Despite the March reversal from Xcel Energy to allow the Highlands Ranch Metro District to continue to hang holiday banners on utility poles, there will be no festive colors flying from the poles in the community this year.
The 16-year-old banner program will be on hold through at least the next two holiday seasons, and will be revisited by the Metro District staff and board of directors in 2015.
The HRMD, according to public works director Jeff Case, traditionally hangs banners at all nine major entry points into the community, utilizing 60 Xcel poles annually. The program began with Highlands Ranch’s “Sweet 16” celebration in 1997 and quickly morphed into holiday celebrations and more, becoming limited to the holiday season sometime in the early 2000s.
In late 2012 the district was among many organizations and municipalities to receive written notice from Xcel ordering them to cease attaching signs and banners to utility poles by the first of the year. After receiving protests from a number of its large clients, the Minnesota-based energy company stated in March that as long as the poles are in good shape and safety standards are being met, banners can fly.
Tom Henley, Xcel area manager for community and government affairs, said the safety issue Xcel is concerned with is the stress of wind loading caused by items attached to the poles. Henley said the company has had several utility poles with items attached fail around the country, but according to HRMD general manager Terry Nolan, that has never occurred in Highlands Ranch.
Following the March reversal, a grading system was implemented, and after all of the Highlands Ranch poles were inspected by the utility company, 23 of the 60 poles in question in Highlands Ranch received a D, E, or F, meaning that they would not be allowed to have banners attached until the poles were replaced by Xcel.
“If we want to move ahead with banners we would not be able to do anything that resembled an organized plan,” Case said. “Xcel has made us aware that even if a pole is a Class A pole it still requires a pole attachment agreement, and we don’t have the specific pole attachment agreements (from them) yet.”
Case said he doesn’t expect rapid results on Xcel’s end, and that even if the district were able to get the agreements taken care of, the end result would be a “spotty display of banners” scattered throughout Highlands Ranch until the other poles are replaced — something he said Xcel plans on doing in the next couple years.
The board of directors unanimously agreed with Case’s Oct. 29 recommendation to forgo the banner program in 2013 and 2014 and will revisit the situation in 2015.