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Martinsville, Virginia 24115
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Survey on name in works
Chatham Road appears headed for new label

Friday, July 18, 2014

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

Chatham Road — the one in the city, that is — needs a new name, the Martinsville Planning Commission determined Thursday.

Keeping the name “really is not an option,” said commission member Ellen Wood, because of the confusion it is causing emergency services and mail carriers in connection with another Chatham Road in Henry County.

Property owners along the city route will be mailed a survey, likely around the middle of next week, requesting their ideas for a new name. They will have 30 days to respond.

On the survey, they can choose either “Old Chatham Road” or “Chatham Heights Road,” or they can make a suggestion of their own.

Chatham Road starts at East Church Street next to Hardees. It becomes Old Chatham Road at the county line near Foxtree Apartments. Both portions are recognized by the state as Virginia 457.

A couple of miles to the east, and in the same ZIP code, Virginia 57 also is known as Chatham Road. Virginia 457, which connects with Virginia 57 at the Dyers Store community, originally was 57 until the newer 57 was built.

Yet properties along both roads use Chatham Road in mailing addresses.

The problem, Martinsville-Henry County 911 Center Director J.R. Powell told the commission, is that parts of both roads have property numbers between 900 and 1500.

Callers to 911 sometimes do not think, or are unable due to illness, to tell dispatchers whether they are in Martinsville or Henry County, and sometimes dispatchers have forgotten to ask, according to Powell.

When an emergency crew from one locality responds to a Chatham Road address and cannot find it because it is in the other place, “it does cause significant delays” in response, he said.

But in trying to make sure that emergencies are responded to as quickly as possible, he said, sometimes Martinsville crews have ventured onto Virginia 57 in the county, and Dyers Store Fire Department crews have traveled onto Chatham Heights, the district through which the city’s Chatham Road runs.

“Seconds and minutes are important” in saving lives, commission Chairman Tim Martin said.

Powell suggested renaming the city portion of Virginia 457 “Old Chatham Road” to make it correspond with the county’s portion of the highway.

There are no duplicate property numbers on the city and county portions of Virginia 457, which will make emergency response easier and keep property owners from having to change their numbers, Powell said.

Basically all they would have to do, he indicated, is start writing “Old” in front of “Chatham” in their addresses.

With that option, “I’m thrilled the numbers won’t have to be changed, just the (road) name,” said Martin, who is running for Martinsville City Council.

Ultimately, it will be up to the council to rename the city road.

City officials have said that in addition to sending the survey, they likely will hold a public meeting with affected Chatham Heights residents at some point to explain the need for the name change.


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