F  irst a warning: What follows might sound like a rant.

That's because it is a rant.

I rant sometimes. And today is one of those days.

So bear with me.

Or not.

That's up to you.

One of the frustrations of my life -- I suspect this applies to a lot of folks -- is my inability to accept things that are blatantly stupid. I've tried, but I just can't do it.

It makes my head hurt.

Back in the spring -- in May, I think -- Downtown Inc and a bunch of merchants who make up the North George Street Alliance put their heads together and came up with a plan to place metal sculptures along North George Street, between Continental Square and Sovereign Bank Stadium, to celebrate York's industrial past.

Then another idea was quickly morphed into the sculpture plan -- let's call it the "crosswalk project," because that's really what it is.

I'm told it was Joe Wagman's idea -- he's the owner of Wagman Construction and several properties that sit along North George Street. It provides opportunities for pedestrians to cross the street safely and legally, rather than jaywalking.

Anyway the combination of projects was started and completed in three or four months in the summer just passed. As such projects often are, it was a pain. The streets, curbs and sidewalks for a couple of blocks were torn up, redesigned and restructured, with white walking paths being installed at every intersection and crosswalk.

The best part was not one penny of taxes -- not local, not state, not federal -- went into the project. It was paid in full by a private donor or private donors to the tune of about $275,000.

The York Dispatch office sits in the middle of the 200 block of North George Street. So I had a first-hand view of the project, start to finish -- me and a few thousand other people who drove or walked on/along North George Street every day.

And we were pleased with the end result. It looked terrific.

Then a week or so ago, I noticed a fellow standing across North George Street using what appeared to be a high-pressure washer next to one of the newly installed metal sculptures. I couldn't resist -- I went over and introduced myself. Actually, I was being nosy.

As it turns out, the young man is employed by Downtown Inc, and it was his job to wash off the paint someone had sprayed on the sidewalk and recently installed brick look-alike surface.

Then I saw him again last Thursday, cleaning up near another piece of art farther up the block.

Together we walked to the intersection of Gay Avenue (alley) and North George Street, right in front of The York Dispatch building. And we couldn't help but notice spray paint markers -- orange (communications/telephone), red (electric), blue (water) and green (sewer) -- 50 feet in every direction. On the street, on the sidewalks, on the curbs, on the walkways, on the fake-brick surfaces, on the metal grates, on the newly poured concrete, everywhere we looked.

What the heck was going on here?

Friday morning, I got my answer. I happened to notice three important-looking men standing on one corner surveying all the spray paint. So I walked over -- again being nosy -- and introduced myself.

As it turned out, it was an engineer representing York City, and two city employees. I asked what all the spray paint was about. And they said they didn't have a clue. But, they were quick to point out, it had nothing to do with the York City public works department. That much they were sure of.

Apparently, they said, a utility company has decided to tear up the street and sidewalks to replace or repair something or other.

Which utility company is it? I asked. They said they didn't know. But clearly a utility company is planning to dig, they said, so they called 811 and had someone come out and mark all the utility lines, pipes, cables, etc., so ground could be broken safely.

There are a dozen good reasons to determine the locations of underground lines before digging. I'm understand that.

But there are no good reasons -- unless it's an emergency -- why the work couldn't have been done before the art and crosswalks project was started in May.

Was this an emergency? Not by my definition of "emergency," since the work hasn't been started yet. If it had been a real emergency, the work would have started in the middle of last week.

What we have now is utility graffiti all over the place, much of it marring the beautification work completed just four weeks ago.

The three men on site were quick to advise me that York City holds quarterly meetings with its own public works department and all public utilities to make everyone aware of upcoming projects, so conflicts like this won't occur.

"Coordination of effort" is the term we're looking for here.

But apparently someone wasn't paying attention.

Or the 811 employee got carried away with his/her spray gun.

It's absurd. It's bad judgment. It's ugly as sin.

And it's a waste of perfectly good private dollars.

But you know who I really feel sorry for ... the Downtown Inc employee with the high-pressure washer who'll be expected to clean up all the spray paint. He was shaking his head last week at the very thought of it.

I share his pain.

Columns by Larry A. Hicks, Dispatch columnist, run Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. E-mail: lhicks@yorkdispatch.com.