"I expect a lot more feedback (on name suggestions) when that correspondence begins," he said of a step that will be followed by formal recommendations to the county commission. "Our responsibility is to have those roads named when the (statewide) addressing coordinator gets here."
Regional Editor Nora Edinger can be reached at 626-1447 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.