Modesto City Schools employees file claims after city street workers coat their cars with oily film

09/22/2013 5:03 PM

09/22/2013 5:03 PM

More than two dozen Modesto City Schools bus drivers are seeking more than $3,000 from the city after one of its road crews inadvertently sprayed the bus drivers’ personal cars with an oily substance that has left black specks and a gritty texture.

The 27 bus drivers filed their claims this month with the city, seeking $100 to $200 each to have their cars professionally cleaned by auto detailers. The cars were sprayed Aug. 20 when they were in the parking lot of the Modesto City Schools transportation department on Woodland Avenue.

A city crew was repaving the roughly two-thirds mile of Woodland from Ninth Street to Carpenter Road. It was spraying a water-oil emulsion on the ground-up pavement before putting down the new asphalt. The emulsion allows the old and new asphalt to bond, said Jim Burch, a public works deputy director. He said the day was especially windy and small droplets of the emulsion vaporized and were carried by the wind to the cars, which were parked near the street.

Burch said city workers did not expect the droplets to reach the cars. He said city officials instructed the bus drivers to get estimates to have their cars cleaned and submit the estimates along with the claims to the city.

Maria Villa, one of the bus drivers, said the emulsion has left tiny, black specks and a gritty feel on her and co-workers’ vehicles. The bus drivers are concerned about permanent damage to the paint if their vehicles are not professionally cleaned.

This was the second of two mishaps on the project.

After city workers ground up the pavement, a street sweeper drove over the road to pick up the residue. But Burch said the sweeper’s driver did not know his vacuum tube was plugged, which caused the sweeper to spew dust, which coated the bus drivers’ vehicles.

But the city provided them with coupons to have their cars cleaned at a car wash. “We were trying to do the right thing,” Burch said.

He said the problem with the emulsion happened the same day the cars were coated with dust, or perhaps the next day.

He said the city did its typical due diligence before starting the two-week project. It notified the Transportation Department, businesses and others along that stretch of Woodland that it would be repaving the road.

But it did not advise school district employees to move their cars because it did not expect them to be affected. Burch said it would have been difficult to find other parking for the cars during the project.

“But in retrospect,” he said, “we should have had them move their cars.”

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