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O’ brethren where art thou? County road sees spelling change

A challenge of similar names is causing confusion in the county.


Staff Writer

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The confusion between Brethren Church Drive and the incorrectly spelled Brethern Church Road has plagued the community for decades. Now the Washington County Commission hopes it has officially taken the first step to decrease the problem.

At the Monday, Aug. 26, meeting, the Washington County Commission voted to correct the spelling of “Brethern,” but to keep “Road” instead of “Valley” (as suggested in the original resolution.) The resolution passed in 14-0 vote with Chairman Greg Matherly abstaining.

“I know this has been an ongoing discussion on this for several years,” said Matherly, who is also the county’s 911 director.

The road names have been confusing more people than just those driving through Jonesborough over the years. Washington County Emergency Communications District’s geographical information system coordinator, Lesley Music, told the commission there have been numerous misdirected emergency vehicles because of the confusion between the road names.

“We just keep having calls and we need to fix it,” Musick said. “Getting the location right the first time is the most important thing a dispatcher can do. We can dispatch a call in 30 seconds, but if we send them in the wrong direction, 30 seconds doesn’t matter. It may take 10, 20 or 30 minutes to correct that situation. If it’s your loved one that’s hurt or in distress or has a prowler at their door, who are you going to blame if we don’t get there in time because we sent them to the wrong location? We don’t take this lightly.”

Musick said multiple residents have called 911 and misspelled the road name, sending first responders to the wrong end of the county. She said in one instance, it took about 20 minutes for first responders to arrive, which is roughly how long it takes to get to the other road.

Musick wasn’t the only one who came to the commission with concerns; Freddie Jones, a Brethern Church Road resident, spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting in hopes of keeping the current road name. He also said the confusion has left him with lost drivers on his property.

“Traffic started coming through on my road and I got to stopping people and asking them what’s the problem. They said, ‘the GPS said this is a shortcut,’” Jones said. “I just don’t think it’s right that we have to change our road where Brethern Church Road was established in 1853. It’s been that ever since.”

Musick said the community was adamant about keeping the road name during a February community meeting on the subject. She also said that’s when the suggestion to change the name to Brethren Church Valley came up.

Musick also said the two roads are in Jonesborough and only two homes on Brethern Church Road are in the Gray community. The two roads are also both home to similarly named churches; Pleasant Valley Church of the Brethren was built around 1898 on Brethern Church Road while Pleasant View Church of the Brethren was built in 1878 on Brethren Church Drive.

Matherly said he felt correcting the spelling of the road in the northern half of the county along with changing the block ranges, which would be up to the Washington County Communications District, is the best solution to help alleviate the confusion.

“I think it’s critical that you do both of them,” Matherly said. “If you just go out and change the block range, then you still have the problem with Brethern Church Road being misspelled and you have two spellings of Brethren. I don’t feel like that’s sufficient for 911 to just change the block ranges. With 911 we can’t change the spelling of Brethren Church Road, so we really gotta have a partnership here and work together.”

Commissioners also said they hoped to see the block range changed. Currently Brethern Church Road goes from 100 to 869 while Brethren Church Drive goes from 100 to 385, Musick said. Making Brethern Church Road a four-digit block range rather than a three-digit range could help, officials said.

“We decided (we wanted to) correct the spelling of the road name, change the block ranges to four-digit numbers and re-address the road,” Musick said, thinking back to the community meeting. “There are many duplications of road names in the county, but this one just keeps on coming up.”