A retired 911 manager for Verizon who formerly sat on the state board that oversees mapping and addressing attempted to update Fayette County commissioners Friday on the status of a stalled mapping and addressing project.

“Most calls that I get from people upset in this county involve not being able to get an address,” commission president Matthew Wender complained. The explanation provided by Tom Williams consisted of equal measures of optimism and pessimism.

Williams, who retired from Verizon in June, now works as a consultant for a project management firm known as Michael Baker Jr.

He said plans to create digital maps of West Virginia and reconfigure the addressing system based on that data were put on the back burner when the company that was hired to do the work — Micro Data — failed to fulfill its end of the contract.

The state reached a dissolution settlement with the company, wherein the state can still take advantage of the information acquired by Micro Data thus far and build on it.

“We (the board) had two missions to accomplish,” Williams noted.

“One was to take all new aerial photography and create digital mapping of the state. Next, we were to take all of that and give it to a second contractor (Micro Data) who had proven adept at addressing reconstruction. Micro Data did the addressing part. Things went downhill, so the board took action in June.”

Basically, Williams posited to commissioners, the gap left by Micro Data’s departure will entail a bit more legwork for counties around the state. He implored commissioners to find small ways of gathering and sharing information on physical addresses.

“For example, get the assessor to utilize his property evaluation teams and share data since they are already out in the field anyway. A lot can be done without particular expense. This job will never be done. Fayette County is growing like crazy, and perpetual maintenance of this system is critical to its success.”

The money left over from the board’s settlement with Micro Data — $2.7 million — will be divided among the counties as a way of assisting them in the endeavor, Williams assured commissioners, although he was unsure of the division’s methodology.

By his calculations, Williams estimated assistance from the board will average about $50,000 per county, which is in addition to each county being provided with a Global Positioning System worth $3,500 apiece as a gift from the board.

Williams’ comments, which included a prediction everything could be completed within a year, appeared to simultaneously reassure and worry commissioners. “I’m not sure if we’ve done a lot here to deliver a great comfort level. The big gap is — what does the county have to do?” Wender asked.

Fayette County Emergency Operations Center spokesman David Neal was more blunt. “I’m tired of this project. It has gone on entirely too long,” he lamented.

“I would just as soon be done. Our budget is OK for this stuff, but I’ve been pinching pennies. I think I saw a tear a time or two in Abraham Lincoln’s eye from my pinching him. I feel like, today, we’re not falling behind or sitting still — we’re moving forward.”

Neal told Wender his office would not ask anything of the commission that was not absolutely necessary for the project and would keep commissioners abreast of developments along the way. “We don’t need a surprise on the cost of this,” Wender admonished.

While the board is slated for elimination next April due to a sunset clause, members have asked the Legislature for a two-year extension. “I think we’ll be in good shape here within a year,” Williams said.

— E-mail:

mhill@register-herald.com

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