WINDHAM – Shannon Shuman used to have a row of trees that concealed her property and blocked the wind and traffic noise.

Now, large signs stand where the trees once did — calling into question the actions of workers from Lucas Tree Experts who cut more than a half-dozen pines and maples to their stumps.

“It’s horrible,” said Michael Breton, Shuman’s fianc?”I hate that everyone can see everything. We have no privacy at all.”

The tree service company is one of several across the state hired by Central Maine Power Co. to trim and cut trees near power lines.

Shuman says the workers should have trimmed her trees, not cut them down.

But a spokesman for CMP says Lucas followed its standards for the amount of growth to cut to ensure that the power system remains safe and reliable.

As part of CMP’s agreement with the Maine Public Utilities Commission, the company maintains about 23,250 miles of power lines in a five-year cycle, said John Carroll, a spokesman for CMP.

He said contractors cut trees 15 feet above the power lines, 8 feet to the sides and 10 feet below the lowest conductor. Shuman’s trees were planted in 1978 beneath the power lines. She couldn’t recall the last time they were trimmed.

“Trees are the largest single cause for outages and power quality problems that cause a momentary interruption,” Carroll said. “This is about making sure people have power.”

CMP’s arborist, David Whitworth, said he believes the trees at Shuman’s home were too big to trim, Carroll said.

“They would have died long-term,” he said. “Our arborist is very familiar with the site and believes we have done appropriate work in terms of good arboriculture practice.”

Shannon Shuman said she was never notified that work was being done in her neighborhood. On Feb. 17, she rushed home from work as the trees were being cut.

“I became unglued,” Shuman said. “I was so mad that I could have breathed fire. Now, I just want to cry.”

CMP is required by state law to publish notices in local newspapers informing residents when tree-trimming work will be done in their towns. Carroll said CMP also meets with town officials before the work is done and notifies residents annually in their billing statements.

CMP also has a list of customers who have asked to be called when tree trimming is being done in their area. Shuman was not on the call list.

Carroll said Whitworth contacted Windham’s public works director in September. He said CMP published notices in the Forecaster and the Portland Press Herald on June 26 and Jan. 21. Shuman pays her bills online and does not get the newspapers.

“There was nothing on my bill,” Shuman said. “It doesn’t make any sense. In 12 years, not one of those trees has ever caused a line to come down. Did they need to be trimmed? Yes, but they didn’t need to be clear cut.”

Kathy Buxton, the human resources manager at Lucas, said a licensed arborist is on every crew. Buxton declined to say how many residents have called the company to complain.

“We refer any calls related to tree trimming to CMP,” she said.

Carroll said he could not answer how many complaints the company has received.

“In some cases, people are upset by the change, and we have certainly heard from them,” he said. “We do get calls from people who say, ‘Thank you.’ “

FairPoint Communications also cuts and removes trees along public roads across the state. The company has a list of customers it must notify before tree trimming is done.

 

Staff Writer Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at: [email protected]