By Mike Rush
ST. LOUIS (KSDK) - It's a case of a retired department of mental health worker going up against a well known local company with interests in hotels, television stations and property.
But Debra Smith was losing her battle against Roberts Brothers. Then she contacted 5 on Your Side and Mike Rush helped solve a problem she's been fighting for two years.
On a north St. Louis neighborhood framed in clusters of chaos, Debra Smith's house is a different story.
"Everything has a place," said Smith. "Just like that tree has no place over there."
That tree is a tree on the property next to her backyard and Debra feels like the either dead or dying timber is literally hanging over her head for the past two years.
While the tree is planted in the plot next to hers, parts of it periodically plummet past the property line.
"And I heard some boom," recalled Smith of an incident a few months back when a big branch fell on her fence and utility lines.
"Thank God it didn't hit my house. Or my precious pooch right here," said Smith.
Roberts Brothers Properties owns the lot and the tree, and stepped up on that occasion by cleaning up the mess and repairing the damage but Smith says parts of the tree are still falling.
She says the company is not responding to her repeated requests, beginning in 2010, to cut the tree down.
"That's why I called you guys. I can't get any satisfaction from the Roberts Brothers," said Smith.
5 on Your Side's Mike Rush's phone calls to the company weren't satisfying either. He couldn't connect with anyone willing to help. So, Rush visited Roberts Brothers headquarters on North Kingshighway and got a bizarre reception from the receptionist.
Rush: "Did you see that? "She's hiding under the desk."
The woman stayed under the desk for at least 30 minutes, poking her head up now and then to see if we were still there. All the while, refusing to buzz Rush into the lobby.
Eventually a man approached us. Michael States oversees the property next to Debra. In an earlier phone conversation he had already told Rush he couldn't make the company cut down the tree.
States: "I'll talk to you but I don't want to talk to you on camera."
Rush: "Why's that?"
States: "Because I don't want to. I've already talked to you, haven't I?"
Rush: "Well, you didn't do anything for us which is why we're here."
States: "What can I do?"
Rush: "Well, I don't know what you can do. You're the one who just came up here to me right now."
States: "I asked you could we help you."
Rush: "I'm looking for somebody who can resolve this issue for Debra Smith who's been trying to get this tree cut down for a couple of years now."
States: "I've talked to you already."
Rush: "But you didn't do anything for me. I've got Bobby Tate. I've left messages with repeatedly."
States: "Then you should leave a message for him."
With that States disappeared behind a door.
It wasn't looking good until States re-surfaced appearing more willing to listen.
Rush: "Now my question to you is, why would a big company like Roberts Brothers not just go cut that tree down?"
States: "I'll try to find out okay. I will."
The same day, I talked to Debra's alderman and three days later, "I've got my tree down now and I'm just as happy as I can be," said a beaming Smith.
Two years of tree trouble resolved.
"Thank you very much Channel 5 and Mike Rush for getting a job well done," said Smith.