Tree trimming upsets residents

Published 12:01 am Monday, February 25, 2008

NATCHEZ — At a recent board of aldermen meeting, Aldermen Jake Middleton brought up a problem that some residents are having with Entergy and its contracted tree trimmers.

Middleton said he’s received a multitude of complaints from residents stating that their trees have been cut haphazardly.

Stephen Caruthers, Entergy customer service manager, said the crews are clearing branches away from power lines — which is routine.

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“Entergy is trimming several of the main feeder lines in Natchez,” he said. “We have two or three circuits in Natchez. We kind of put them in a cycle, every three or five years we maintain our right of ways.”

Sherra Arnold, of 300 Mansfield Drive, said one of her neighbor’s trees has been cut in a “J” shape.

The tree, a live oak, had the branches above the power line cut back but the limbs below the power line were not trimmed, she said.

“They come out and flat faced the tree so that’s it six feet back from the power line and it’s just an eyesore,” Arnold said. “They do it with such a lack of respect for the aesthetics.”

She said her neighborhood is nice, old and well established and that the trees are part of that.

“(The trimmers) are not locals and they do not care, obviously, about the way things look in the neighborhoods and along our city streets,” she said.

Caruthers said complaints are not uncommon.

“I’ve been doing customer service with Entergy for about 10 years, there’s always a few people that are concerned after the trees are trimmed in their neighborhood,” he said.

After receiving complaints last week, Middleton said he called the Mississippi Public Service Commission, which regulates electric services and in doing so, answers such complaints. From this, the tree trimming was halted.

Middleton announced at last week’s aldermen meeting that he would be riding around town with a few Entergy representatives.

“We rode around for about three hours and I tried to stress to these guys that when they’re cutting these trees, to try to use some compassion,” Middleton said.

Middleton said he was told the trimmers have a 15-foot right of way.

Also, the Entergy representatives explained to Middleton that when they cut tree limbs, they prefer to cut further toward the base of the tree, Middleton said.

Caruthers said the reason for this is when cutting only two or three feet back, the tree might become infected which could affect the way limbs grow back.

“It could harm the tree and create sucker growth, which makes it bushy,” Caruthers said.

“We’re cutting back to a major artery,” he said. “That protects the tree and ensures that it won’t be infected or diseased from the cuts.”

Middleton said it’s unfortunate that the trees have to be cut, but was told that it’s necessary to trim the limbs crowding power lines.

It’s not just about the fear of large limbs falling on the lines, either, Middleton said.

Even the smallest limb that gets wet can brush an electricity line and cause a power outage.

Entergy is supposed to call residents to give them advanced notice of when the trimmers will be cutting their trees, Middleton said.

He also said the day they’re in the neighborhoods, they are supposed to leave a door hanger informing the resident of what time they’ll be on that particular street.

But Middleton said he got a call from someone who didn’t receive a phone call or a door hanger.

“There seems to be a communication problem still with Entergy and the residents of Natchez,” Middleton said.

Caruthers said the phone calling system works as long as Entergy customers have provided a correct and working phone number.

If the call is placed and answered, the resident should hear a message alerting them that Entergy will be coming. If the call is picked up by an answering machine, a message will be left.

Middleton said he is still working with Entergy.

“This issue is being addressed and I’m not through with it yet,” he said.

“I am doing all I can to solve this.”

Caruthers said Entergy is doing all it can to provide its services and trimming trees is part of that.

“As an electric company we want to maintain a reliable service to our customers,” he said. “It might pinch a nerve or two, but we’re proactively spending resources and dollars to maintain that good service.”