AUGUSTA — In the rush of responding to an emergency call for help, missing the subtle differences between Lambard Court, Lambard Road and Lambert Avenue could mean an emergency responder ends up in the wrong part of the city.

Or the wrong side of the Kennebec River.

City councilors will discuss renaming some roads when they meet at 6:30 tonight in council chambers at Augusta City Center. It is an issue that has proven controversial in the past as some residents didn’t want to give up their longtime road names.

Objections to changing roads names have ranged from the hassle of having to change an address and letterhead to giving up road names that may have been named for a family member or significant figure in the city’s history.

“There is concern on the part of the fire department, and police department, that there is still ambiguity with some of the names,” said City Manager William Bridgeo. “Changing names can be a bit disconcerting to people, so we approach this with a little bit of caution.”

In 2002, in preparation for the since-implemented statewide E-911 system, Augusta named private roads and renamed about a dozen city roads that had names similar others, complying with a state directive for new road-naming standards.

But Augusta still has several similar-sounding road names.

“At best, visitors to our city get lost,” Matt Nazar, deputy development director, and Dan Guimond, a battalion chief with the fire department, said in a joint memo to city councilors. “At worst, emergency services attempting to get to a call end up in the wrong location and individuals don’t get timely help.

In neighboring communities, the problem of confusing street names may have contributed to deaths.”

On June 6, 2011, Sarah Gordon was shot and killed by her husband, Nathaniel Gordon, just outside their house in Winslow. Sarah Gordon initially called 911 on a cellphone and a dispatcher, mishearing her Marie Street address, sent police to Murray Lane, on the other side of town.

There’s no evidence the delayed response in the case had any effect on the outcome — after fatally shooting his wife, Nathaniel Gordon left the house and later shot himself while being chased by police on Interstate 95 — but Winslow city officials altered some street names in response.

Nazar and Guimond said in their memo to the council that emergency responders “try to carefully understand where they are supposed to go on a call, but confusion on the part of the caller, the dispatcher or the responder can result in tragedy.”

Bridgeo said the latest discussion of road names in Augusta is prompted in part by anticipation of the changes coming to north Augusta near the new MaineGeneral Medical Center next year. Old Belgrade Road will be split by a traffic circle on the west side of Interstate 95 and Route 3 will run along Old Belgrade Road to Civic Center Drive. The traffic changes, officials noted, may require some road name changes.

Councilors tonight are also scheduled to:

* discuss roadside memorials and whether the city should have a policy about them;

* hear a presentation from Maine Natural Gas officials;

* discuss road striping practices, in response to residents’ concerns about some rural roads not having a center line;

* discuss creating a public health ordinance regarding abandoned swimming pools.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

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