Northampton Debates Policy for Naming Public Assets

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By Stefanie Jackson – Northampton supervisors are working with the county administrator to write a policy for naming county-owned property, including buildings, landscaping features such as trees or flower beds, interior spaces, furniture such as benches or chairs, or other items.

According to the draft policy, a request must be made in writing to the Office of the County Administrator to receive an application to name or rename a county-owned property.

The individual or organization submitting the request should provide background information explaining the reason for the request and biographical information if the property is to be named after a person.

The application will be reviewed by the county administrator and the director of the department responsible for the property to be named.

Incomplete applications will be returned for corrective action. Complete submissions will be forwarded to the board of supervisors, along with a staff recommendation for approval or denial of the request. However, the board of supervisors ultimately will decide to approve or deny a name or name change.

County properties should be named in accordance with the historical, cultural, geographical, or ecological significance of the location or the immediate area.

A building may not be named for an individual or a corporation. Other county-owned property, including an interior space of a building, may be named after an individual or corporation if certain conditions are met.

A property may be named for a corporation that has donated a significant amount of money or land to the county.

A property may be named for a person, living or deceased, who has made a significant contribution to the county, such as the preservation or enrichment of a natural, horticultural, educational, or cultural resource; the advancement of educational or recreational opportunities; or a property improvement that is consistent with current best management practices and standards.

A name may be rejected if it would “bring disrepute upon the community” or would not be considered favorably by a majority of Northampton residents.

All costs of naming, including the cost of signage, will be paid by the person or organization submitting the request. However, the board of supervisors may choose to waive the costs.

The new name will be retained as long as the county owns the property. If the name is associated with a facility used for a specific activity and that activity is changed, the name may be transferred to a similarly used facility.

The board of supervisors reserves the right to name or rename any county-owned property at any time.

Supervisor Betsy Mapp suggested changes to the draft policy on Jan. 26.

No county property should be named for a living person, and extra measures should be taken to make sure no property is associated with the names of “scoundrels,” she said.

County Administrator Charlie Kolakowski recommended an addition to the policy – a proposed name should be advertised for a certain period of time and public input should be solicited.

Making the community aware of the proposal through advertising would likely attract the attention of those who have knowledge about a person whose name might be used and that individual’s reputation, Kolakowski noted.

The applicant would pay for the cost of advertising along with all other costs related to the naming.

Supervisor Oliver Bennett suggested rewording the policy to clarify that a “significant contribution” to the county by an individual does not necessarily mean a financial contribution.

He did not want any person deserving of recognition to be overlooked due to that individual’s financial status.

A person may not have a lot of money or property but can still accomplish “tremendous things,” Bennett said.

Kolakowski agreed with rewording the policy to make Bennett’s clarification. Supervisors will re-examine the draft after the suggested changes are made.

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