The Douglas County Commission today unanimously approved a numerical address system for rural residences to replace the existing rural routes and box numbers.
The change is part of the county's effort to implement an enhanced 911 emergency telephone system, which operates on a "grid system" for addresses instead of rural routes.
Commissioners approved a format for addresses presented by Bill Reynolds, Lawrence postmaster. The system adds a directional letter, such as N for north, and the word "Road" to current addresses on the county's grid system. For example, the current grid system address "830 1710N" will become "830 N 1710 Road."
In the grid system, township roads are numbered in sequence beginning at the southwest corner of the county. Roads that run east and west carry numbers such as "200N," meaning the road is two miles north of the southwest corner. Likewise, north-south roads are numbered such as "300E," meaning it is three miles east of the same corner.
The change was not welcomed by Jim Hillesheim, a rural Lawrence resident. He said he conducted an informal survey of his neighbors and found a resounding opposition to the addressing change.
"I WAS surprised at the extent to which they oppose this particular move," Hillesheim said.
He added the change to a numerical system leans toward dehumanization of the residents.
"One's sense of belonging in the community is eroded with this system," Hillesheim said.
He asked the commission to carefully consider approving a change that many rural residents don't support.
Commissioner Louie McElhaney said he has learned the importance of a clear, numerical addressing system through his experience as chief of the Wakarusa Township Fire Department.
COMMISSION Chairman Mark Buhler, said he couldn't live with the knowledge that the commission had the ability to save lives by facilitating improved emergency service and failed to use it.
"I am going to support this change at the frustration of many county residents, I know," he said.
In a related issue, commissioners unanimously approved Nine One One Inc., Denver, as the county's vendor for the enhanced 911 equipment.
The county directed its staff to negotiate a contract with the company for the equipment, which is estimated to cost $197,004.
Commissioners did express concern at dealing with an out-of-state company. But Ted McFarlane and Don Dalquest, members of the enhanced 911 implementation committee, said Nine One One was the only bidder that promised to send a service representative immediately to the county should problems occur.
THE COUNTY also will buy other equipment costing $9,500 from AT&T and $4,150 from Topeka FM Communications as part of implementing enhanced 911 service in the county. McFarlane said enhanced 911 tentatively would begin in October.