BARRE — City officials are doing what they say should have been done nearly two decades ago: creating a comprehensive database of Enhanced 911-compliant addresses for every building in Barre.
Though the city did resolve some potentially confusing conflicts by renaming several similarly named streets back in 1996, officials at the time opted not to renumber hundreds of properties as part of a process that has since been revived.
The ongoing effort is not without critics because changing your address when you aren’t moving anywhere is an inconvenience. Think letterhead, business cards and personal checks. That reality is one of the reasons E-911 maps that were drafted in 1996 were never implemented.
The E-911-driven decision to rename more than 40 streets produced enough blowback to prompt city officials to rethink a plan to assign single unique street addresses to every building in Barre, according to Mike Miller, the city’s director of planning, zoning and inspection services.
“We’re taking care of business that should have been taken care of years ago,” said Miller. “It has been ignored or intentionally put off for a number of years.”
Miller said those old E-911 maps are being dusted off and revised because figuring out who lives where in Barre is getting more than a little confusing.
Several software systems used in City Hall alone identify the same properties using different physical addresses, according to Miller, who said the U.S. Postal Service started pushing the city to finish what it started some time ago.
“There are a lot of good reasons to get this done,” he said, noting that some new residents have had difficulty obtaining telephone service through FairPoint Communications because they’ve moved into buildings that aren’t yet E-911 compliant.
“It has gotten to be a real problem,” Miller said.
According to him, Kathryn Bramman and other city staff are methodically working to resolve a problem that can be traced to the fact that many buildings in Barre have multiple street addresses.
“The rule of thumb is every building gets its own number” under the E-911 system, he said.
When Bramman started her work in December, she said roughly 550 units of rental housing were in buildings that had multiple addresses. Five months and nearly 250 notices later, Bramman said that number is now around 300. In addition, she said, she has completed about a third of the approximately 100 downtown commercial buildings that don’t have E-911-compliant addresses.
From an emergency response standpoint, a call for assistance from one of those noncompliant addresses would come up “unknown caller” at the dispatch center instead of providing a unique street address — complete with either a numbered apartment or suite — in the event the caller is unable to give that information.
According to Bramman, most people have understood when informed about the change, though some have complained it is an unnecessary inconvenience. Bramman said work will continue until all of the flagged addresses have been changed.
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