Xcel declares utility poles unsafe for flags, holiday lights

The United States Flags that graced the utility poles along Division Street in Maple Lake all through Memorial Day Weekend have been taken down for the last time.

Xcel Energy, who owns those poles, has deemed it unsafe to attach decorations such as flags, banners, and holiday lighting. For Maple Lake that means the festive flags that flew on St. Patrick’s Day and the Christmas decorations that lit the streets for years will have to find a new home.

“It’s a liability on their part,” Maple Lake Public Works Director Jerry Sawatzke said.

According to a letter from Xcel Energy, lighting, flags, banners, and planters on distribution poles can be a serious safety issue to community personnel, Xcel employees, and the public. They can cause equipment damage and widespread power outages, fires, and electrical hazards including electrocution.

While ornamental attachments on Xcel’s distribution poles are no longer allowed, communities can apply for a waiver to hang such items on Xcel owned streetlight poles. Unfortunately, in Maple Lake, those streetlight poles are few and far between and if decorations are hung there, they would not have the same uniformity found these last years along Division street and Oak Ave., Sawatzke said.

The difference between streetlight poles and distribution poles, is streetlight poles support only streetlights and the wiring to energize them. While a streetlight may be present on a distribution poles, their main purpose is to support overhead power lines.

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