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Oil-splattered car owner stuck with bill while city, contractor battle over blame

KBAK/KBFX photo

The city of Bakersfield is currently carrying out a massive road renovation plan. As part of this, many residents have already come home to green tags on the front doors, telling them sometime in the next five days, "... the Street Maintenance Division will be applying an asphalt rejuvenating & sealing agent."

The tag requests residents move their cars off the street for that time, so the road crews can have a clear path.

It also reads, "If it can not be moved, we will skip that area around the vehicle."

So, when Alberto Moreno's son left his car parked on the street on Ironwood Way, he thought everything would be fine. However, after crews left, Moreno found the car to be covered in oil spots.

Moreno immediately called the city and asked what he should do about the car.

He was told to call Burtch Construction, the company contracted to do the work, and Moreno did.

According to Moreno, someone at Burtch told him he had to deal with the city.

"So I call the city back, and it's back and forth, nobody wants to do anything about it," Moreno said.

His unhappiness about the entire situation is understandable, because getting the oil marks off the car isn't an easy or cheap process.

Richard Manning, the owner of Detail Specialists of Bakersfield, said customers come into his shop all the time with this same issue and the only sure fix is a "solvent bath."

"We've had price range from $500 all the way up to $2,000," Manning added.

This, of course, creates the question: Who is going to pay that bill?

According to Michael Connor, street superintendent of Bakersfield, the city will not be paying anything. He said in the contract between the city and Burtch, it specifically states the road crews will do everything necessary to avoid overspray and are responsible for any overspray.

"That is 100 percent on the contractor," Connor said.

When Brenn Burtch, a manager at Burtch construction, was told what the city's stance is, she claimed neither Burtch nor the city are at fault, and Moreno should've known better and should take responsibility for his own property.

"They're parked on the side of the road," said Burtch. "Unless the city specifically shows me that part of the contract that says I have to clean that car, I'm not going to clean that car."

In the meantime, while the city and Burtch disagree over who, if anyone, is responsible, Moreno is left with an oil-spotted car and no money but his own to clean it up.

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