Northglenn tells Xcel Energy to back off poles

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Northglenn is considering an ordinance that goes against an Xcel Energy request for the city to stop hanging municipal decorations and banners from company-owned but city-maintained light poles.

City Attorney Corey Hoffmann introduced the draft ordinance during a Nov. 19 study session, and told the council it would give the city the right to use Xcel’s poles in the city’s right-of-way.

If approved, the ordinance would also make it illegal for a public-utility company or its employees to remove municipal decorations or signs without city approval.

Hoffmann said the move stems from a May 8 letter to City Manager Bill Simmons in which Xcel Energy community relations director Robert Osborn said the city must remove all banners, flags, decorations and other attachments by Dec. 31.

Osborn said any decorations remaining after that date would be removed by Xcel Energy crews at the city’s expense

Cities statewide serviced by Xcel Energy have received similar letters, and several cities have adopted or are considering measures to address this issue, including Littleton, Centennial and Lafayette.

Northglenn is the first city in Adams County to consider firing a warning shot at the multi-state, Minneapolis-based energy provider.

Osborn wrote that Xcel can no longer permit or approve the installation of banners, flags, decorations and other attachments because municipal light poles “were never designed to hold or contemplated for such use.”

“Xcel Energy is committed to helping the communities we serve by enhancing their business and shopping districts,” Osborn wrote in the letter. “However … safety is a primary concern of Xcel Energy, and the use of our facilities for purposes other than policing the public right of ways is not consistent with our tariffs or our franchises.”

Osborn said the cities could Install “banner only” poles, purchase a section of streetlights from Xcel Energy, construct a section of street lights using business improvement district funds or develop a franchised banner or advertising program.

Hoffmann said the city responded with a letter requesting that Xcel Energy furnish proof of ownership of the city’s light poles. He said Xcel Energy is in the process of doing an inventory of all of its facilities statewide but has not provided the city with a concrete deadline for providing that proof.

“My hunch is that this (ordinance) will stop the conduct,” Hoffmann said. “If there was a legitimate safety issue, this ordinance accommodates that by saying, `Show me what the safety issue is,’ so this is not by any stretch of the imagination some sort of cavalier exercise of power.”

Ward IV City Councilwoman Kim Snetzinger said the city has offered to purchase light poles located within the city limits, but has not received an estimate from Xcel.