Ilene and Leo Jeffers have lost the fight.
The mother and son couldn't stop Toledo Edison Co. from taking down 140 trees on their Providence Township farm. It took two days to turn the trees — which for decades shielded their 100-acre farm from cold winter winds — into stumps.
The trees are evergreens called arborvitae that the Jeffers family contend will never grow to the level of the power lines. They had grown about eight feet below the lines on Manore Road in southwestern Lucas County.
Mr. Jeffers, 46, said he was surprised and disappointed to learn Monday the trees were coming down. His son called to tell him the utility's contractors arrived unannounced at their home on Manore Road to chop down the trees. By Tuesday, they were gone.
“All we asked for was the chance to go in front of a judge and ask if the trees should be cut down,” Mr. Jeffers said. “They said they'd give us a week notice. Its nice that a big corporation like that can lie to people. It's just not right.”
Mark Durbin, spokesman for FirstEnergy Corp., parent company of Toledo Edison, said the utility was within its rights to remove the trees and hired a private security firm to supervise the work at the Jeffers' yesterday and Monday.
“We needed to see that we set up some security so that our crews were protected,” Mr. Durbin said. “We followed our procedure here. It just took a little bit longer here, but ultimately the work needed to be done, and we had an easement that allowed the work to be done.”
The Jeffers family hired an attorney after the utility told them in June the windbreak would be removed from their homestead. An Oct. 30 letter from Toledo Edison called the windbreak “incompatible trees and brush” that must be cut down to maintain “safe and reliable operation.”
The utility delayed the scheduled removal of the trees, and re-cently told the family through an attorney they would receive seven days' notice before their removal, Mr. Jeffers said. Mr. Durbin denied the utility made such a promise.
The Jeffers family was advised by their attorney not to interfere with the work, Mr. Jeffers said, adding that he and his 81-year-old mother will continue their dispute with Toledo Edison in court, though they couldn't save the trees. The utility will return to the Jeffers' property to remove the stumps at their request, Mr. Durbin said. Mr. Jeffers said he'll push the utility to plant grass where the trees were.
“There's no grass, no nothing,” Mr. Jeffers said. “It's our front yard. It's not our backyard or a field.”
He plans to use the felled trees as firewood.