Changes come with new addresses
BY KYLE McCLELLAN
The Western News
In about four weeks, up to 7,000 Lincoln County residents will effectively relocate. And they'll do that without ever moving an inch.
A statewide effort to enhance 911 and emergency services has pinpointed with GPS technology all rural addresses. These addresses must change within 30 days of the Post Office's notification, which should be arriving by mail within the next four to six weeks, according to Deb Blystone of the Lincoln County Planning Department.
Blystone said the change is a contentious issue for some people, especially business owners and residents who have invested much money and time into their signs and address plaques.
The Planning Department is working to notify the state department of revenue, Frontier Telephone company, Interbel Telephone company, the fire districts and the county elections office.
Residents must notify their family and friends, the Internal Revenue Service, schools, magazines, banks, employers and medical providers, among other organizations.
"It's expensive and it's a hassle. They like their address the way it is," Blystone said.
But the change is designed to cut the response time for emergency services when responding to a call.
When the effort began in 2001, Montana lawmakers teamed up with county commissioners after recognizing that the first 60 minutes after a traumatic injury is crucial as the likelihood of death or permanent injury significantly increase if treatment is not provided within that time.
The new system is funded through a telecommunications fee.
In 1997, the Montana Legislature passed House Bill 210, which provided a tariff through residents' phone bills of 50 cents per phone line per month.
Lincoln County's fund gained more than $200,000. And it had to be used toward an enhanced 911 system.
"It was either use it or lose it," Blystone said.
The new addresses reflect the exact distance from the Montana-Idaho border. Numbers are assigned at an interval of 1,000 per mile. Thus, a structure one mile away down a road would have an address of 1000.
After the system is in effect, Highway 2 addresses will no longer carry west and south designations, only numerical designations based on mileage from the state border.
Libby will benefit from two new dispatch computer systems and Troy will add one system.
When a 911 call is received, the caller address will be automatically known because each number will be linked to a physical address.
"We just want to have people found as quickly as possible to save their lives and property," Blystone said. "If they can't find you they can't help you."