published Thursday, May 5th, 2011

Officials: Check license before signing tree removal contracts

Roberto Medina cuts storm-damaged trees Wednesday in a yard on Guyler Avenue in Ringgold, Ga.
Staff Photo by Angela Lewis/Chattanooga Times Free Press
Roberto Medina cuts storm-damaged trees Wednesday in a yard on Guyler Avenue in Ringgold, Ga. Staff Photo by Angela Lewis/Chattanooga Times Free Press


* The Salvation Army is providing hot meals, water and emotional and spiritual care in Bradley, Catoosa, Dade, Hamilton and Walker counties. To donate, call 1-800-SAL-ARMY or Or text the word “give” to 80888 and a $10 donation will appear on your cell phone bill.

* The American Red Cross of the Greater Chattanooga Area needs donations to provide shelter, food, emotional support and other disaster assistance.

Visit or mail checks to: The Greater Chattanooga Area Chapter American Red Cross, 801 McCallie Ave., Chattanooga, TN 37403

* A volunteer and resource staging area has been set up at East Hamilton Middle High School. Volunteers are accepting donations of food and water only at this time.

* Nonperishable food items can be donated to the Chattanooga Food Bank at 2009 Curtain Pole Road, Chattanooga, from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. From there the food will be distributed to disaster victims as needed.

* Blood Assurance is asking anyone able to get to a blood center or bloodmobile to do so immediately. For more information, go to or call 423-756-0966.

* Walker County Sheriff Steve Wilson asks that storm recovery volunteers in Walker County report to Chattanooga Valley Baptist Church, 90 Nick-A-Jack Lane, Flintstone, Ga. Anyone wishing to donate water, refreshments or food may call or go to the Walker County Civic Center, 10052 N. U.S. Highway 27, Rock Spring, Ga., or call 706-375-7702.

* The Catoosa County Sheriff’s Office is accepting bottled water for storm victims. Bring water to the office at 5842 U.S. Highway 41.

* Oakwood Baptist Church in Walker County is collecting bottled water, nonperishable food and toiletries for distribution centers at its Gateway campus for Ringgold and the Ministry of Hope for Flintstone. To donate or volunteer, visit

* First Baptist Church in LaFayette is collecting nonperishable food and bottled water at the church office during normal business hours or before church services.

* Chattooga County residents may donate supplies at the library, the sheriff’s office, Lyerly Town Hall and Trion Town Hall. Needs include nonperishable food, bottled water, diapers, hand sanitizer, toilet paper, garbage bags, pet food, flashlights, sanitary gloves, children’s Tylenol, ibuprofen and antacids. Clothing may be dropped off at the Trion Police Department. It must be clean and new or very gently worn.

* In Bradley County, anyone who would like to volunteer with cleanup and construction efforts can call the Bradley Baptist Association at 423-476-4953.

* In Cleveland, the Samaritan Center at 9231 Lee Highway is accepting new clothing items, diapers, gently used furniture, household items and other goods. If you have questions on items to donate, call 238-7777.

* The Salvation Army and the American Red Cross have a donation and distribution center at the Peerless Road Church of God of Prophecy at 3301 Peerless Road, Cleveland, Tenn. They are in urgent need of laundry detergent, dish soap, bleach and food such as mac and cheese, soups, ravioli, canned chicken, tuna and pet food.

* New Harmony Baptist Church on New Harmony Road in Bledsoe County is accepting items to aid storm victims in the New Harmony-Graysville area. The church also has food, water and other recovery supplies for victims. Pastor Donnie Lawson can be reached at 423-309-0120.

* Brush Creek Farms on Walkertown Road, owned by Larry Suttles, has clothing and other items for storm victims in Bledsoe County or Rhea County. Contact New Harmony Baptist Church Pastor Donnie Lawson at 423-309-0120.


* Free hot dogs, chips and drinks will be given to Catoosa County tornado victims and volunteers helping with the cleanup in the parking lot of Gateway Bank in Ringgold on Friday from noon until 5 p.m.

* East Ridge has placed sanitation trucks at the East Ridge Traffic Control shop at 905 Yale St. behind the Galen Medical building and Parkridge East Hospital for residents to drop off spoiled food, etc., because of the power outage.

* The Catoosa County and Ringgold building inspection staff is reviewing structurally damaged buildings to make sure they are safe and habitable. All structurally damaged buildings must be inspected before they can be occupied. To be placed on the inspection list, call the Catoosa County Help Line at 706-965-7138 or 706-965-7139.

