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Santa Fe says delayed veteran banners will go up next week

The Santa Fe New Mexican - 8/30/2022

Aug. 30—Santa Fe's popular veteran banners will line city streets after months of delay.

City Manager John Blair said Monday a shipment of brackets that will allow workers to begin hanging hundreds of banners on streetlight poles to honor local military veterans should arrive shortly and installation could start late next week.

The first half of the $95,000 bracket order was supposed to arrive Aug. 22, with the rest coming later this month, Blair said, but the manufacturer created delays.

He added he received an email Monday morning alerting him the brackets were made on a rush order and shipped sometime Saturday.

"I know it is not ideal, but the rate we are going right now, the banners will be up," Blair said.

Public Service Company of New Mexico has donated its services to help install the long-awaited banners on streetlight poles.

The banners, part of Santa Fe's Hometown Heroes program, bear the name, image, rank, conflict and branch of each military veteran in the program. They initially were scheduled to hang between Memorial Day and Veterans Day, as they had since 2019, when the first 20 went up on the southern end of Cerrillos Road through a joint project between the city and a local branch of the American Legion.

Local business owners and residents raised funds for the project, and the number of banners increased to 86 in 2020, more than 200 in 2021 and over 340 this year.

But Hometown Heroes was tossed into turmoil in June, when Blair announced the light poles along Cerrillos Road, between Airport Road and Interstate 25, were not fit for decorative banners.

Those already installed would have to be removed, he said, frustrating the veterans community.

City officials worked to find new locations for the banners, ultimately choosing light poles along streets in the Railyard District and Guadalupe District and around the Santa Fe Plaza. The Governor's Office also stepped in, allowing banners to be hung along St. Francis Drive, a state-maintained road.

The first banner, for 101-year-old World War II veteran Stella Lavadie, was installed in mid-August, a day after the governor's announcement.

It remains the only one hanging in the city.

Blair's announcement Monday came just days after American Legion Post 12 met with members of the program who had raised concerns about whether it was worth the effort to hang the banners, with PNM's help, just a couple of months before they are set to come down for the year.

Post commander Carmela Quintana said they made a decision to hold off until next year, with PNM's assurance it would honor its commitment in May 2023.

She cited a lack of communication about the program's next steps after the City Council voted Aug. 15 to expand the permitted locations for the banners.

However, she said, city officials followed through Monday with a new timeline and assurances that installation of the banners would start next week and the city would cover next year's costs to hang them.

"My view is that if they're willing to do all of this, this year, and they will take care of it and make sure it happens next year, then why would we ever deny the families and the veterans their banners?" Quintana said.


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