Arborists make scammed homeowner's day in New Berlin
They help clean up mess left by shady tree cutter
New Berlin — It looks like the story of an 88-year-old World War II veteran who lost thousands of dollars to a scammer posing as a tree service is about to have a happy ending.
Joe Back, who lives on Woodland Drive, was talked into cutting down a huge oak tree because carpenter ants were found in it. The tree service collected the money and cut the tree down but left him with a tree trunk 6 feet in diameter in his yard.
"I wouldn't treat my worst enemy that way," said Back, who served in the South Pacific during the war and is scheduled to go on an Honor Flight to the World War II Memorial in Washington D.C. next month.
When Back's story hit the news, Jeff Wilson, a director of the Wisconsin Arborist Association, was incensed.
"I knew we had to do something," Wilson said. "It's the community, and we've got to help him out."
The Wisconsin Arborist Association will get rid of the wood for Back. Volunteers from Wilson's company, Wachtel Tree Science of Merton, and from American Tree Experts of New Berlin will do the actual work.
"He's a great guy," Wilson said of Back.
Despite the predicament he found himself in, Back is sharp, Wilson stressed.
"I hope I'm as with it when I'm his age," Wilson said.
Jesse Ziemienski, president of American Tree Experts, also is glad to come to Back's defense.
"I was angry at this company taking advantage of him," Ziemienski said.
"I can't believe it," the astonished Back said after learning help was on the way.
The worst of it, though, is that the tree which both he and his wife love never had to be cut down. It was perfectly healthy, even with the carpenter ants, the arborists said.
The ants live in tree cavities but don't eat living material, Wilson said. The grandfather oak tree probably could have lived another 100 years in perfect health, he noted.
"We miss it terribly," Back said.
Rooting out scammers
To avoid heartbreaking incidents like this, both arborists advised residents to make sure they are dealing with a certified arborist.
If the company representatives don't carry busines cards, they should at least offer their phone number, Wilson said. Then he advises going online to the International Society of Arborculture and search for the number to see if it is tied to the name of the person they were talking to.
Better yet, he said, is working with a company that is accredited by the Tree Care Industry Association, which makes sure various aspects of the company — such as expertise, insurance and using good practices — are all in place.
"It's not easy to become accredited," Wilson said. "Then you know a lot of things are in place with that company."
Wisconsin has no licensing law ensuring that work is done to proper standards, Ziemienski said.
"You can go out there with a chainsaw and climbing spikes and just butcher," he said.
Paying in full up front is never the way to go, Wilson also advises.
Back said he knows that, but fell to their line.
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