County Plays Name Game With Roads

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Deputy Gila County Manager Steve Besich stood before the supervisors in Payson Tuesday to discuss renaming roads in unincorporated communities in northern Gila County.

The roads are being renamed to make it easier for emergency workers to find addresses in the outlying areas and for use with the enhanced 911 system.

"It's gone on for years and years through different administrations," Besich said. He said in his recollection, as someone with many years with the county, one of the first rounds with renaming roads took place in the 1980s, when Jim Jones was representing the area on the board.

The Tuesday agenda had placed renaming roads in three different communities under consent, eliminating discussion. However, Board Chairman Ron Christensen had one of the group of roads, those in Hunter Creek Ranch, removed from consent agenda.

Name changes for roads in Tonto Basin and Oxbow Estates were approved with no debate.

Besich asked for approval of only two of six road names in Hunter Creek Ranch: Green Apple Lane and Palm Circle. The other roads: Alpha Circle, Beta Drive, Ambrose Lane and Wapiti Circle will be on the Dec. 2 agenda.

"It appears we may be running out of time for action," Christensen said. The money for the (911) project is tied to a specific timeline, he said.

"We have one of the most consumer friendly ordinances we've ever written," Besich said of the county's mechanism for making the name changes.

A number of residents have protested the process though, so to further enhance the "consumer friendly" nature of the process, Besich and others involved in the project will be at the northern Gila County road maintenance yard and go into neighborhoods with notices and the emergency service incident control van, decorated with a banner about the name changes so it will be visible in the neighborhoods.

Chuck Heron, one of the Star Valley residents who protested the project, is not so sure the changes will work.

"I'm skeptical they're operating on the criteria they're supposed to be operating on," Heron said.

"Quite honestly we've taken some bad advice from our consultants from time to time," Besich said.

The county had been told by the state 911 director Barbara Yeager's office it could not have roads with similar names, Heron said. Later the county learned the names could be similar and confusion could be minimized by different variations of the word "road" and numbering sequences.

Heron said he had a phone conversation to that effect with Mariano Gonzalez, one of the county employees working on the project, and had transcribed the information to get written confirmation, but has yet to receive it.

Christensen said the changes are needed to make sure there can be a reliable response in emergencies.

"Road naming is a small portion in the work being done to help the nation meet the threat of terrorism," Christensen said. "The system is a lot more complex and complicated than the average citizen realizes."

"The way the 911 system is supposed to work by 2005 would make it possible for emergency personnel to get a GPS (Global Positioning System) reading on every 911 call," Heron said.

In order to have more input from residents, the county has suspended some of the project work and moved to do outreach, Besich said.

"The names are just suggestions," he added.

Supervisor Cruz Salas said when the final decisions are made on the new names it will be a matter of, "Majority rules. If 25 of 30 want the name and five don't, the 25 are going to get the name. The five will not be pleased, that's just the way it goes."

"At some point there has to be a conclusion," Christensen said. "When the staff is out there, let your wishes be known in a positive way. We have a time frame and we will meet it."

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