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Watchdog: Woman asks why power company won't trim trees

Dec. 20, 2011 at 6:20 a.m.

Shirley Sekaley's tree limbs along Mockingbird Lane hang over AEP wires.

HAVE A QUESTION FOR WATCHDOG?

To submit questions, email watchdog@vicad.com or call Advocate Public Service Editor Gabe Semenza at 361-580-6519. No topic is off-limits.

When Shirley Sekaley stepped into her backyard a month ago, she looked up and saw something that alarmed her.

Tree limbs along the back of her Pennsylvania Avenue property line had intertwined with the nearby overhead power line.

The 77-year-old Victoria widow said she worries a strong wind will blow down those limbs, and the power lines along with them.

A month later, however, her power provider, AEP, has yet to trim those limbs. Sekaley wants to know why, especially considering the potential dangers of downed power lines.

"I've called them four times and still nothing," she said. "We've had a lot of wind lately. Sooner or later I'm afraid something will break off and send a fire right on down the line."

Had the limbs interfered with Sekaley's drop service - the overhead power line that extends from the transformer to the house - she would be responsible for the trimming.

But the limbs in this case interfere with a primary transmission line - the overhead power line that extends from power pole to power pole. Thus, AEP maintains the responsibility for trimming around these specific and invasive power lines.

So, why has the company failed to trim the limbs behind Sekaley's house?

"Unless there's an emergency or a life-threatening situation, we follow a planned procedure in order to trim trees throughout the service area," Elgin Janssen, an AEP spokesman, said. "Please understand, there are a lot of areas with trees. We try to plan the best we can."

Janssen said the company is aware of Sekaley's complaint and that AEP plans to trim those limbs. Still, the spokesman could not offer a specific date for the trimming.

Foresters will trim the limbs when they can get to the job and sooner, if they are not pulled from their normal schedule.

Power providers, according to a random sampling of other such companies, typically follow a multi-year trimming circuit.

CenterPoint Energy, for example, provides electricity in Houston and trims trees near primary lines about once every few years, according to Leticia Lowe, a spokeswoman.

Most power companies clear all tree limbs to about 10 feet away from the primary lines - including limbs that touch or drop service lines, if those limbs fall close enough to the transformer.

If you are an AEP customer concerned about invasive limbs near primary lines, you can call the company's customer service number at AEP at 1-877-373-4858.

Sekaley also wanted to know whether the city of Victoria could help her. It will not. The city trims limbs on city-owned property and trees or bushes that become a traffic hazard by blocking stop signs or traffic lights, said O.C. Garza, the city's director of communication.

So it appears Sekaley will have to wait her turn unless she hires a private tree-trimming company.

"That's OK. I just wanted to know that they intend to fix it," Sekaley said when she learned about the Advocate's findings. "I'm just trying to be a good citizen and to care for my property."

Gabe Semenza is the public service editor for the Advocate. Comment on this story at VictoriaAdvocate.com.

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