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Utility Company Charges for American Flags Flown in Parade for Fallen Soldier

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by hearit

hearit's picture
In The News

NY residents are accusing Long Island Power Authority of no heart in its quest for $23.75: the utility company charged the family of a Purple Heart recipient, a fallen soldier in Afghanistan, for flag-flying.
The utility company charged the family after learning, via news found in local papers, that American flags had been attached to utility poles in the area.
Army 1st Lt. Joseph Theinert lost his life in Afghanistan last year -- followed by flags hung for the funeral service in his hometown, the tight-knit community of Shelter Island, New York. Theinert had been killed while on active duty in Afghanistan, sacrificing his life in order to save his Army platoon -- and posthumously awarded the Purple Heart for his brave actions.
Last week in mid-May, Theinert’s Army platoon gathered in Shelter Island for a reunion to honor the solider -- and, to welcome troops to the community, the local American Legion and a local hardware store owner once again lined the parade route with American flags. The Army's First Cavalry Banshee troop from Fort Drum, NY attended and were escorted along a parade route of State Route 114 -- part of which had actually been renamed for Theinert.
Then the story got published in the local newspapers -- and the power authority reportedly found out. Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) now stands accused of doing anything to make a buck -- or $23.75, and its actions are viewed by many as an open mockery of fallen soldiers.
The American flags were purchased by the American Legion in a local fundraising effort -- totaling about $8,000 that was invested by the Shelter Island community to honor the military hero.
Perhaps the biggest mistake by LIPA surpassed even its fees -- when the power company didn't even charge the Shelter Island city, but actually billed fees to the family of the fallen soldier. The total charges are $23.75, listed as roughly $5 per flag attached to each utility pole.
No, the utility didn't pay for or put up the flags -- and it's not charging for equipment use or time: the American flags were not only purchased with funds from the American Legion but were also attached to the poles by volunteers. LIPA had nothing to do with community efforts in honoring the heroic soldier -- the utility company just happened to notice those flags were flying. And that the flags were temporarily attached to their upright sticks of wood, commonly known as utility poles.
Many claim the company snatched an opportunity in outright greed, though the battle over less than $25 bucks would seem to make that concept more than ridiculous. A battle over power may be more likely.
Caught in a billing dispute, the Long Island Power Authority first made claims it had not control over a New York state law that supposedly requires a charge for flown flags: a LIPA spokesperson originally told ABC News that fees for the use of the utility poles was a state law, insinuating the New York utility company had no choice in the matter.
However there's some contradictions to that theory, on interpretation: Spokesman Drew Biondo, for state Senator Ken LaValle, had this to tell ABC News in regard to the law the utility company references: "The [New York] law applies to for profit companies. Not local governments and municipalities. We think it's an over-interpretation of the law."
So, the Long Island power company now seems to be doing a two-step -- sideways:
"We want to apologize to the family of [Army] Lieutenant Theinert," the chairman of LIPA now says. Chairman Howard Steinberg says: "The trustees and I are all very upset about this. We do not support the idea of charging for flags to be hung on LIPA poles, nor do we approve of the way it was handled before it was brought to LIPA Chief Operating Officer Mike Hervey's attention. This will not be an issue going forward."
In fact the LIPA COO is even saying he'll cover the twenty-three bucks and change. How very big of him.
Verizon's apparently no dummy when it comes to PR: the cell phone provider, with towers in the Shelter Island area and along the parade route for the soldier, says it's got no problem with flags being flown in relation to Lieutenant Theinert. The mobile provider doesn't plan to charge for that use.


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