Council has planning session on next steps for the renaming of West Badin streets

The topic of changing street names in the West Badin community took center stage during a Badin council planning session Wednesday at Town Hall.

West Badin residents are wanting to rename several streets in their community that have names with ties to slavery and the Confederacy such as Lee Street and Jackson Street. They believe new names should reflect the population that resides within the area. Some ideas brought up include changing streets to honor Black leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and also to celebrate the town’s own Black history by highlighting key local figures.

Stanly County Communications Database Coordinator Rebecca Burgess spoke to the council and the dozens of residents in attendance that such a name-changing process would not be easy and would likely take a long time.

She said the communications department’s view of changing address or street names tends to be “unfavorable” unless it’s going to aid in emergency services. The main reason is such changes could negatively impact emergency services’ ability to respond to a crisis.

During an emergency, an address change could result in delays from EMS or other service which could have consequences. Burgess gave an example of an emergency at a resident’s home in another municipality in the county who had recently changed addresses. The person who called 911 was not aware of the change, which resulted in a slight delay in response time and by the time the medics arrived, it was too late.

“I don’t know that it was the result of the delay, but it did cause a delay and this was because the address changed,” Burgess said.

In order to change addresses, residents would need to notify entities including the county tax office, GIS department, school bus garage, board of education and public utility services. Individuals would also have to update their DMV records and inform their cellphone carriers and personal contacts.

Burgess noted that things can be changed, but “there is a process and there is a possibility of human error.” If Badin makes changes to its streets, it could impact response times from the town’s volunteer fire department.

Once the address is officially changed, both the former and current address will be included in the 911 mapping system for 60 days, meaning if an emergency occurred the caller could give either address.

Under the Stanly County Road Name, Road Sign, Address Display Ordinance, Burgess mentioned the goals when renaming streets are to avoid using the same or similar names that already exist and to use only one part of a person’s name (Burleson Road instead of Tim Burleson Road).

“The main purpose of addressing and road names is emergency services,” she said. “We want to be able to find you and we want to get everything into the system.”

While she’s never heard of a community wanting to change several streets, she did say Red Cross when it incorporated in 2004 went through a process of renaming all of its streets, which Burgess called a “big change.”

The only costs associated with undertaking such a project would be physically changing each of the signs and, for each resident, updating their DMV records.

Mayor Anne Harwood said street name changes have appeared regularly on council agendas over the last two years, as the council has researched and explored “the historical implications of making street name changes in a municipality on the National Register of Historic Places.”

Harwood said the council is working towards preparing a policy for enacting street name changes. The issue will be on the agenda for the July 12 council meeting, during which time members of the public will be allowed to speak. Councilman Gary Lowder suggested increasing the time each individual would be allowed to speak.

Harwood said the council plans to have at least three public hearings on the issue.

“We want to hear from the public,” she said. “We want to hear ideas for street names and what people have to say.”

Avonda Wilson, a West Badin resident and one of the organizers behind the grassroots effort, said conversations about changing street names have been discussed for at least the last 30 years, but only in the past decade has it been brought up publicly before town leaders. Though no substantive action has yet been taken on the issue, she is hopeful this time will be different.

“I think it’s a victory,” she said after the meeting, “because they (the town council) listened to us. That’s all I wanted them to do.”

Wilson, who plans to speak during the July 12 meeting, said she was also encouraged to see so many West Badin residents in attendance for Wednesday’s planning session.

West Badin resident Carol Mosley attended the meeting because she wanted to see what steps were being made toward changing the street names. She left feeling encouraged, noting that in her mind “change is inevitable.”