Gurnee Mayor Kovarik warns of storm debris scams

Updated 7/19/2011 11:32 AM

Gurnee Mayor Kristina Kovarik is urging residents to be alert for potential scammers quoting inflated prices to remove trees or other debris from private property as cleanup continues from last week's storm.

Kovarik said at least one unscrupulous operator came to the attention of the village's public works department over the weekend, but others likely are seeking customers.

"I was out at public works Saturday and said I was worried every Tom, Dick and Harry would come out," Kovarik said Monday.

Trees remain on the ground across Gurnee in public parkways and on private property. About 5,000 ComEd customers in the Gurnee area were among the last to have power restored Saturday.

Kovarik said a resident reported to public works that an alleged contractor quoted a price of $1,300 to remove a downed tree. The mayor said public works employees informed the woman the price was grossly inflated and that, when confronted, the man later offered to do the job for $350.

Gurnee requires solicitors to register with the village for a $10 fee. Kovarik said residents should ask contractors hustling cleanup work to show the village-issued soliciting permit and a state license before agreeing to any deal.

Residents should call Gurnee's nonemergency police telephone number if they have concerns, the mayor said.

"Call the police," Kovarik said. "Let them check it out."

In Fox Lake, many property owners also need help in getting rid of felled trees, but Police Chief Mike Behan said he hasn't heard of scammers on the prowl for business.

Still, Behan said, residents must be smart when hiring a contractor to help.

"Always use due diligence and look up the reputation of any company doing work in the aftermath of the storm," he said.

Meanwhile, Gov. Pat Quinn said Monday the state is assisting with debris removal in public areas in Lake County.

Quinn directed the Illinois Emergency Management Agency to send five trucks from the state's Department of Transportation, some chain saws and personnel to help communities haul away downed tree limbs.

In addition, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources is providing staff from land management to help remove debris.

Natural resources spokesman Chris McCloud said the Lake County Emergency Management Agency would determine where the trucks and personnel should go and how to best assist with cleanup.

Kent McKenzie, director of Lake County's emergency agency, said the trucks would be sent to townships and municipalities that are still trying to tidy up after the storm.

"Many municipalities put the call out for help to remove debris on the side of the roadways," he said.

"We are also putting the call out to special tree removal services that are experts at this sort of thing. Basically, we are doing what we can to get everything cleaned up."