Kennewick removes holiday lights from speed limit sign

KENNEWICK -- You can deck the halls with boughs of holly, but Kennewick residents are cautioned to keep their Christmas cheer confined to private property, with none allowed on city property this year, thank you very much.

Tell that to Jake McChesney of 919 Rainer St., who was so weary of witnessing cars "flying by" his house and ignoring the 25 mph speed limit that he wreathed a ring of Christmas lights around the city's sign.

"I had lights on my fence already, so I put them up a couple of nights ago to let people better notice the sign," he said.

The gaily lit sign not only caught the attending of passers-by, but also the glare of the city's road department employees, who removed the electric wreath before noon Wednesday.

"It's an official traffic control device and we can't have people adding anything to it," said John Deskins, Kennewick's traffic engineer.

"It is a possible electrocution hazard and he can't do it even though he has the best of intentions," he said, noting a potential liability risk for the city and the property owner.

Deskins said a similar incident happened last year when a property owner extended Christmas lights from a private yard to a city-owned light pole. Those lights also were removed, and for the same reason: possible electrocution.

McChesney said he thought people were noticing his Christmas trim around the metal sign, especially at night, but there hadn't been any noticeable reduction in the speeding on Rainier Street.

"I still have speeders," he said ruefully.

With only three days until Christmas, McChesney's wish is for people to slow down.

Northbound motorists on Rainier Street near 10th Avenue better watch out and better not cry when a police officer tickets them this week for being in a "Christmas rush."

Kennewick police Sgt. Ken Lattin said even just driving 5 mph faster adds expontentially to their ability to safely stop. "It's just not worth it," he said.