Englewood at odds with Xcel over banner ban

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The Englewood City Council ignored the objections of Xcel Energy representatives and passed a bill taking possession of the utility poles on city property.

The council took the action at the Dec. 3 meeting in reaction to Xcel Energy's policy prohibiting placing banners, flags or decorations on its utility poles and requiring any items on the poles to be taken down by Dec. 31.

Tom Henley, Xcel area manager for community and government affairs, came to the lectern during the public comment period.

He told the city council that the proposed ordinance created a safety issue and was, in his opinion, a public taking of private property.

He said the safety issue is the stress of wind loading caused by items attached to the utility poles. He said the company has had several utility poles with items attached fail, creating a safety hazard.

“Xcel Energy is working with several cities on ways to allow items to be attached to the company's utility poles when they meet stringent safety restrictions,” Henley told the council. “I urge the council not to pass this ordinance tonight.”

Council Member Rick Gillit said he felt Xcel Energy was aware of banners being attached to utility poles, including the ones attached on poles along South Broadway by the business improvement district. He said he felt it was heavy-handed for Xcel to now put a ban in place prohibiting attaching any items to their utility poles.

Dan Brotzman, Englewood city attorney, said the proposed ordinance transfers the ownership of the poles and responsibility regarding putting banners, flags and decorations on utility poles from Xcel Energy to the city manager.

The city attorney noted that plans called for the city manager to have an engineering report prepared regarding possible wind loading of items proposed for placement on utility poles, and then to forward the report to Xcel. He said he was concerned about how long it would take for the company to respond to the engineering report.

Mayor Randy Penn asked if Xcel will sit down and talk to Englewood officials if the council were to delay the second reading on the proposed ordinance for two weeks.

Henley said the city is involved in the discussions with Xcel about the ban on placing items on the utility poles.

“Xcel issues the requirement to remove all items from utility poles in July,” said Penn, who wondered about the lack of progress.

Hedley was joined at the podium by Dudley Spiller, an attorney for Xcel Energy.

“It is my task to tell you that the Englewood ordinance conflicts with the information in the Public Utilities Commission constitution and rules which includes a ban on banners, signs, flags and other items being attached to utility poles,” Spiller told the council. “Since the PUC has sole jurisdiction over utilities, we feel your proposal may not be legal.”

He said Xcel feels it is being backed into a corner and may fight Englewood's ordinance in court. He said the company also views the proposal as an unlawful taking of private property.

Spiller said he can see the relationship between Xcel Energy and municipalities becoming more contentious over this issue, and it appears battle lines are already being drawn.

After the discussion, the city council unanimously passed the ordinance on second and final reading.

Englewood is not alone it its objections to the Xcel proposal. The Highlands Ranch Metro District Board of Directors discussed the issue and indicated they were not pleased with the Xcel decision. They also said they will investigate if there is a way to purchase the poles for a nominal fee.