Borough on road to standardization

Not posting street numbers could have legal ramifications under new ordinance

Posted: Sunday, March 19, 2006

Come July 1, 2007, borough residents who decline to post street numbers on their properties will effectively release the Kenai Peninsula Borough from any liability for damages due to delayed responses by ambulance or fire services.

Amendments to the borough code covering street naming and numbering approved at Tuesday’s assembly meeting included a clause saying failure to post numbers “shall constitute a full and final release of liability from any and all claims the property owner or occupant may otherwise have against the borough relating to an emergency response and in any way related to the failure to comply with this section.”

Borough Attorney Colette Thompson said the liability release was not an absolute defense. That, she said, would be up to the courts if there were a suit. The clause, she said, was an attempt to insulate the borough to the extent the suit related to a failure to post numbers.

“We would have to find out from the courts the extent to which courts would accept the use of that clause to immunize the borough,” Thompson said.

Assembly member Deb Germano, of Homer, said more work still needed to be done in completing the project to rename streets and number addresses, and she expressed concern about requiring residents to post numbers before the borough is certain the emergency system depending on accurate street addresses is functioning properly. She wanted to delete the liability release clause.

“We are not finished with the project until it is complete I don’t feel we should be telling residents of the borough, ‘Put up your numbers, and if you don’t, it’s your own liability.’ I think it’s critical that we also make sure that the system is working as it should — that if I pick up my phone, 911 will know where I am. And I’m not sure we can do that today.”

The move to delete the section was defeated, but the assembly did approve a Germano amendment to push the number posting date back to July 1, 2007.

Assembly member Gary Superman, of Nikiski, supported moving the date back a year, saying he has lived in Nikiski for a long time and would be “hard pressed” to put numbers up on the end of his driveway “when my sign has been up there for 30 years. I think that reflects the way a lot of people are going to feel about this.”

The ordinance included other revisions that go into effect immediately. Amendments clarified that street names were to comply with the National Emergency Number Association standards along with borough standards, and limited street names to 17 characters to ensure names would fit on signs of reasonable size and that letters would be large enough to be easily read by motorists.

One amendment allowed the street name to be used in more than one locale within the borough, except that those names could not be used in adjacent emergency service zones. The current law forbids the use of the same name even in places as removed from each other as Homer and Seward.

According to borough officials, it is believed using the same name in places far apart should not cause emergency responders any problems.

Amendments also clearly defined the terms “private road,” “remote,” “trail” and “way,” and eliminated the borough’s addressing committee, which is considered no longer necessary because numbers are now determined by a grid system. That grid system would allow for 1,000 separate numbers within each mile measured from grid baselines.

Other provisions outline how access and frontage affect numbering, and how addresses will be determined in remote villages.

About 600 street names or suffixes (avenue, road, circle, etc.) have already been changed. About 200 are still to be brought into compliance. The ordinance will simplify the process, assembly member Milli Martin, of Diamond Ridge, said in an interview Friday.

“It is a step toward a boroughwide EMS response capability,” she said.

The measure passed 5-2. Germano and Grace Merkes, of Sterling, voted against the ordinance.



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