* The American Red Cross of the Chattanooga Greater Area has developed the Safe and Well website so people can notify friends and relatives they are all right. Visit (English) or (Spanish)

* For help from the state of Georgia, call 404-656-1776.


Soldiers from Fort Benning, Fort Campbell, Georgia Air National Guard and the Pentagon will be in East Ridge on Friday to help residents with storm clean-up efforts. Soldiers will assist with minor home repair, removal of fallen trees and debris. These soldiers will be available until Sunday. Their services are free.

Resident who need assistance should call Terrie Robertson, East Ridge neighborhood services supervisor, at 423-867-7711 ext. 122 to be placed on a list. The list will be prioritized according to needs.

RINGGOLD, Ga. — Since tornadoes embedded a large limb in Robert Harris’ roof last week, he has been bombarded with offers from contractors to help him out.

Some have been legitimate, he believes; others, not so much. The latter category includes one who offered to remove the limb and cut up the trees that fell in his yard on Sparks Street, all for a small fee and even if his insurance company doesn’t pay for the damage.

That one brought a chuckle from Harris on Wednesday.

“There’s a lot of scams in here,” he said.

Local authorities are warning residents with storm damage to be on their guard against tree cutting and removal services wanting to make hasty contracts before an insurance adjuster has seen the property.

“We’ve been asking people to be very conscious of price gouging,” said Catoosa County Commissioner Jim Cutler.

In Ringgold, the sheriff’s office ran a tree-cutting service out of town after officers found the business was charging residents more than $40,000 to cut and remove fallen trees from yards.

The tree service was going door to door, asking residents to sign contracts before their insurance companies were notified, said Randall Peters, an owner of Weeks and Peters Insurance Co.

A 92-year-old client of Peters’ came to him in a panic Monday because he had given the company a large check over the weekend. Fortunately, the client was able to cancel the check before it went through, Peters said.

Such scams are common after a disaster, officials say.

Marietta Tree Service and Landscaping owner Tracy Langston, who has been working in Ringgold since the storm hit, said he often sees questionable companies take advantage of residents during a catastrophe. These companies set high prices and rush in to remove trees, often causing more damage because of poor work, Lang-ston said.

On Tennessee Street, Langston pointed to a house where a Bobcat had ripped a tree off the roof, scarring the front of the house. Broken branches and limbs snaked up the driveway in a path along the concrete. Instead of removing the trees along the driveway, the branches were pushed aside, Langston said.

“Please be smart,” Peters said. “Don’t enter into any contract or pay money until you’ve spoken with your insurance company.”

Catoosa County officials now require contractors to have a county license to work locally. But any suspicion of fraud should be reported, Cutler said.

“If there’s any questions at all, call the sheriff’s office or call the county,” he said.


Hall Trundle said two 100-year-old pecan trees fell on the roof of his mother’s Guyler Avenue house and more than a dozen trees tumbled around the yard.

Trundle said the insurance company will pay for the trees on the house, but he’ll have to pay someone himself to haul everything out of the yard.

A tree that falls and doesn’t hit anything isn’t covered under homeowners insurance, but if it falls on a piece of real estate — whether it’s a fence, shed or house — the insurance company must pay to fix the damage, said Jay Kennamer, a Chattanooga attorney.

The biggest disputes concern who’s responsible when a tree falls on a neighbor’s house, Kennamer said. As long as a tree wasn’t a known threat before it fell, the owner of the property the tree fell on is responsible, he said.

But Terry Baird, a State Farm Insurance agent working from the Ringgold field office, said those types of situations can be negotiable.

“We take a look at it on a case-by-case situation,” Baird said.

On Wednesday, State Farm field agents were still rounding up information on clients to assess the damage, but Baird said most of the initial assessments had been completed.

about Joy Lukachick Smith...

Joy Lukachick Smith is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Since 2009, she's covered crime and court systems in North Georgia and rural Tennessee, landed an exclusive in-prison interview with a former cop convicted of killing his wife, exposed impropriety in an FBI-led, child-sex online sting and exposed corruption in government agencies. Earlier this year, Smith won the Malcolm Law Memorial Award for Investigative Reporting. She also won first place in ...

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Scam artists after folks who experienced such terrible losses need to be run out of town. Wait, take that back, they should be charged with theft and fined big time. Teach them how our justice system really works.

May 5, 2011 at 11:45 a.m.
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