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Tampa residents complain utility contractors making mess out of their trees

Several people in one Tampa neighborhood are complaining their trees are being "butchered," comparing contractors hired by TECO to trim trees to a bad hairdresser.
Credit: photovs
Tampa residents complain tree trimmers are butchering their landscaping.

As we all know, trees falling on power lines is very common during storms.

It's why TECO does year-round tree trimming, but several people in one Tampa neighborhood are complaining their trees are being “butchered," comparing contractors hired by TECO to trim trees to a bad hairdresser.

“You want it trimmed, but you don’t want to take off too much,” one neighbor said.

“I’m all for it because my electricity goes out when the storm comes, but the power is at the top and my tree is now gone at the sides.”

Bill Rogers said he liked his trees blocking his neighbors’ view of his yard. Now it's left in an odd shape with hardly any branches.

He says his palm tree looks more like a skeleton.

“I didn’t particularly like how they butchered up the palm trees. It didn’t look like they trimmed them carefully,” he said.

Neighbors complain the contractors are coming into their yards, cutting up trees and leaving a mess.

TECO says it's standard for the contractors to go in your backyard as long as they leave a note on your door. They’re required to clean up the mess.

If they don’t you can call them and they’ll come back out to do so.

“If debris is left on site, customers can call customer care at 813-223-0800 to let us know,” TECO said to us in a statement.

While there’s a concern for yards, it’s also about the environment, like oak trees.

“I told them, 'When you go back there, don’t cut that dead limb off that oak tree, because there’s a nest of woodpeckers in there,'” Rogers said.

TECO says they use guidelines from the Arbor Day Foundation to protect trees while trimming them and say they’ve been nationally recognized for their efforts.

Once you see a TECO tree crew in your neighborhood, you won’t see them again for four more years.

We contacted local utilities for their tree-cutting standards.

Duke Energy

Trees and branches near power lines and equipment can pose safety hazards and cause avoidable power outages. To minimize power interruptions resulting from overgrowth, Duke Energy uses an environmentally responsible vegetation management program to control the plant growth along power lines.

Unless it is an emergency, work typically does not begin until 8 a.m.

Door hangers are used to let residents know of future work and crews knock on doors before entering a yard. Notifying residents is an important safety procedure for both residents and crews.

Depending on the line and tree, the goal is about 10 to 15 feet of clearance. Crews get as close as possible while making a cut that is not overly damaging to the tree. Crews do not just measure out 15 feet and cut wherever that is on the branch. We make it where there is a lateral branch to avoid “stub cuts.”

If you need more information about Duke Energy’s standards, call 800.700.8744.


  • Tree trimming is a requirement from the Florida Public Service Commission. We trim trees on a 4-year cycle – about 1,500 miles of distribution lines each year.
  • We were recently recognized as a Tree Line USA utility for the 10th year in a row for our tree trimming efforts.
  • As part of regular line clearance activity, our trimmers are required to clean up and haul away debris. If tree trimming occurs as part of a restoration effort, debris may be left on site until it is either safe to haul away (due to weather) or crews have the proper equipment to dispose of it. If debris is left on site, customers can call Customer Care at 813-223-0800 to let us know.
  • If customers should experience damage to landscaping as a result of tree trimming activity, they can reach out to Customer Care at 813-223-0800. We are happy to work with them and our line clearance contractors to fix or replace any landscaping that was damaged.
  • Customers are typically notified of line clearance work 3 to 5 days in advance by a door hanger.
  • Tampa Electric and its contractors have the right to maintain access to facilities and equipment on customers’ properties. This access allows us to perform maintenance, upgrades or restoration activities as necessary.

Florida Power and Light

  • Our priority and commitment is to provide safe and reliable service
  • One of the leading causes of outages is trees
  • We proactively trim 15,000 miles of power lines each year
  • We have the right-away to access trees that pose a threat to lines, will preventatively trim where necessary
  • Usually give two weeks’ notice before trimming
  • Right Tree Right Place program
    • The entire length of the power line is checked for vegetation issues.
    • Trees and any other vegetation that are in the direct path of the power line are identified for maintenance. FPL will not trim every tree in close proximity to the line. It is the customer’s responsibility to have the other trees trimmed.
    • FPL’s qualified tree-trimming contractors perform the work using “directional pruning.” This method is a professional technique of pruning trees away from power lines, removing entire branches and limbs up to the main trunk of the tree, where trees normally shed them. Future tree growth is then directed away from the power lines and re-growth is reduced. Directional pruning does not interfere with the tree’s natural defense system that protects it from decay and is supported by years of experience and research.
    • Trees that interfere with FPL facilities and cannot be pruned without dramatically affecting the shape or health of the tree are completely removed. Trees with high growth rates, exotic weed trees and trees in poor health are prime targets for removal. The customer is notified in advance of the tree’s removal and, as a courtesy, consent is obtained before removing the tree.
    • After a tree is trimmed or removed, the remaining debris is collected before the end of the next day except during any restoration efforts immediately following a storm.
    • FPL uses only utility-qualified professional tree-trimming contractors, such as Asplundh Tree Expert Company, Burford's Tree Surgeons Inc. and Lewis Tree Service Inc., to manage the trees and plants around our power lines and equipment. The contractors are leaders in the field of utility arboriculture and utilize proven industry-standard pruning techniques.
    • OSHA regulations
      • Safety is a cornerstone of our commitment to customers and employees. Our contractor workforce is required to follow all safety rules and regulations as outlined by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). OSHA 1910.269 includes training requirements for line-clearance workers, minimum approach distances, hazard assessment, and first aid/CPR training requirements.
    • National standards
      • FPL contractors use industry-standard pruning techniques to protect the health of trees while helping them to grow away from power lines. They follow guidelines set by the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) and American National Standard Institute (ANSI). The ANSI A300 standard has been accepted as the industry standard for tree and plant pruning and is endorsed by the National Arbor Day Foundation and the International Society of Arboriculture.

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