Dearborn Co. Commissioners Stop Road Name Change
By Mike Perleberg
(Lawrenceburg, Ind.) – Mistakes were made. Regrets were voiced. Apologies were accepted.
Residents affected by a near-name change of the road they live on seemed satisfied with Dearborn County Commissioners’ unanimous decision Tuesday to not rename their road.
“The team fumbled the football,” Dearborn County Planning & Zoning Director Mark McCormack explained during the commissioners meeting attended by several residents.
Eagle 99.3 told you Monday about residents of West County Line Road in the Moores Hill area raising questions about why their road name was being changed. Resident Tammy Wismann also questioned why residents had been informed only two weeks before the name was to change
The renaming would have altered the portions of the road that do not actually straddle the Dearborn-Ripley county line. The section from U.S. 50 to Cold Springs Road would have become Barkley Road. A second jog from Cold Springs Road to the county line would have been called Noel Road. McCormack said the new names were historical references to families that owned large tracts of property along the road in the 1800s.
The situation began with a county committee made up of members from planning and zoning, the highway department, the GIS coordinator, and others forming last year to address consistency issues in a database of county roads and databases. That committee was only meant to eliminate hyphens, apostrophes, and abbreviations in giving the database a uniform look.
McCormack said the committee went beyond its intended purpose in making the decision to rename West County Line Road. The planning director said he had assigned an employee from his department to sit on the committee. That employee wrote up 67 certified letters to affected residents in November. As McCormack explained, she left her job at the end of the year, but had already sealed up the letters in envelopes and asked that they be sent out on January 6 after she had taken a job elsewhere.
Upon receiving the letters, some residents began the process of changing their address information. For others, it became a significant inconvenience.
“Our biggest failure is that we did not get input on the changes we were making or give pre-notice,” said Todd Listerman, Dearborn County Engineer, in taking some of the responsibility. “There was one fella I talked to that just ordered checks the week before and just got delivery of checks for his business. He said, ‘If I had known the name was being changed I would have ordered checks with the new address.’”
McCormack said he felt the only situation where the road name should be changed is if it is causing problems with emergency response, to protect the county from liability in a potential situation in which first responders could not get to an emergency quickly enough due to confusion.
Otherwise, “Leave it the way it is if it’s not broke,” said McCormack.
County Commissioner Shane McHenry, whose district includes the portion of West County Line Road in question, previously told Eagle 99.3 that he had only learned of the name change when complaints from residents began coming in. Last week, he met with McCormack’s staff and began phoning residents to get a better handle on the situation.
For McHenry and the other two commissioners, the question became: should West County Line Road be changed to the two new names, or should it remain the same?
“Does it make sense as a decision to change West County Line Road? And from what I heard today and talking to these folks it doesn’t sound like there’s any reason for West County Line to be changed,” McHenry said.
Commissioners Kevin Lynch and Art Little agreed with him.
“It doesn’t matter whose fault it is” McHenry continued. “As commissioners we should bear some responsibility in this, too. This meeting wasn’t to throw anybody or department under the bus. As your government and representatives, we failed you in this process and I apologize for that.”
Letters will be sent to affected residents informing them that the name change will not occur after all.
Wismann presented a petition containing signatures from West County Line Road to the commissioners. She thanked the commissioners and other county leaders for taking the time to listen to their concerns.
“It’s an important thing for us to keep that road the same,” she said.
In hopes of avoiding a similar situation in the future, McCormack suggested county commissioners approve an ordinance clearly stating that they have the final say on road name changes. He and county attorney Andrew Baudendistel will put together a proposed ordinance for the commissioners to consider.