Wednesday, February 18, 2009

FPL hat-racking? Anna Maria Islanders have a story to tell

The 2010 tropical storm season is just around the corner and that means all those out-of-state FPL-affiliated tree-trimming crews from Asplundh and other companies will descend on Florida and commence their annual spate of hat-racking trees, wherever they can find them even remotely close to a power distribution line.

The Anna Maria Islander reported in March 2007 on a local couple's horror story. The newspaper report outlined FPL's PR pitch about the professionalism of their tree-trimmers in the runup to line clearing in the Holmes Beach area of the island in anticipation of the 2007 storm season.

But, local couple Pat and Austin Rice had a warning for Islanders:
"If you have some trees, don't just say ‘yes' to trimming," Austin Rice said from his home in the 500 block of 74th Street last week. "If you say ‘yes,' say ‘we want to know exactly what you're going to do."
The Rices said they weren't opposed to tree-trimming, per se, they just didn't understand why their olive tree had been decimated by the Asplundh crew:

"They just came in and ‘whack, whack,'" said Pat Rice. "It wasn't hurting the power lines at all."

"Every year we trim them," Austin Rice said.

He said a contractor came to the house on Feb. 25 and said a crew would need to trim on Feb. 26.

The Rices agreed, but the crew didn't arrive on Feb. 26.

The next day, the Rices left Holmes Beach for a visit to Punta Gorda. Austin Rice remembers seeing the orange Asplundh trucks on the road headed for Anna Maria Island.

When the couple returned home, two of the three olive trees had been "trimmed" — one had been trimmed of about a quarter of its leaves and branches.

A complaint was registered with FPL and several days later, on a Saturday, a crew returned to the Rices' yard to rectify the complaint.

"The only thing left to do was cut it down," Austin Rice said.

Read the full Islander story online, here.

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