Where do I live again?
Rd 2, Box 123? Or 123 Anywhere Drive? Or better yet, 12345 Anywhere Drive? Whatever the street is called, however many digits are in the address, Sussex County just isn’t the same as it used to be and people can no longer depend on the ambulance driver knowing where they live from their last name or who their grandmother is, as was the case not too many years ago.
With more people moving into the area and with towns annexing more land than ever, things are changing. And when help is needed, there needs to be a solid system for emergency responders to know where to go – which is something many municipalities, including Millville, are realizing.
Millville residents will soon be a part of the county’s five-digit 911 addressing system, which is designed to alleviate any confusion regarding addresses and to assist emergency medical personnel in being able to find everyone in a timely manner.
Local municipalities are their own addressing authority, so they were not required to join the county’s five-digit 911-friendly re-addressing system, but Meghan Nehrbas of Sussex County’s Mapping and Addressing Department said this week that, more and more, the towns are turning to the county for help.
“Typically, a resident will raise concerns with municipality, and we will meet with the municipality to see where the issues are,” she said.
While Bethany Beach and Ocean View officials decided to keep their existing address system, in Millville’s case, the town had turned over its addressing authority to the county, with the exception of two new developments. Creekside and Cedar Cove will keep their two-digit street numbers because no address errors were found there.
Millville’s town council passed an ordinance in July that adopted the county’s five-digit addressing system, and letters were just recently sent out to notify residents and property owners of the changes. When the changes are complete – which should be in the next few months – county representatives will hand-deliver the new addresses to the door of each property.
Town Manager Debbie Botchie said it had come to her attention that were discrepancies in some Millville addresses, and they would consistently have problems and have to call the post office regarding mail mix-ups. Finally, the issue of liability came into play.
“I was told that the town can be held liable if emergency services could not reach a residence,” she said. After that, she said, town officials “hunkered down” to see what could be done. In the process, they realized that there were so many “Old Millville” addresses that needed to be changed that they brought in the county to assist them with a more efficient addressing system that means big changes for older addresses in the town. In all newly annexed property, the county already had addressing jurisdiction, so those properties already had five-digit addresses.
“A lot of towns are finding out that [what’s worked in the past] is not working,” said Nehrbas. “It is very common to have towns reach out to us and say, ‘What should we do?’”
The Town of Dagsboro already has the five-digit 911 addressing system. And the Town of Fenwick Island recently went through some addressing changes with the county to make sure emergency service personnel could find residents when needed. In that case, rather than the five-digit addresses, many of Fenwick Island’s changes actually came in the way of switching out confusing and redundant street names, which is not the issue in Millville.
Instead, many Millville residents will soon be getting five-digit house numbers to go with their existing street names, replacing the old two- and three-digit addresses they’ve used for years or decades.