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Tip List: Home owners aren't too happy about re-tree-ver

Frank Dutra was upset last month when an arborist from Pacific Gas and Electric Co. went "Edward Scissorhands" on a tree on the front end of his Livingston property.

The tree that he says is nearly 100 years old was trimmed to keep it clear from power lines above.

The results made him growl.

"It's a dog," Datura says. Sure enough, the tree has a bulging head, a sloped back and even some legs. It gives new meaning to dogwood.

Datura's pruning problem got me wondering: Can property owners request other creatures ... perhaps a sloth (Tip List flashback: I love sloths)? Unfortunately, the answer is "no," says PG&E spokeswoman Nicole Liebelt.

She says the company's focus is on being proactive:

"Our goal is to work with property owners impacted by our pruning practices to help them understand why we must maintain clearances.

"We understand that customers and property owners take their trees and vegetation very seriously. While we understand the customer's concern for the cosmetic look of the tree, our focus must remain on the safety, reliability and regulatory needs."

She said the company's local forester speaks to all homeowners to inform them that the work is being done to meet state and federal guidelines.

In short, I was barking up the wrong tree.

Liebelt says PG&E's Vegetation Management Department inspects every mile of line in the Merced area -- more than 120,000 miles of utility lines and more than 130,000 poles and transmission structures.

With all that work, it figures you might get a dog or two.

For those thinking about planting a tree near a power line, Liebelt says homeowners do have options.

"We offer customers in similar situations our Right Tree, Right Place program that offers information on proper tree and site selection to provide trouble-free beauty and pleasure for years to come," Liebelt says.

Homeowners who would like more information on the Right Tree, Right Place program can punch in this overgrown URL: www.pge

.com/myhome/edusafety/diggingyard/planttrees/.

WHAT'S WRONG: Homeowner says PG&E trimmed tree into unpleasant shape.

WHO'S INVOLVED: PG&E, (800) 743-5000

WHAT'S BEING DONE: PG&E offers programs to inform owners on planting trees near power lines.

Tip off the tip list!

If you see something broken or in need of repair in your neighborhood, call the Sun-Star Tip List reporter, Tom Price, with your tips at (209) 385-2459 or e-mail tprice@mercedsun-star.com.

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