Power company forces small town to remove veterans banners

Elizabeth Howe
October 16, 2018 - 8:33 am

Photo courtesy of Dreamstime

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New Lebanon, Ohio's Hometown Hero program has recognized veterans with street banners since 2014. This year, Dayton Power & Light has decided the banners have to come down — and if the town wants to put them back up again, they'll have to pay.

The Hometown Hero program allows residents to honor a veteran for a one-time fee of $150. The parks and recreation department creates a banner emblazoned with the recognized veteran, and the banners are flown from Memorial Day to Veterans Day along with a two-mile stretch of road that goes through town. Many of the banners are attached to Dayton Power & Light (DP&L) poles. 

New Lebanon Municipal Manager George Markus the banners are "A point of interest for the community. It identifies our community because it goes from our East corporate limit to our West corporate limit so you've got about two miles of these banners...we've had people from out of state who have left messages on our drop down menu on our village website about how nice it looks and how much they appreciate seeing those people recognized."

DP&L has given New Lebanon until Nov. 12 to have all 125 banners taken down. If they want to put them up again next year, they'll have to go through the proper application process — for each pole. The fees for the process can be as high as $328 per pole. If the program is as popular as it has been in preceding years, that could mean more than $40,000 in expenses to the town. 

After three years of running the program Markus speculated on why DP&L has decided the banners affixed to their poles is an issue, and he wondered why it's only an issue until the town pays up. 

Acorrding to Markus, the local utitlity companies go to the Ohio Public Utilities Comission and ask for rate increases, often referred to as "tariffs." DP&L is citing these tariffs as the reason for charging the expenses for the banner poles.

What DP&L calls a tariff, he calls it "a non-traditional revenue stream."

"The bottom line is its cash grab," said Markus "Any time you can nail a community for over $300 a pole to put a banner on there, we've got 125 banners, that's a pretty big number." 

DP&L Director of Operations Mary Ann Kabel, told WHIO that "the company respects our veterans and is appreciative of the support shared by communities. All pole attachment requests, including seasonal banners, require that DP&L be contacted and each request must be reviewed for safety and compliance."

West Milton in Miami County, a town with a similar program to New Lebanon's Hometown Heroes, received the same notice from DP&L that their banners must be taken down and processed appropriately before going back up. But Lewisburg in Preble County, which started its veterans banner program this year and has had banners up since April, has not received any notice from DP&L.

The power company says "DP&L respects our veterans and is most appreciative of the support shared by our communities.  All pole attachment requests, including seasonal banners, require that DP&L be contacted before they are placed on DP&L poles. Each request must be reviewed for safety and compliance prior to installation. We are currently working with our communities to come up with a solution."

Currently, New Lebanon isn't taking any new banner applications until a solution for the banners is found, city officials are currently searching for a fallback plan in the event they cannot provide the funds that DP&L is asking for. 

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