Battle over branches: Southgate woman fights DTE

Southgate family calls Help Me Hank over backyard mess

DETROIT – Tree limbs, dead branches, decaying leaves: Barbara Egnatowski of Southgate looked at the pile of debris in her back yard with concern written all over her face. She says the trouble started the evening of Aug. 1, when DTE workers went into her yard to trim a tree because of a downed wire. 


She was surprised they left the pile of branches sitting in her yard."I just can't believe they would, a company as large as they are, that they would just leave it laying here," she told Help Me Hank.


While Egnatowski understood the need to respond to the downed wire, she didn't understand why she was responsible for cleaning up the mess. The tree that was trimmed isn't even in her back yard, it's on her neighbor's property, though its branches hover over her yard.


Egnatowski is 78 years old and undergoing therapy for a herniated disk. She couldn't believe she was responsible for removing the debris. 


And when she thought the situation couldn't get any worse, a DTE representative made an unusual suggestion. "One of the suggestions was I should put a sign out front that said 'Free Firewood.' And I mean come on, you know? I don't want a bunch of strangers coming into my yard," Egnatowski said. 


When Egnatowski's daughters urged DTE to take action, they say DTE promised to pick up the branches within 72 hours. That didn't happen, leaving the family concerned about a fire danger, the potential for rats, and damage to the lawn.


Calling on Help Me Hank


That's when the family contacted "Help Me Hank," and we contacted DTE. Within 24 hours, they sent a crew to Egnatowski's house to clean up the branches. 


"Oh my God," Egnatowski said, "I can't believe it. I was shocked this morning when they showed up at my door." 


DTE declined to do an on-camera interview, but released a statement saying in part, "The trees at this home were trimmed as part of DTE Energy's work to restore power in the wake of some severe weather that impacted approximately 42,000 customers."


And further, "In these emergency situations, our policy is that work crews leave the customer brush and wood on property. This allows the tree trimmers to proceed as soon as possible to address tree damage that will help restore customers in other areas."


In general, a spokesperson says, DTE does not return to pick up debris related to storm restoration, but, "Occasionally, based on individual circumstances, DTE Energy will have crews return after storm damage is repaired and assist with removal of tree debris. We are providing that assistance for this customer."


Egnatowski says she expected DTE to live up to its promise to help her out, or at least let her know when the debris might be picked up. Instead, her family reached out to Help Me Hank.


"I'm so glad, because 'Help Me Hank' came to my rescue. And if anybody needs them, that's who they should contact," Egnatowski said. 


Contact information


If you have a consumer issue you'd like Help Me Hank to investigate, you can send an email to helpmehank@clickondetroit.com or leave a message on the Help Me Hank hotline at 313-298-WDIV (9348). You can also reach out via Twitter and Facebook, but it's easier to share detailed information by 

email and phone.



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