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Putnam County addresses a problem

BANCROFT, W.Va. -- Wayne Asbury said he's not moving the decorative rock his daughter bought him. It sits along his driveway and displays the numbers of his street address.

Well, what used to be his street address.

"Everything worked just fine until two days ago when I got this letter," said Asbury, 74, of Bancroft.

About 500 people in Hometown and Bancroft were the first to receive letters from the Putnam County Office of Emergency Services notifying them they have a new address to comply with federal guidelines.

Asbury's address has changed from 503 Washington Street to 397 Washington Street.

"My neighbor is 244. If they come here looking for 397 and come by house 244, they won't know where to go," he said.

While the changes might not appear to make sense, they'll make things easier for emergency responders, said Jason Owens, deputy director of Putnam 911.

"So many roads in this county are a lot we know of, like Route 12, we know that's around Route 60 and around Lakeside Elementary, but at other times we don't have any clue," Owens said. "That's when we have to go off prior calls or ask people where they live -- that's not how 911 should be. We should know exactly where it is if someone calls, or at least down to a couple hundred feet."

Address changes have been made in most parts of the county, but officials are waiting for the U.S. Postal Service to approve the other changes.

Around 2005, county 911 officials were charged with figuring out how to make sure when someone needed help they had a physical address known to emergency dispatchers.

But, "Last year, I called 911 to take me to the hospital and they found me all right," Asbury said.

Still, some residents in Putnam County can be harder to locate, Owens said.

"Some of the places, like on Red House Hill, don't have a physical address at all -- only P.O. boxes," he said. "For convenience, they'll get the P.O. box in Charleston, where they work, and when they call 911, since it goes by what [the phone company has] on their billing information, that's what comes up.

"While we've never not been able to find anybody, any little delay can make a big difference," he said.

In some areas around the county, names have been assigned to rural roads for the first time, and driveways that are more than a couple hundred feet long for two or more houses were also assigned names.

"In instances like that we tried to get people to pick their own [street] names and let the decision be made between neighbors," Owens said.

Every 10.56 feet, there's an address, said Owens, which allows for 1,000 addresses per mile and provides room for growth.

"If you're driving from the bottom of Red House Hill headed toward Jackson County and looking for the address 8500 on Route 34, you know it's 8.5 miles out," he said.

Odd addresses will be on the left side of the road, and even addresses on the right, Owens said.

Asbury wonders how GPS systems will work when relatives or friends come to visit him from out of state. Google maps already reflect most of the new information, and GPS systems can be updated, Owens said.

Although the change might be frustrating for Asbury, he's already purchased new numbers to place by his front door where the old ones are mounted. And since all residents in Bancroft have a post office box, because there's no home delivery, it won't bother his mail.

"I bought these to put up, and I guess I'll do it whenever the mood strikes me," he said holding the new black numbers.

Reach Kate White at kate.white@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1723.


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