Friday, May 25, 2018
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`Graceland' stirs debate

OTTAWA LAKE - Apparently “The King” is not the thing in Whiteford Township.

When Monroe County central dispatch officials suggested last week that a small local road just north of the state line share the same moniker as the Memphis mansion where Elvis Presley died in 1977, a split township board got all shook up.

“It just didn't go here. It wasn't appropriate for our area. Graceland is Elvis,” Township Supervisor Pam Dressel said. “We just thought it was an inappropriate choice of names for our township.”

By a vote of 3-2, with Mrs. Dressel casting the deciding vote, the township board rejected the resolution to rename Stewart Road - a small strip of roadway between State Line Road and the state line and just west of Whiteford Road - to Graceland Avenue.

In doing so, it became the first local government unit to reject one of the changes proposed by Monroe County Central Dispatch over the last three years to help avoid possible confusion for emergency response crews.

Since 2000, assistant central dispatch director Phil Chrzan has been working diligently to identify those areas in the county that have addressing conflicts with other areas - either similar names, nonconsecutive numbering, or from spelling errors.

One of those conflicts exists between the 6200 block of Stewart Road in Whiteford Township, just over the border from Sylvania, and 6200 Stewart Road in Raisinville Township, a main east-west artery. To avoid confusion, Mr. Chrzan had proposed the name change, selecting what he called “an aesthetically pleasing name” from a database of potential monikers that he uses for his job.

Although no one from the road in question showed up at the township board meeting to lodge an official complaint, Township Clerk LeRoy Bunge said there was no shortage of opinions from the audience. Finally the board opted to send it back to the county for another go.

“That's the first time [anyone has] rejected the name we picked,” Central Dispatch Director Ron Berns said. “We had sent a letter to citizens asking for suggestions for a name, but we didn't get anything back, so we picked Graceland.” Mrs. Dressel said the township would have preferred a name that had a more direct relationship with the area, a former apple orchard.

But Mr. Chrzan said the area's history didn't enter into his decision. “I have different databases that I go into to find names that I believe that are acceptable to our area,” Mr. Chrzan said. “I can't create a duplicate for anything in our county, and I also can't duplicate anything in Wayne, Washtenaw, or Lenawee [counties], because it all borders us.”

When he selected Graceland from the database, Mr. Chrzan said he received no objections from any resident who called to inquire about the name. He said he was caught off guard by the Whiteford Township Board's rejection, adding that he hoped the delay and going through the process again won't affect local residents.

“I told [Whiteford Township Board members] to send me some names in order of priority, and I'll take the first one that's on the list that's acceptable and send them another resolution. Long delays create problems for us,” Mr. Chrzan said.

Mr. Chrzan said that Whiteford Township's reaction will result in a change in the way he's going about the renumbering task. He said that, from now on, the letters that he sends out to residents and local governments of possible changes will include the proposed name so that any potential conflicts can be discovered early and taken care of.

And, Mr. Chrzan promises that there won't be any Lisa Marie Ways, Heartbreak Hotel Boulevards, or Hound Dog Roads. “As far as I'm concerned, Elvis has left the state and the building,” he said.

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