City council members, from left, mayor Robbie Skinner, councilman Jack Reger, councilman CJ Rylands and councilwoman Pam Bucklew, discuss a logistical issue with the USPS at council's June 2 meeting. / Photo by Katie Kuba

City may consider switching to 911 mapping, addressing system in light of a U.S. Postal Service logistical issue

BUCKHANNON – The City of Buckhannon may soon have to address a variety of issues with certain residents’ mailing addresses.

Some City of Buckhannon residents – and possibly even entire city streets of residents – may be required to change their mailing addresses in the coming months due to a logistical issue at the U.S. Postal Service, city Public Works Director Jerry Arnold told Buckhannon City Council Thursday.

At council’s June 2 meeting, Arnold briefed council on information city personnel had received from the local U.S. Postal Service postmaster, saying that residents whose mailing addresses contain fractions, alphabetical letters or hyphens will likely be required to alter their addresses. The change, Arnold said, stems from the post office acquiring new computer software that isn’t capable of recognizing those characters.

“It’s going to be something that we have to jump on quickly,” Arnold told council. “The postmaster emailed [city personnel] today, and council doesn’t need to make any decisions now, but they have updated their software and they no longer recognize addresses with halves (1/2) and with letter identifications, so, for instance, if your address is 93 C Camden Avenue, you will not get mail delivered [unless a change is made].”

Arnold said the local postmaster plans to compile a list of all affected mailing addresses within city limits and forward it to City Hall.

“They’re going to send us a list of all those addresses that are problematic for them, and they’re asking us to make changes to those addresses,” he explained. “So, again, with the city’s addressing ordinance, the idea was to address issues as they arise … not to go out and seek those issues but to address them as they come up.”

Arnold said each distinct residential unit in a multi-unit property must be numbered and commercial buildings with multiple units need to be assigned suite numbers.

“Residential addresses that have more than one unit, each unit has to have a number, and commercial structures with multiple units have to have suite numbers, which we’ve been doing as we change the addresses,” he said.

Buckhannon mayor Robbie Skinner asked if changing addresses with halves and letters could create a domino effect, branching out to affect everyone who lives on certain streets.

“So, there’s 9 Park Street and 9 1/2 Park Street, but this would mean that 9 1/2 becomes 11 [Park Street], 11 becomes 13 [Park Street], and so we have to renumber the street?”

“We have to renumber the street,” Arnold replied. “This is a mailing address; it’s not coming from us. This is going to be a lot of work. There’s going to be a lot to do.”

Councilwoman Pam Bucklew asked if the local postmaster had specified a time frame or deadline by which the changes had to be made, and Arnold said no.

“I just found this out today, so I haven’t had a chance to talk to the postmaster directly yet, but we’ll find out and let everybody know,” he said. “I just wanted to make you all aware that that’s coming down the pike.”

Arnold said once the city receives a list of affected addresses, city officials will have a clearer idea of how many homes will be impacted.

Just city addresses – not county ones – will be affected because Buckhannon is only one of two areas in West Virginia that opted out of the E911 mapping and addressing project, which now falls under the purview of the West Virginia Emergency Management Division. Upshur County residents’ mailing addresses have already been incorporated into the E911 mapping and addressing system. The Upshur County Commission adopted its 911 mapping and addressing ordinance Sept. 18, 2003, it was amended four years later in February 2007 and the database is managed locally by county mapping and addressing coordinator Terri Jo Bennett.

“So, if we get over this hump, what’s the next change?” Skinner asked. “Are we going to have to go to blocks? Or should we just think about going to the entire 911 mapping system?”

Arnold said that might be a wise move.

“If you want my opinion, we’ve already been told – or it’s been hinted at – through a lot of the FEMA stuff that Jay’s (city engineer Jay Hollen) been dealing with that we’re going to have to go to the 911 addressing and mapping system. Now, this came directly from the postal service, so it has nothing to do with us or Terri Jo Bennett or the county or E911 mapping; this is the post office saying, ‘City of Buckhannon, we can’t have any more of these half addresses or ABC addresses.’”

Skinner said city officials should discuss and “seriously consider” joining the state’s 911 mapping and addressing system.

“As painful as it will be, if we do it and change it and then it’s not going to change anymore [that would be better] than trying to nickel and dime it and sidestep it every time because also, Main Street’s a mess,” the mayor said. “None of it makes sense between 20 and the courthouse. You have 46 Main Street across the street from 25 Main Street… none of it makes sense. Let’s have that conversation, as painful as it will be. What does CJ always say? ‘Healthy communities have to have tough conversations.’”

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