OAK HILL — Think the name of the street you’ve lived on for your entire life will never change? Think again.

City council members on Monday evening began to look into the possibility of re-naming and re-numbering city streets and addresses to save lives, increase efficiency and enhance the response time of emergency workers.

Council members watched a Powerpoint presentation offered by Neal Cadle, a spokesman for Micro Data, the company that would provide Oak Hill officials with the computerized mapping software. Afterward, Cadle and Becky Pollastrini, Fayette County’s addressing supervisor, fielded questions from council members.

Pollastrini explained that the changes, if accepted, would be provided at no cost to the city — thanks to a $15 million grant provided by Verizon, Inc., to the state of West Virginia. “We worked on this for several years before the state started on it,” she said.

Cadle asserted that the new system would not only standardize street names and numbering, it would also provide for continuity across borders and more rapid response times for emergency services, especially to rural areas.

“Often, when someone in a rural area makes a call to 911, he or she has to literally give the dispatcher detailed directions of how to get to that house. That could be very difficult for someone who has suffered a heart attack or otherwise is unable to provide those directions.”

Pollastrini spoke of the frustration experienced by many first responders in attempting to locate the site of their 911 call. Lives, she said, hang in the balance by precious minutes — sometimes seconds.

“I’ve known of emergency workers going down a street — from house to house — trying to find where the emergency is located. Minutes count in these situations.”

She clarified that the offer is free to the city right now, but this won’t always be the case. When asked by city manager Tom Oxley about how the idea has been received in other municipalities, Pollastrini said the feedback has been mainly positive.

“All Fayette County municipalities have passed ordinances endorsing this except for Mount Hope and Smithers. We haven’t approached Mount Hope yet, and it’s still on hold in Smithers.”

Oxley added that, while he supports the idea in theory, he knows that some will be harder hit by the change than others — primarily, the elderly.

“I don’t relish the thought of it, but it is necessary,” he said. “There is a lot of confusion with the similarity of street names and numbering.”

City attorney Brian Parsons voiced some concerns about medical privacy after Cadle mentioned that area residents would have the option of making 911 dispatchers aware of medical conditions of those in the household. Cadle and Pollastrini assured Parsons that the information — provided voluntarily — would be kept secure.

“Our building is secure. We have locks on the doors, and you must have your pass to even get into the restroom,” said Pollastrini. “This information won’t be disseminated to law enforcement.”

Oxley agreed to confer with police and fire chiefs in compiling a list of streets with similar names and provide Micro Data and 911 officials with a recommendation about the proposed changes in time for city council’s February meeting.

In other business:

- Parsons updated council members on the status of the Pure Oil station lease agreement.

He said the name of the tenancy will change to a non-profit organization. Mayor Barbara Hickman added that the paperwork has been filed by the organization and is on its way to city council.

- Oxley informed council members that the leaf and brush pick-up resumed Monday, and the first load was transported to the Raleigh County Solid Waste Authority.

- Oxley said that he and the police chief attended the Nov. 21 meeting of the Fayette County Board of Education. An attorney told the board that he saw no problems with the board conveying two acres of property near Oak Hill High School to the Oak Hill police department.

“He did say that the board may want to charge us for vocational school labor,” Oxley added. “I’ll keep you posted and bring a project cost to you soon.”

- Oxley told council members of his conversations with representatives of the two motels within Oak Hill city limits regarding a proposed hotel-motel tax. While the owner of New River Inn (formerly Super Eight) had no objection, a sales manager at the other facility did — though she cannot make that decision, Oxley added.

“I will address a letter to the owner, so we can seriously consider this in the future.”

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