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Putnam hits snags with county address changes

WINFIELD, W.Va. -- Putnam County 911 has been overwhelmed with the number of calls from concerned residents since another wave of notices were issued on the address changes happening throughout the county.

"We did the Bancroft and Hometown areas without a problem; we did the Buffalo area with relative ease -- then the Postal Service sent out another 7,000 letters without giving us a heads up, and Monday morning -- we apologize to everyone who called. We were just overwhelmed," said Frank Chapman, director of the Putnam County Office of Emergency Services. "We had well over 1,000 calls."

Putnam County 911 has assigned new addresses to county residents in order to comply with state and national standards, according to Jason Owens, deputy director of Putnam 911. Residents of different areas in the county have received notification from the U.S. Postal Service regarding the change, and county clerk Brian Wood said that in a year the 911-assigned address will be the necessary address for residents to list on their driver's licenses, voter registration cards and other common legal documents.

"We will still have both [addresses] in our system; we'll have that layer, because you're still going to have elderly people who may need a while to remember their address," Chapman said. "When mine got changed, it was weeks before I could remember what it was."

The change is the result of an ordinance adopted in 2003 by the Putnam County Commission to align the county with state policy meant to standardize addresses. The new system will generate a potential 1,000 addresses to be assigned for every 10.56 feet along a road in order to allow for future growth and change in neighborhoods and other areas, Owens said, which is why two neighboring houses may not have similar numbers.

The project has run into snags, however. It was originally proposed by Verizon Communications, which offered the state $15 million to undertake the project. When the state wasn't able to complete the project, it became the responsibility of the counties that had opted into it to finish, Chapman said, and Putnam County contributed $70,000 to complete the project.

Putnam 911 submitted its data three years ago to the USPS, which began its move for address changes within the last six months -- a delay that has caused more confusion in the transition, as many of the recipients of the notices have moved in the last three years.

Chapman said some notices have been delayed so that OES can deal with resolving the issues with residents who have already received notice. Municipalities were given the option to develop their own addressing system, and Hurricane and Eleanor both opted to create modified versions of the system.

Sherry Graley and a handful of residents of one subdivision in Culloden were present at the County Commission meeting. Graley and other residents of Joy Lane and Cleveland Drive in Culloden requested the commission explore the possibility of allowing parts of unincorporated areas in the county to opt out of the change.

"Some of them have lived there for 40-plus years, and we have fire departments and police departments within a mile," Graley said. "I understand the rural routes, but we each have street addresses."

Owens said many of the newer subdivisions had been grandfathered into the ordinance because their numbering systems fell into compliance, and the reason Graley's neighborhood had received notice was because the contractor had found a duplicate address on Cleveland Drive, a lot that had likely been divided, which created 2217 Cleveland Drive and 2217A Cleveland Drive.

The commission will address the possibility of exempting unincorporated areas during its next regular meeting Nov. 12.

The commission also voted to approve the payment of $133,205.84 to GDY LLC over the course of two fiscal years on behalf of the Putnam County Health Department. Gary Young, owner of GDY LLC and former landlord of the Health Department, said that his company has requested rent through this month to cover the time spent correcting modifications made to the PCHD's former offices.

"If we were to enforce the obligations outlined under the current lease, it would be more than $300,000," Young said. "We are reaching out in an effort to bring resolution to this in such a manner that we get reimbursed for the repair cost of the space, which we were just able to get marketable again.

"We're not the bad guys in this. I think all of us, under the circumstances and with how the Health Department has landed, have some issues. I just wanted to bring resolution to it."

The county will hold a surplus property sale Nov. 2 at 11 a.m. at the courthouse. Most of the property is from the PCHD, and includes county vehicles and office furniture and supplies.

Reach Lydia Nuzum at lydia.nuzum@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5189.


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