Xcel Energy to end pole decorations in service areas

Many municipalities with poles owned by Xcel Energy will be required to remove decorations like these flowers in Hixton from the distribution poles in their municipality.

Dozens of small communities will have to find a new place to hang holiday lights and flower baskets next year when Xcel Energy cracks down on unauthorized power pole decorations.

The Minnesota-based utility plans to begin enforcing an existing rule across its eight-state service area to comply with industry standards and to keep untrained people away from power lines.

“We have noticed over the last several years that some communities have been putting things on the distribution poles without permission or working with the company to do so and there have been some safety issues with the size of decorations and height,” said Xcel spokeswoman Christine Ouellette. “There have been times where crews have not been able to access what they need to because of things in the way.”

Ouellette said in some cases heavy flower baskets have caused poles to lean.

Xcel is working to determine which of 249 Wisconsin communities with Xcel-owned poles may have hung decorations on its power distribution poles, but Ouellette said there may be as many as 100. About 125 have approval to decorate Xcel street lights.

Company spokesman Matt Lindstrom said Xcel is working to figure out which communities in its Minnesota territory have decorated power poles.

Four affected villages in Jackson County have discussed options from using ground decorations to changing service providers. The village of Alma Center recently purchased decorations for its poles.

“Hopefully they get enough guff that they will allow it,” Alma Center village President Kenneth Ristow said.

Xcel plans to begin enforcing the rule in January.

“We know that the holiday season is coming up and we know that there are some that like to decorate for the holidays and we will let it go, but Jan. 1 is when we will start to make sure they are all complying with the proper terms,” Ouellette said.

Jordan Simonson of the Jackson County Chronicle contributed to this story.

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Rhymes with Lubbock. La Crosse Tribune reporter and data geek. Covers energy, transportation and the environment, among other things. Call him at 608-791-8217.

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