Safety is Xcel’s first concern with street-light decorations
By Rob Osborn
Xcel Energy has a long tradition of helping the communities we serve by supporting non-profits and business organizations, and working with city officials to define the character and feel of their neighborhoods, including the look of sidewalks and streets. Street lights can play a prominent role in establishing a city’s visual style and image, so we offer and install hundreds of different models of street lights.
Recently, the news media has focused on an issue involving our street lights, with most coverage looking at our desire to no longer allow banners on these facilities (“Xcel Energy pulls plug on flags, other decorations,” The Daily Sentinel, Oct. 15).
While the fact that we have requested the removal of these items from streetlight poles by year’s end is true, our motivation is simple: We are concerned about public safety.
Safety is our primary interest and our foremost corporate value. Therefore, we have been working with many communities for the past two years to address this issue.
Given the wide variety of streetlight designs, various ages of the lights and their locations, there simply are too many unknown variables, conditions and limitations for us to grant a blanket allowance of attachments as has been sought by some cities.
This past May, we again focused attention on this issue and initiated conversations with the approximately 120 communities we serve in Colorado, to not only express our concerns but to invite their help in finding a solution that combines the assurance of public safety with their desire to promote their cities and events.
At that time, we said we would continue to work with them and allow attachments, with some conditions, through the end of the year. We have continued these discussions and formed a task force, in partnership with a city managers’ association, to address options and solutions.
Just like your home, the integrity of streetlights is affected by weather, age, wind and other external factors. It is important for us to mitigate these factors to continue safe operations.
We fully appreciate that banners and signs are part of the ways communities decorate streets and celebrate special events.
We believe that the safety of the public is of equal importance, and many cities in Colorado understand and support this position.
The prevailing policy regarding attachments to our poles was set by the Colorado Public Utilities Commission as early as the 1950s.
Local franchise agreements also have accommodations for attachments, but limit the uses and locations if we have a concern that attachments could present a safety hazard.
We believe there are answers available for this problem. We will continue working with Grand Junction and our other communities to explore options. We know that through continued collaboration an equitable solution will be found.
Rob Osborn is director for community relations for Xcel Energy, Colorado.