SOUDERTON — It may end up as a banner year for Souderton, but it's not starting that way.
In recent years, banners for community events have been hung between two utility poles across Main Street near the traffic light at Reliance Road, but high winds whip the banners around, cause the poles to flex and have even knocked out the electricity to some neighboring properties, borough officials said at the Jan. 13 Souderton Borough Council work session.
"Long story short, PP&L is less than delighted with the banner situation on that, so we are very much hard pressed to go back and put another banner at that location," Borough Manager Mike Coll said.
Requests to be allowed to hang a banner come to the police department, Souderton Borough Police Chief James Leary said, and for the first time, he's had to deny those.
"After looking at the slant of the poles, having watched the banners actually move the poles, and having suffered the power outage, I'm to the point now where I think it would be irresponsible for me to approve a banner," Leary said. "I'm not going to approve them until we find something a little bit safer. I really think that we're creating liability for the municipality, for motorists, for pedestrians and certainly for PP&L."
There has been discussion in the past about possibly putting in poles specifically for the banners, which is now again being considered.
"The area where we've been hanging it was the easiest way to do it because two poles existed already," council President Brian Goshow said.
The location is also a gateway to the borough and an area where the most traffic passes through and sees the banners, he said.
There was previous discussion of having banners hang across the Main Street hollow, but that raised concerns that people looking up to read the banners in an area with a lot of pedestrians and other activity could potentially be dangerous, Goshow said.
Another suggested banner location was on E. Broad Street near School Lane, he said.
Poles for the banners would be similar to traffic light poles, Coll said.
When the borough previously looked into getting poles specifically for the banners, the cost was about $15,000, Goshow said.
"We'd have to install them, too," he said.
The borough would also have to get permits from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation for the banner poles, Coll said.
The banners have been used for things including publicizing the borough's 125th anniversary activities in 2012, Goshow said.
"For a community event, I think it's one of the best things," he said.
During discussion of the banners in 2015, Coll described the way the banners were hung as "essentially lassoing a banner to two electric poles."
If the new poles for the banners were installed, he said at the 2020 meeting, a steel cable would be run between the poles and the banners could be slid across the road, then fastened.
That makes it much easier to put up the banners, Goshow said.
Council agreed to look into possibly getting poles for banners at both the current location and on Broad Street near School Lane and to see if the Business Improvement District wants to contribute to the purchase.
In another matter at the meeting, Coll said economic redevelopment grants are available from the county and the borough's planning commission had discussed possible projects in Souderton.
One of the possibilities is for improvements to the municipal parking lot off Chestnut Street that is used by people going to Main Street businesses, he said.
"It's such a steep lot," Coll said.
"The trees are dying," he said. "It's really getting rough looking."
The borough engineer has done preliminary sketches for possible improvements, he said.
If work is done at the parking lot, the possibility of adding handicapped parking would also have to be addressed, although that would be difficult because of the steep slope, he said.
There is a tight schedule for applying for the new round of grants, so council would likely have to act in February to authorize an application, Coll said.