Ice Storm Cleanup: Know Your Tree Trimmers'

PARAGOULD, AR (KAIT) - Officials throughout the Region 8 viewing area said tree-trimming companies from out-of-state have been operating since the ice storm blanketed the northern tier of Arkansas and southeast Missouri in January.

"If we have some out of town people, which we have a lot of that going on right now, is make sure they're identifiable. Make sure they have a license to operate in the state of Arkansas, and then a permit to work in the city or county," said Greene County Judge Jesse  Dollars.

Dollars said Greene County has been inundated with phone calls requesting information about tree-trimming companies and other services. Dollars said his office hasn't heard of any complaints regarding scams, but he said it doesn't mean it's not possible.

"If they don't have it at all, I'd stay clear. There is something wrong if they can't go get legit, and it's so easy to do, if they can't get legit with us then there's, right there's your sign. There is something not right," said Ty Hardin with Hardin's Tree Service.

Hardin has been in the tree-trimming business for more than a decade. Thursday, he told Region 8 News that 2 of his sub-contractors have taken bids on homes without giving him a cut of the cash. One company out of Louisiana crushed a man's dog pin, Hardin said. Another sub-contractor took a $22,000 job in Jonesboro without involving Hardin.

"We're so overwhelmed. These guys are knocking the jobs out as fast as I bid them so we're trying to bring in all the sub-contractors we can to help us out to help our customers out," said Hardin.

Hardin said he's gotten so many calls from potential customers; he's made a list of jobs. He gives sub-contractors, which he's checked out for legitimacy, the list and they take care of everything but billing.

"These guys are more than competent to be able to do it or they wouldn't have came this far. We just, we just have a little process to do to make sure there's no gouging," said Hardin.

Protect Yourself

Dollars said you need to ask plenty of questions before allowing a company of men and women on your yard to trim the trees and clean debris.

"Insurance is real important because if they get hurt on your property, then you're responsible for it through your insurance, so I'd want to make sure they have their own insurance," said Dollars.

Dollars said companies have to purchase a permit from the city where the work is being performed. Legitimate companies will have the permit, identification and insurance papers. Another good idea is to ask for samples of their work.

"If they won't go get a license for that town, then that's just a bad sign they're going to burn people, and then move to the next town until they burn a couple people and then move to the next down so that's why you want to make sure they're licensed," said Hardin.

Personal Story

Doris Priest lives in rural Greene County on a fixed income. She was left with several damaged trees and her roof was heavily damaged in the ice storm.

Since the storm, sub-contractors and others armed with chain-saws approached her asking to do the work. She learned how to find the better price after becoming a victim of the Marmaduke tornado on April 2nd, 2006. She had $6,000 damage to her home.

She said 2 men approached her a week after the storm. "How much would he charge me for this tree? And they conversed on it, talked about it, and then he told me and said, 1,800 dollars," said Priest.

"The first estimate that I tried to get, I could not even dare to afford it," said Priest. "The other one was going to cost me $1,800 for one tree. This one is costing me $1,500 for 6 trees."

Priest got a bank loan before hiring Hardin's Tree Service. Hardin has worked on damaged trees after the Marmaduke tornado.

"If you've got big leaders over a house that need to come off, those are more time consuming and more dangerous because the guy really needs to know what he's doing to keep it from, keep from dropping a log through your house," said Hardin.

Hardin said Priest's home has one tree hanging over her home and 5 others needing trimming. The location of the tree is a factor in pricing.

"A lot of what goes into pricing is, how many objects are underneath the tree, if there is power lines involved, if it's over the house, if it's over a fence, if it's over anything, that's going to make the price higher because every individual piece of wood has to be brought down carefully," said Hardin.

Hardin said if Priest had her trees trimmed before, some storm damage could have been prevented.

"I was jarred out of my bed. A limb had come through my roof and through the wall of my house," said Priest. "A big old pine tree out back broke my bridge and my clothes line."

Hardin said cheaper trees are those in the open because they don't have to catch the limbs when they fall.

"He said you need these two here, the two oaks, and those three oaks in front, and he said I'll charge you 1,500 dollars for everything," said Priest.

"If it's out in the open, that's going to be your cheapest tree because you can just get up there and cut it and let it fly," said Hardin.

For Priest, hiring an honest contractor will help her pay back the bank.

"Wait until the work is done. Now that is the good business because if you don't, they may take off with your money, you never see them again," said Priest.