Have a tree near a power line in front of your home? Duke Energy may be coming for it.
The utility company is doing more aggressive trimming, in an effort to prevent power failures.
But one Butler County couple says Duke is going to take their family's memories, as well.
Tree-cutting crews arrive
Roger and Rita Johannes moved to the peaceful countryside in Ross Township, Ohio to get away from city hassles.
So much for that.
Roger Johannes showed stumps that remain where utility crews just cut their neighbor's trees.
"They started yesterday," he said.
His beloved trees are next. When he asked why the trees have to go, he said a supervisor told him "they are afraid the trees will interfere with their lines if they fall down."
Even though these trees are not growing into the high-voltage lines behind their home, a letter from Duke Energy explains the trees are in the right-of-way and have to go.
Here's the saddest part, though: These evergreens originally were Christmas trees -- live Christmas trees that their children opened presents under, and that they then planted in the backyard after the holidays.
Each one of the Christmas trees tells a story, and those stories will soon be gone.
"They want to cut these down. They want to cut all these down," he said.
Utility explains program
Duke Energy spokeswoman Sally Thelen explained all utility companies are now under strict new federal guidelines to keep trees away of power lines, to prevent outages during wind storms and other disasters.
The company can be fined millions of dollars for not complying and for allowing significant outages due to wind.
Burt Rita Johannes just wants a few more years to enjoy the trees their children decorated every Christmas.
"I would love them to give us just five more years. They are not going to grow in five years ago at all. They are doing no harm. If they fell down, they wouldn't even touch the wires."
Duke is offering to reimburse them $100 to replace each tree it cuts. But the Johannes family doesn't want money, just time.
"To me, that's not right," Rita said.
But if you have a tree under power lines, don't be surprised if a utility crew informs you it has to go to make sure the power grid keeps the lights on during emergencies.
As always, don't waste your money.
Duke Energy statement:
We have to maintain clearance on our transmission lines, as they are critical infrastructure. We get fined daily if we have encroachments that could interfere with our lines in terms of vegetation.
We travel by helicopter doing aerial inspections of all of our transmission lines to identify potential encroachments, then go out to the residents and inform them.
“Don't Waste Your Money” is a registered trademark of Scripps Media, Inc. (“Scripps”).
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