911 mapping decision tabled

PHILIPPI – Philippi City Council is still undecided about whether or not to opt out of the E911 addressing and mapping system.

Opting out could require citizens and businesses – who already have changed their addresses to an updated one provided through the E911 system – to revert back to their previous addresses.

State law requires that rural route addresses be changed for the E911 system. It also requires changing addresses in locations that share the same road names.

Philippi City Council members voted 3-2 on Tuesday to table their final decision on the matter once more to get additional information about the city’s responsibilities if it chooses to opt out and the potential cost burden on the city and/or its citizens.

Council members Barbara Bryan and Jeff Allen voted against tabling the decision, while Ed Larry, John Green and Terrence Boyd voted in favor. City Council will take up the issue again at its March 4 meeting.

“I want the people to know that they have someone on their side,” Bryan said after the meeting. “We’ve been going on and on about this.”

Allen said that he wants council to opt out of the system. He said that once the financial cost is determined, if it is found to be too much, the city could opt back in.

“We have kept the citizens waiting too long for an answer regardless of how you feel about it,” Mayor Jerry Mouser said just before calling for a motion on the matter. “We need to resolve this thing one way or the other. We’ve kicked it around a dozen times. We’ve had questions and we’ve come up with other questions and it’s time for us to get the thing resolved and do what we have to do and get the answers for the people.

“I’m hoping that at least if we can’t do it tonight, that at the next meeting we can come in here and make a decision that we’re either going to opt in or opt out of this E-911 address change.”

Boyd was concerned with the cost that could be associated with opting out.

“We’ve been kicking this around for a long time,” Boyd said. “Even amongst us, there’s still a lot of questions that need to be answered. Like many of the folks up here who have received many phone calls in support of it – and some opposed – the one question I think that is still in my mind – in most of our minds – and that is, if there is or if there is not a cost associated with the change.”

At a previous meeting, the deputy director of the Barbour County Office of Emergency Management, Jim Ancell, said that the city could create a burden with the cost of creating its own mapping system, and might have to hire someone to do the addressing and mapping for the city.

Boyd said that Elkins was currently going through that process after opting out. He said that Elkins was still required to map all of the addresses to conform to the Geographic Information System.

Elkins will pay Landmark Geospatial $27,5000 to gather and prepare the data necessary for current city addresses to be included in the Randolph County 911 Center’s computer-aided dispatch system. Elkins City Clerk Sutton Stokes said earlier this month that Landmark Geospatial will be able to gather the required information without any city addresses having to be changed.

“As a city, how are we then going to fund that project if each address has to be in accordance to the latitude and longitude,” Boyd said at Tuesday’s meeting. “As an elected official, I want to try to protect our money – the tax payer’s money. So my question is, if we say no, are we going to have to fund the $10,000, $5,000, whatever that number is – and we don’t know that number.”

Mouser said that he spoke to representatives in Parsons who said the only cost they endured was in purchasing signs. Councilman Ed Larry said that Philippi’s situation was unique because, unlike other towns that only had to make minor changes, Philippi still had rural routes inside city limits.

Citizens also spoke at the meeting, once again offering their input – and in some cases research – to City Council. Buck True of Philippi said that the decision before Council was not an easy one to make.

“It’s not easy on the people that you’re making it on,” True also said.

Larry Jett of Philippi said he made calls to 49 small cities in the state with similar populations to Philippi. He said that most of the places he spoke with said that the costs could be funded by the state. He said some even said the state would pay for the signs. He also said that many other locations only changed the rural route addresses and corrected addressing errors.

“The OEM, the post office and the citizens need to know the council will vote on this difficult issue,” Jett said. “The overwhelming majority of the citizens and businesses in the city limits are in suspense. There exists no viable reason to make this drastic change to the city.

“The proposal is flawed. It’s apparent that most other municipalities agree,” Jett said. “The existing addressing in any city would need to be grossly inadequate to suggest making such a change. With few exceptions, the existing house addressing served this city for decades. Our forefathers did an outstanding job when they laid this city out.

“The cost to opt out has been discussed in previous meetings. Why would the city be responsible for any costs when they did not initiate the service?”