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North Hempstead tables plan to stop helping organizations hang banners from utility poles

A banner for Port Fest hangs from utility

A banner for Port Fest hangs from utility poles over Main Street in Port Washington Monday, May 11, 2015. Credit: Barry Sloan

The North Hempstead town board has tabled a proposal to stop helping local organizations hang promotional banners across utility poles.

The town, worried about liability costs, had planned a vote on ending the practice at Tuesday night's board meeting. Town officials removed the proposed law from the agenda earlier in the day.

A Newsday story on Tuesday reported that town officials said they were responding to a request from PSEG Long Island last month. Town officials said the utility company asked the town to indemnify the agency for any harm that could occur as a result of the banners hanging from utility poles. Town Attorney Elizabeth Botwin said Monday that it was not reasonable for local taxpayers to be held liable for potential damages.

A PSEG Long Island spokeswoman said Monday the company's policy had not changed and an organization can hang up banners through an application process and can appoint a contractor to indemnify the utility company. In North Hempstead, town employees have helped local groups hang the banners.

Councilwoman Dina De Giorgio said she urged the board Tuesday before the meeting to reconsider the plan to stop helping the local groups.

"We've been hanging up these poles at least 30 years," she said in an interview on Tuesday afternoon. "What's next, holiday decorations?"

When asked if she thought the town should indemnify PSEG and take on the liability, she said: "I think the risk is minimal."

"You're liable for doing the task," De Giorgio said. "The town has been doing this without a problem and without incident."

Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth said at the town board meeting that the issue is "causing great consternation for us and for the not-for-profits that depend on banners to promote their events."

"We will continue to review any alternatives that will get the banners back in place without imposing undue risk on our taxpayers."

Many other Long Island municipalities do not hang banners or allow them be stretched across utility poles. Huntington Town, for example, approves permits but says the organization must give the town a "hold harmless agreement" -- releasing the town from liability -- and a certain amount of insurance.

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