Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV


October 12, 2013

Address change: Upgrade a challenge for Welch

— — Communities across our region have been updating their 911 street addressing and mapping for several years now. But the ongoing process is presenting a unique challenge to the city of Welch.

The McDowell County 911 Center is hoping to implement a traditional rural addressing upgrade for the city. That means about 90 percent of all citizens and businesses in the municipal limits could see their addresses change, according to City Attorney Danny Barie. And that is expected to cause some confusion.

Barie says the rural addressing method proposed for the city is normally used for areas that lack modern addressing and street mapping. Such a method has already been utilized in communities and small towns across the county. What makes the situation unique in Welch is that many of the existing addresses in the city have been in the books for nearly 100 years.

 The city itself will turn 112 years old next year. For example, Barie says a local bank has been at the same location since 1903. And the McDowell County Courthouse has been at its current address since 1894.

There is no question that the city does need to come into compliance with the statewide addressing and mapping regulations. And there are many benefits to the program. For example, duplicate names — say a John Doe Street and a John Doe Avenue — would be eliminated to help prevent confusion when emergency responders are dispatched to a certain address. Eliminating duplicate addresses will improve emergency response times. And in an emergency, every second counts.

But given the unique challenge faced by the city of Welch, it would appear that officials should embark upon the least disruptive path. If more than 90 percent of city residents and businesses are ultimately required to change their addresses, it could cause some problems.

Barie believes if a third party — or in-house city employees — complete the addressing and mapping process, there could be fewer or less disruptive changes.

At this point, the one thing that is needed is public input. The city is hoping to hear from its citizens. And their input will be critical in determining the best method of moving forward with the 911 addressing upgrade. A public meeting has been set for Wednesday, Oct. 16, at 6:30 p.m. at the Herzburn Room at the McDowell County Public Library in Welch. Barie said city officials are urging all residents of Welch to attend the meeting, and to let city officials know what method of mapping and 911 addressing they would prefer.

Many residents in the city will be impacted by the mapping and addressing upgrade. That’s why everyone should have a say in how the process is implemented. If you live in the city limits of Welch, attendance at the Wednesday, Oct. 16, meeting should be considered mandatory.


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