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Thousands of addresses to change with E-911

| January 25, 2007 11:00 PM

By BRENT SHRUM Western News Editor

Many Lincoln County residents will be getting new addresses this spring as the county gets closer to bringing an Enhanced 911 system online.

"People are going to be angry," said Deb Blystone of the county's planning department. "We're going to have to deal with a lot of angry people, but they have to remember, it's not about whether you get your mail or your UPS, it's about whether they find you when you're dying."

The county's efforts are part of a statewide process to bring Enhanced 911 service to all areas of Montana. A portion of the funding comes from a fee on telephone bills. The service will allow dispatchers to pinpoint the location of a 911 call and direct emergency responders there even if the caller is unable to speak, explained Marc McGill of the Lincoln County Emergency Management Agency.

The system will also allow "reverse 911" calls to notify residents of a particular area about an emergency such as a chemical spill or hostage situation, McGill said.

Before the new dispatch system can be installed, accurate addresses - based on GPS data - must be in place. That information was submitted by a contractor last spring, and over the past year the planning department has reviewed the data and made necessary corrections. The county has been working with the post office on issues of concern and is fine-tuning the new address system. Postal customers can expect to receive notice of address changes in late spring.

The new system breaks each mile down into 1,000 points and assigns addresses accordingly - "technically an address every 5 feet, but we didn't ever put them that close," Blystone said.

However, most current addresses will be changing unless they happened to fall closely in line with the GPS data.

"I would say there's at least 5,000 addresses changing," Blystone said.

That includes every address on U.S. Highway 2 outside city limits, she said.

Once residents receive notice from the post office, they can start using the new address after 30 days. The post office will forward mail with the old address for one year after the change.

The new system requires names for all private roads that access three or more homes. To avoid confusion, established road names won't change, but new roads will have to be given names that aren't too similar to those already in existence.

"You've got to come up with some unique names now," Blystone said.

Addresses for undeveloped land will also be changing, but property owners won't be notified by the post office, Blystone said. They should check with the planning office, she said.