March 23 • 12:37 PM

Painted into a corner?

Contractor responsible for overspray in Imlay City reneges on promise to clean paint from vehicles

July 18, 2007
IMLAY CITY — Jeff Goodrich says he'll hang around until the donuts run out, but there's nothing sweet about waiting around in the chilly drizzle early Saturday morning for a painting contractor to make good on his word.

Goodrich and his wife, Laurie, are among a couple of dozen residents who gather at Heatherton Place apartments on First Street to have flecks of silver paint removed from their vehicles. Painting contractor Patrick Sherlock of South Carolina agreed to make the fixes after overspray from his 4th of July weekend paint job at Lapeer Grain East left its mark south of downtown.

Slated to begin at 9 a.m., 45 minutes later the Goodriches and their Hunt St. neighbor Jamie Tietz are still willing to give Sherlock—who had yet to show—the benefit of the doubt.

"We'll see if he shows up," Goodrich says. "Maybe something held him up."

The good, the bad...

City Commissioner Earl Gass arranged the 'paint removal party' after residents complained during a city commission meeting. Some said the overspray drifted into their backyard pools, onto patios, gardens and, of course, vehicles.

Though the problem was deemed a non-city matter, Gass took it upon himself to contact Sherlock, who last week appeared eager to remedy the problem, Gass says.

Sherlock, who listed a South Carolina address, told Gass he'd bring a crew to Heatherton Place apartments at 9 a.m. on Saturday morning to remove the overspray from affected vehicles. Lapeer Grain manager Ray Graham signs on for coffee and donuts and it looks like a bad situation is about to get better.

But looks can be deceiving. Ray Graham brings plenty of coffee and donuts, residents chat cordially in the Heatherton Place parking lot and, well, that's about it. Sherlock's a no show. By 10:30 a.m. people are driving away in the same silver-flecked vehicles they drove up in.

"I put two calls into the guy," Earl Gass says at 9:40 a.m. "I'm disappointed. All you can do is give the man a chance and he didn't show."

Weston Street resident Robert Bowman's disappointed, too. He was one of the first residents to show up in his red car that's got a custom paint job he didn't ask for.

"I called the guy last week and left a message and he called me back and said he'd take care of it," Bowman says. "Now I don't think he had any intention of showing up."

Gass, too, was doubting Sherlock's intentions.

"I tried to turn a bad thing into a good thing and he turned a bad thing into a worse thing," Gass says.

Alan Karwowski says he never doubted Sherlock's intentions, which he believes were no good from the beginning. Karwowski says the 25 years he spent running a night club in Hamtramck have honed his gut instincts about people.

"I knew he wasn't going to show, which is typical of that kind of person who's in business to make money and move on," Karwowski says.

Residents begin to disperse from Heatherton Place apts. parking lot after painting contractor fails to keep promise to remove overspray from vehicles. photo by Catherine Minolli.

Karwowski's Almont Ave. home, yard and vehicles are coated with flecks of silver. Two sets of patio furniture, his son's playscape and his plants and garden are all but ruined, he says.

"We can our vegetables and roast our peppers," Karwowski says. "I've got 70 feet of concord grapes, a peach tree, pear tree and apple tree that are loaded but I don't want to touch any of it. I just don't know what we're dealing with," he says.

And the...coincidental

Karwowski decided to do a little research on Sherlock, which led to an interesting coincidence.

Using an online search engine, he typed in Patrick Sherlock and hit on a Patrick M. Sherlock, painting contractor, with an Iowa post office box address and an 800 number—a different 800 number from the one given by Patrick Sherlock of South Carolina. The Web site says he specializes in grain elevators and barns and shows a half dozen photos of his work.

When Karwowski called the toll free number, the man who answered denied ever doing work in Michigan.

"Coincidence? Maybe," Karwowski says, "but I really don't think so."

As it turns out, this time Karwowski's instincts were wrong. Patrick M. Sherlock of Iowa is not the same Patrick Sherlock that painted Lapeer Grain East. The Iowa Sherlock, however, is aware that there's another painting contractor out there with his name. Aside from the phone calls he's recently received—and returned—a couple of years ago he got some complaints from Kentucky regarding shoddy workmanship. The thing is, he didn't do the job. The Patrick M. Sherlock of Iowa works only in Iowa.

"It's a bad coincidence for me," Sherlock of Iowa says regarding his shared namesake. "I'm going to change my Web site to make sure things are clear."

As disappointed residents make their way back to their cars, Graham starts a sign-up sheet and asks everyone to list their names and phone numbers. He says he's not giving up on getting the problem solved.

Karwowski says he's not giving up, either.

"This has nothing to do with the granary, I understand they hired a contractor," he says. "But this is not just about cars. It's about homes, lawns, families."

Here's the 'rub'

Although it is not a criminal matter, Imlay City police have issued an open complaint number to assist residents with insurance claims. They are requesting that residents stop in and register their name and address, obtain the complaint number and then follow the recommendations of their insurance carrier.

For those who want to keep it local, Milnes Chevrolet Olds Pontiac has come up with a method to remove the flecks of paint from vehicles.

Mike Phaneuf, body shop manager, says they've experienced the problem first-hand when they were prepping some vehicles for delivery.

"We noticed a few of our own got hit," he says.

Body shop experts were able to remove the paint with a mild solvent, Phaneuf says, and they have other methods at their fingertips that won't disturb the paint or finish on vehicles.

He says residents can stop in with their vehicles for advice and to discuss options for rubbing the paint out.

"If they don't want the work done we can at least advise them as a courtesy, and if they do want to go ahead we can discuss the labor charge," Phaneuf says.

Milnes works with all insurance companies, Phaneuf adds, and they'd be happy to submit the claim forms and deal with the paperwork.

In the meantime, as late as Monday afternoon Ray Graham had received a commitment from Sherlock of South Carolina. After making several phone calls, Graham convinced Sherlock that he'd be better off coming back to town and taking care of the problem. Sherlock explained to Graham that he was leery about showing up on Saturday because he'd received "threatening phone calls."

After some discussion, Sherlock told Graham he'd be in Imlay City first thing Tuesday morning—if not, he'd call.

As of press deadline on Tuesday, Sherlock was not in Imlay City and Graham's phone calls to him went unanswered.

Multiple messages left for Sherlock in South Carolina by the Tri-City Times went unanswered by press time as well.

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