Every home and business in the small Newberry County town of Whitmire is getting a new address.
Mayor Billy Hollingsworth said the change was needed to help move the town of roughly 1,400 people onto a countywide 911 addressing system. He said the previous unstructured addresses were creating confusion for ambulances and fire trucks responding to calls.
“Our streets and numbers were so out of whack, emergency personnel were taking too much time trying to hunt down an address,” he told South Carolina Radio Network.
The problem dates back to 1995, when the Newberry County Sheriff’s Office began using an E-911 addressing system. Whitmire town leaders opted out of the system, while the rest of the county switched to new addresses. EMS crews and sheriff’s deputies relying on the new system often became disoriented by Whitmire’s similarly-named streets or neighboring homes that had very different addresses.
“People were having to go find ambulances and direct them to houses because (EMS) couldn’t find them,” Chief Deputy Todd Johnson of the Newberry County Sheriff’s Department said.
Whitmire’s town council decided in April 2012 to finally join the 911 system. That began a 17-month transition as the public was notified and hearings were held. Newberry County oversaw the transition using 911 reimbursement funds from the state, Johnson said.
Town officials met with some resistance from residents who had spent much of their lives at the same address. But Hollingsworth, who took office earlier this year, said he believes the change was necessary. “On a lot of streets, there was no common sense with the way the house numbers were,” he said. “The first house may be 10. The next one may be 40, or 60, or 101.”
The mayor said 14 road names are also being changed entirely. For instance, the town has four different routes named Railroad Avenue, he said. The new names were selected by a town committee that tried to emphasize the town’s history with the new names, according to Hollingsworth.
A spokesman with the U.S. Postal Service said he believed Whitmire’s situation was unique, saying he was not aware of another case in South Carolina where a town changed all of its addresses at the same time.