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Herndon forgoes holiday wreaths on Elden Street, citing safety risks

Herndon decorated a lighted Christmas tree outside town hall after ditching its usual Elden Street holiday wreaths (courtesy Town of Herndon)

Holiday decorations will look a little different this year in the Town of Herndon.

The town will not install its usual holiday wreaths on Elden Street’s poles because the process poses significant safety risks to the town’s workers, Town Manager Bill Ashton II told the Herndon Town Council at a meeting on Tuesday (Dec. 12).

Federal and state occupational safety rules prohibit workers from completed work on a pole within 10 feet of uninsulated power lines without property safety equipment and training, according to Ashton. Managed by Dominion Energy, the poles along Elden Street have uninsulated high voltage power lines — with only weather shielding as protection.

“This is something we were committed to, that we loved to do,” Ashton said. “Imagine our disappointment in mid-November when I learned that this holiday tradition has not or never has been safe for our employees to do.”

According to Ashton, the town discovered this rule in November during a routine safety training. The town’s workers don’t have the required safety equipment and training to install the wreaths, he said.

The issue drew public backlash — particularly on social media — when some residents directed criticism at the town’s risk manager.

Ashton II emphasized that the decision to drop the wreaths was his alone, noting that he found it “morally indefensible” to justify installing decorations at the expense of worker safety.

“I underestimated public passion on this issue,” he said.

This year, the town invested more time and resources to decorate the downtown Herndon area with a lighted Christmas tree, according to staff. While the town did explore hiring contractors to install the wreaths, it was unable to find a timely alternative ahead of the holiday season.

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