While the Morgan County Council debates the exact wording in a new ordinance, residents are being put on notice that their addresses must be clearly identifiable from the road.
“The point is to get the ambulance to the emergency,” said Charlie Ewert, county planning and development services department director.
“We hope to educate people about the need for the ambulance to find your home,” said Council Chairwoman Tina Kelley. She mentioned the county began education efforts years ago.
“Morgan County hasn’t been addressed according to a concise addressing grid in many places,” Ewert said. “We are still going to find problems occasionally. It is not going to be an overnight fix. We have a lot of work ahead of us.”
The new ordinance defines a method to administering and assigning new addresses, as well as changing existing addresses out of sequence. It also identifies the planning and development services director as the county’s addressing official.
“It can get politically heavy occasionally,” Ewert said.
For any resident upset with address changes, a petition method is provided for in the new ordinance.
The council discussed ways to make addresses clear so emergency vehicles can easily identify them. Ewert suggested following the national building code which clarifies that the addresses on houses must be marked in fonts a certain height for every foot away from the public right of way it is. For example, a house 500 feet away from the road must have its address displayed on the home in numerals a foot high. If that is impossible because of vegetation or other physical obstruction, the address has to be on a marker at the driveway or on a mailbox.
Councilman Austin Turner, who also volunteers in the county as an ambulance driver, said mailboxes are sometimes the primary method of determining addresses in the county.
“If a residence is significantly off the beaten path, a lot of times we use mailboxes,” Turner said.
If marked on the mailbox, the address should be at least four inches high and reflective, Ewert suggested.
Councilman Robert Kilmer noted that in the rare instance a homeowner has mail delivered to a post office box instead of a mailbox, it may be necessary for residents to install some kind of an address marker.
Councilman Lyle Nelson rejected the option that landowners pay for county-installed address markers on blue sign blades. He said some residents have expensive, ornate rocks, mailboxes and plaques marked with their address, and these should be sufficient.
“I don’t want to force people to comply with a standard if they already have a sign,” Nelson said. “We are interested in information.”
“I don’t care for the part with having blue signs everywhere,” Councilman Ned Mecham said. “This is a rural county. We don’t want to be so rigid it makes it difficult. I want something identifiable without creating problems.”
“I don’t see a problem for addresses to be on a rock, mailbox or piece of barn wood as long as it is visible from the road,” Turner said. “I don’t think we have to get specific, just something that is identifiable from the road.”
“The simpler we keep it, the better,” Kelley said. “Markers at the roadside seem to make the most sense.”
The council asked Ewert to discuss the ordinance with the county fire chief, ambulance supervisor and sheriff before making a final proposal.
Once the ordinance is approved by the council, residents out of compliance could face a Class C misdemeanor. The county attorney’s office would handle notifying the land owner about the code violation.
Ewert said he predicts the need to change many residents’ addresses in the near future for sequencing reasons. At times streets may need renaming. The ordinance details the method of informing homeowners their address has been changed, including notifying utility companies and providing a county letter to mortgage companies if requested.
Ewert said mortgages are recorded against parcel numbers, not addresses.
“We are offering to write a letter to mortgage companies on county letterhead that we have mandated the address change for public health, safety and wellness reasons,” Ewert said.
Ewert said he has also coordinated his efforts with the county post office, which has agreed to slowly phase out old addresses.
“They recognize it is a big problem in the county as well,” Ewert said.
Address changes will be coordinated with the county assessor and recorder to show on the tax roll, Ewert said.