Residents say city refuses to clean up white paint

DENVER -- Residents said the city refused to clean up its own mess after a paint truck spewed white paint onto their properties. They asked the FOX31 Problem Solvers for help.

Four homes along West 13th Avenue near Mariposa Street appear to have damage to the front of their properties.

Neighbors said a city striping truck was painting street lines along 13th on June 21 when it somehow malfunctioned and sent paint flying. A street sweeper sent to try to help clean it up only made it worse, they said.

“It was a little devastating,” said Preston Melhauser, the homeowner with the most extensive damage. “I mean, I just finished this up last year.”

Melhauser has been updating his home for the past three years. He had just finished updating the front area of his property with rocks, plants and concrete barriers last year, he said.

“At one point, it looked nice,” he said. "You can see here. It just sprayed all the way, got all the way up to the fence, up to the door.”

Melhauser said it would cost at least $1,000 to fix the damage, with labor and materials. He said most of the paint likely wouldn’t be removed with a pressure washer.

“It’s pretty much cement,” he said, tugging on the rocks that are now stuck to the ground. “You know, it's not coming off.”

Neighbors like Joseph Wagner said the city initially accepted responsibility for causing the problem when he called the day the damage was done.

“And they said, ‘No problem, the city will reimburse you for the work that needs to be done,’” Wagner said, adding city staff told him all he needed to do was file a claim.

That’s why Melhauser was shocked to receive a letter denying the claim.

“All of a sudden they deny it, and just kind of throw it back in your face,” Melhauser said. “It’s a little frustrating.”

A Denver Public Works spokeswoman said she can't comment on the inquiry because it's a legal matter and referred us to the City Attorney's Office. A call there was not returned.

In the letter to Melhauser, an assistant city attorney said the city is denying the claim under the Colorado Governmental Immunity Act.

If a motor vehicle had caused the damage, that immunity would be waived. But the city defines a striping truck and a street sweeper as "special mobile machinery," which would not be waived, the city letter said.

“You’d expect the responsible party in this to say, ‘Oh, yeah, we'll come in and get this taken care of,’ but based on a technicality, you know, they're not 'responsible?’” Melhauser said. “At the end of the day, it's about doing the right thing.”

Melhauser said he shouldn’t have to spend his own money to fix the city’s mess.

“I would hope the city would honor our attempts to improve the neighborhood by fixing this minor problem,” Wagner said.

A spokeswoman in the mayor's office said she's working on getting someone to comment.