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Months after Santa Fe officials raised liability concerns about a popular program meant to honor military veterans, the City Council voted at a special meeting Monday to approve temporary new locations in the city for the Hometown Heroes banners.

Months after Santa Fe officials raised liability concerns about a popular program meant to honor military veterans, the City Council voted at a special meeting Monday to approve temporary new locations in the city for the Hometown Heroes banners. (City of Santa Fe/Facebook)

SANTA FE, N.M. (Tribune News Service) — Months after Santa Fe officials raised liability concerns about a popular program meant to honor military veterans, the City Council voted at a special meeting Monday to approve temporary new locations in the city for the Hometown Heroes banners.

The resolution, sponsored by Mayor Alan Webber and all eight members of the City Council, will extend the permitted locations of the banners, which each features a veteran, to parts of the Santa Fe Railyard District, Guadalupe Street and other downtown areas, as well as a stretch of Cerrillos Road. Previously, the banners could be displayed throughout the summer on streetlight poles only on Cerrillos Road between Interstate 25 and St. Michael’s Drive. Now, they can be installed on Cerrillos all the way to St. Francis Drive.

The resolution approved Monday applies only to 2022; the city still must find a more permanent solution for the program, which began in 2019.

“The veterans themselves, this is a big day for them,” City Councilor Chris Rivera said. “They have been working hard, not only from the service they provided to our country, but working hard to make sure that if they had a banner up or a family member or someone they were friends with, they worked hard on behalf of all of them.”

Controversy over the program erupted nearly three months ago, when City Manager John Blair announced the streetlight poles on Cerrillos Road, manufactured by Virginia-based company Hapco, were not built to hold decorative banners. According to an email, officials feared the banners could act as sails in the wind and pull the poles from their bases.

The news delayed the program this year, prompting pushback from the veteran community and a series of meetings between the city and veterans to find a solution.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham stepped in last week, announcing the state would allow the banners to be hung along St. Francis Drive, a roadway maintained by the New Mexico Department of Transportation.

Lujan Grisham climbed into a lift Thursday and hung the first banner, one featuring 101-year-old World War II veteran Stella Lavadie. She was one of the first women to serve in the war and attended Thursday’s ceremony.

City Councilor Renee Villarreal thanked the governor Monday for using her executive powers to open up St. Francis Drive for the display; without the additional space, it’s likely the growing number of banners in the program would have to be displayed on a rotating basis, with a limited number of light poles.

The council was scheduled to approve the program’s new locations at a meeting last week but postponed the vote over concerns that language in the original resolution would have eliminated Cerrillos Road as a permitted location, even if the city opted to swap out light poles along the road with ones that could hold banners.

“Our hope is to be able to hang veterans banners throughout the entirety of our great city,” Councilor Michael Garcia said. “We have a number of banners that are going to be hung, and we wanted to make sure that we can hang as many as possible.”

Under the resolution, American Legion Post 12 is required to cover the cost of hanging the banners, but post Commander Carmella Quintana has said the organization would not be able to fund the project.

Ray Sandoval, a spokesman for Public Service Company of New Mexico, said the electric utility will handle the installation.

‘We made a promise, and we are going to see that out,” he said.

Blair said the city expects the first shipment of about 145 bracket kits for the banners to arrive in the next few days. Then, he said, the city will work with PNM to get the first 145 banners installed.

“They will be coming in shifts and waves,” Blair said. “But we are going to get them up as fast as we can.”

(c)2022 The Santa Fe New Mexican (Santa Fe, N.M.)

Visit at www.santafenewmexican.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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