CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Apparently, the state Office of Emergency Services decided that all residents need to have a mailing address tied to their actual location, to improve response for fire, emergency or police situations.
This is obviously a positive goal. We see clusters of mailboxes in rural areas that may be considerable distances from the actual homes. Emergency services trying to respond to a call with only a mailbox address or uncertain road descriptions could be delayed with possible deadly consequences.
So, the obvious solution is to attach an address that can be put into a GPS or other mapping service. Then, comes the question of how to assign these locations -- if there is no street identified, how do you call these out?
Of course, one possible solution would be to identify addresses by latitude and longitude coordinates, such as you see on most modern deeds. Another would be to assign street names and numbers with some degree of input from residents. Finally, where there are clumps of mailboxes, these might be relocated to actual residences (but this has possible negative consequences for mail delivery in bad weather).
Here in Putnam County, it appears that the naming convention did not stop at rural routes and mailbox clusters, but was extended to developed areas with established street names and numbers. Many people are finding that their established addresses are being changed, without notice to or any input from homeowners.
In my subdivision, residents whose streets and houses were numbered for more than 10 years now have been notified (or not) that their address is being changed. In my case, my first indication was arrival of a bill from Putnam Service District addressed to a different street and box number. I was about to return it as misdelivered, but opened it and found that the PSD had changed my address.
The post office told us they had been notified by the Putnam Office of Emergency Services that addresses had to be changed -- all with no notice to homeowners. Postal officials said they had received thousands of complaints and misdelivered or returned mail due to these changes.
Now the bad parts: The street address assigned to me is a small cul-de-sac off another street in our subdivision, about a half-mile distant. If an emergency service was responding and went to that street, I could be dying or my home burning while they wandered around looking for a non-existent address.