Agencies working hard to solve county location mysteries

Marla Stambazze, land use coordinator with the Huntington County Department of Community Development, displays a sign designating lot numbers for a subdivision where about a dozen homes share the same address. The designation of lot numbers was part of a project to assign addresses to every location in Huntington County where people might gather.
Marla Stambazze, land use coordinator with the Huntington County Department of Community Development, displays a sign designating lot numbers for a subdivision where about a dozen homes share the same address. The designation of lot numbers was part of a project to assign addresses to every location in Huntington County where people might gather. Photo by Cindy Klepper.

Originally published April 10, 2017.

They haven’t quite solved the mystery of the lost city of Atlantis, but they have found a number of cemeteries throughout Huntington County.

While Atlantis is (probably) a piece of fiction, the cemeteries are very real. They’re also not lost; everybody who lives within spitting distance knows where they are.
But the emergency responder, tasked with locating the person who has suffered a heart attack or a life-threatening injury while visiting one of the county’s many small cemeteries, may not know the location of that particular cemetery.

And if there’s no address attached to that cemetery, the emergency dispatcher may not be able to help.

That’s all changing as the Huntington County Department of Community Development is working to assign addresses to all locations across Huntington County that people might visit.

“Cemeteries don’t have addresses, but the public gathers there,” says Marla Stambazze, the DCD’s land use coordinator.

Stambazze and Dathan Strine, the county’s GIS manager, are spearheading what could be a two-year project to assign addresses to all locations in Huntington County that could draw human visitors. They’re about a year into the project.

The GIS — geographic information system — is a publicly accessible digital record of all properties in Huntington County. The information it records includes, but is not limited to, the addresses of each property.

When a property has not been officially assigned an address, GIS assigns it a negative number. An Indiana & Michigan Electric Company facility at Milo road and Ind.-5 in Salamonie Township, for example, has a GIS-assigned address of -9.

DCD staff members have flagged all properties listed on GIS with a negative address, Stambazze says, and have sent letters to the mailing addresses of the property owners to explain the address assigning project.

“The biggest target right now is negative addresses and places where people might gather,” Stambazze says.

She believes there are “probably a couple hundred, probably more” places like that in Huntington County. None of them are places where people are living, she adds.

That’s not to say they’re not looking at some residences with confusing addresses.

A dozen or so homes in an unnamed subdivision on CR 600N shared one address — 5000W-600N. Emergency responders called to that address had no idea which specific home was the site of the emergency.

“All of those come up under the same address,” she says.

Stambazze and Strine solved that problem by assigning each home an individual lot number. The county paid to have the lot numbers printed on reflective green signs, then installed those signs in front of the appropriate homes.

“Each one is identified, but it doesn’t change the address,” she says.

That particular subdivision was created without going through the current subdivision process, which requires a separate address to be assigned to each lot, Stambazze explains.

Another troublesome location was Tower Park in Warren, which often draws crowds to its playgrounds, ball diamonds and other amenities.

The park had no address.

“Everybody in Warren knows where Tower Park is, but not every emergency responder knows,” Stambazze says.

To complicate matters, the park has several entrances from several different streets. Without a specific address, a helicopter sent to evacuate an injured person from the ball diamond would have no idea where to go, she notes.

Now, the park’s official address is 126 N. Grover St.

As addresses and lot numbers are assigned, they are added to the Huntington County GIS and pushed to the system used by Huntington County Public Safety Dispatch. Within a year, Stambazze says, that exchange of information should occur automatically.

Addresses within the city of Huntington are assigned by the city’s Department of Community Development and Redevelopment; all other addresses are assigned by the Huntington County Department of Community Development.

Stambazze says her agency assigns location addresses based on where the driveway meets the road, and that sometimes conflicts with the mailing addresses assigned by the Post Office, which bases addresses on carrier’s routes.

That can result in a home having a DCD-assigned address of Warren, and a post office-assigned address of Markle, she says.

“We can change any address,” Stambazze says, “but we usually don’t do that. It’s costly to the taxpayers, and it’s difficult with the post office … We try to accommodate as best we can.”