Caution urged when hiring tree services for cleanup

As residents around Central Kentucky begin the long process of clearing debris and trimming trees, the Better Business Bureau is reminding everyone that a quick fix might be anything but.

Spokeswoman Heather Clary said there have been reports that individuals or companies from out of town have been going door-to-door offering to trim mangled trees.

"Some of them may be on the up-and-up, but the consumers need to check them out," she said.

Among the suggestions:

■ Check to see whether the business they represent is BBB-accredited.

■ Ask for proof of liability and workers' compensation insurance.

■ Require a written contract.

"You need to find all this out on the front end, so you can avoid problems later," she said. "You don't want to have to pay someone local and established later to fix a mess left by the first person."

If businesses are accredited by the Better Business Bureau, it means they have agreed to work with the BBB to attempt to resolve customer disputes.

Roy Stinnett, president and chief executive of Lexington Tree Service, also said he cautions people against using unknown businesses because they might damage trees in their haste.

"They were ripping and cutting the trees any which way," after 2003's ice storm, he said, "even if it was a good tree that could have been saved with proper pruning techniques."

Stinnett, whose business has been BBB-accredited since 1979, says consumers should also call multiple serv ices for quotes.

"The ice storm of 2003 was a good example where people were coming in and way, way overcharging for their services," he said.

And although the damage in Lexington from this year's ice storm pales in comparison to 2003's, business is still booming at Lexington Tree Service during what's normally a slow month.

Stinnett said he's hired 10 more people locally and brought in three crews with 30 people total from out of state to assist.

"We don't really need to get a stimulus package from the government," he said. "We got ours early."