WHEATLAND -- After "looking the other way" for decades, the city of Wheatland will no longer allow messages to be painted on the Spenceville Road pavement.
Messages of school spirit and senior class pride have been painted on the road every spring for nearly 40 years by students in the incoming senior class of Wheatland Union High School.
The practice is traditionally done at night when there is little traffic on the road and approaching cars can be easily seen by their headlights.
But citing complaints from citizens, and safety and liability issues, the city of Wheatland has officially come out against the practice.
"Unfortunately, and I say unfortunately, we had to take action,” said City Manager Greg Greeson at the Tuesday meeting of the Wheatland City Council.
The city notified parents and students, telling them the practice, which was never sanctioned by the school, had to stop for a variety of safety and liability reasons. The police department has been discussing safer alternatives with the student body.
Joanne Rennie of the Public Risk Agency Risk Sharing Authority of California advises Wheatland on liability issues and explained the thinking behind the decision at Tuesday's meeting.
“When the city is sued, the city has to defend itself, and those are taxpayer dollars that go to paying for that defense instead of paying for the city services," Rennie told the council. "Street painting may have been okay in simpler times. Today it‘s called creating a dangerous condition of public property.”
Some citizen groups, sentimental about the painting tradition, have organized online and are still hoping a compromise can be reached.
It appears the incoming class of 2018 found their own loophole. They painted their messages on a section of Spenceville Road just outside city limits.