The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

July 7, 2013

Tree-trimming was unnecessary, says Conneaut resident

By MARK TODD - mtodd@starbeacon.com
Staff Writer

CONNEAUT — A Lake Erie Street man is livid over tree-trimming work done by a company hired by FirstEnergy.

Mike Allshouse, 766 Lake Erie St., says trimmers cut a big chunk, unnecessarily, out of an ornamental, decade-old Crimson King maple tree on his property in late May. The work was done in late May, while the family was away on a trip.

An angry Allshouse complained and was told the tree was poised to grow into nearby power lines. Allshouse, who disputes that claim, nonetheless says he has carefully trimmed the tree over the to avoid the need for tree-trimmers.

“It’s a decorative tree, and I want to keep that decorative shape,” he said. “I put in a special request to not touch the trees. They hadn’t touched them in the past. I said I would handle those trees and please leave them alone.”

Bad timing, however, apparently scuttled those plans. In early May, Allshouse said he received a notice that trimmers anticipated being in his neighborhood in early June. That was fine, Allshouse said, since he would be home to intercept the trimmers and steer them away. Instead, the crew arrived days early when the house was empty.

A forester with FirstEnergy and a representative of the trimming company came to the house after the work was done and told Allshouse the utility company possesses easements that allows them to trim vegetation that poses a threat to electric lines. They couldn’t answer questions how far off the road workers can saw and buzz, Allshouse said. The men also told Allshouse while the tree may not yet have intruded on the wires, it would eventually become a problem, he said.

“The tree was nowhere near the wires,” he said. “Where’s the common sense here?”

Mark Durbin, spokesman for FirstEnergy, defended the work, saying the crews are “trained professionals” in the technique of directional pruning. Generally, crews find the biggest limb next to the trunk and “cut it there,” he said.

Durbin also emphasized crews know the limitations when it comes to property lines. “We have an easement, and we don’t go beyond the easement,” he said.

Tree-trimming can be a “very emotional issue,” Durbin said, but is absolutely necessary to minimize power outages.

“We need to strike a balance between the rehabilitation of the system and the look of the trees,” he said. “We do what we do to maintain the reliability of those wires.”

Exceptions can’t be made for specialty trees like the ones Allshouse is growing, Durbin said.

“We really can’t take that chance,” he said. “If there’s potentially a problem, we will side with (the tree company).”