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Contractor refuses to give money back after 73-year-old woman pays $3,500 up front for incomplete barn repairs

Posted at 2:33 PM, Dec 10, 2015

SIX LAKES, Mich. — A 73-year-old West Michigan women says she’s out $3,500 after trusting she had ordered work from a credible contractor.

Dixie Hegenauer needed work done on an old barn she owns after a stone wall supporting the structure started to cave in. She thought she found the man for the job, but she says it was just the beginning of a nightmare.

“If he was an honest person and didn’t intend on taking advantage of me, he would have stepped up and said ‘Let’s work it out.’” said Hegenauer. “But he didn’t, and that’s why I feel violated.”

An unfinished, worn down wall on her 100-year-old barn could collapse any minute, and now, Hegenauer says, there’s a giant mess left behind by the company she hired to fix it, Barn Repair and Restoration.

“I think that when you’re in business, you have to live on a higher standard, because you are working on other peoples’ things,” she said.

Hegenauer says she found Troy Burke’s company’s ad in the newspaper and then made the call.

“He has pictures of barns that he said he rebuilt and restored. He sounded like he knew exactly what he was talking about and gave us a written proposal right there.”

She paid himmore than 50 percent, $3,500 up front, to get the work done.

“He seemed like an honest person, and I knew I was going to pay the entire $6,500 eventually, so I was just trying to be kind,” she said.

But when he started the work, she noticed it wasn’t what he promised.

“He wasn’t straightening the wall or rebuilding it at all, and on the contract he said he was going to re-build the wall.”

A job half done, according to what was written on the contract.

“He stated he was not going to rebuild the wall, and he was just going to support it. But that’s not what we needed. We had put extra cement on that wall three years ago. it needed to be rebuilt,” she said.

Dixie had her son, who is a building contractor, come over to reason with Burke.

“My son asked, ‘How is that going to fix the barn wall from caving in?’ Burke got pretty hostile.”

The last time he worked at her home was Aug. 8.

Since then, she says there has been no response from Burke after several calls and letters.

“I trusted him. I thought he was an honest person,” she said.

Dixie called the Better Business Bureau to file a complaint and received other news.

“I called the state to see if he was licensed, and he’s not,” she said.

The FOX 17 Problem Solvers confronted Troy Burke to see what he had to say about the incident. We asked him why he didn’t go back to finish the work or give refund the $3,500.

“The few times I dealt with her, she broke into tears. She would refer me back to her son. It was too confusing to come to a conclusion,” he said.

Troy claims Dixie’s son made his working environment uncomfortable, since he confronted him about the quality of his work.  We asked if that made it easier for him to just not deal with the problem at all.

“That’s correct,” said Burke.

That’s not enough for Hegenauer, who is debating her next move.

“The cost of hiring an attorney and going after someone that is not licensed is going to be difficult,” said Hegenauer.

Burke admitted he has not given the money back to Dixie and at this point doesn’t intend to until the matter is settled legally.

“She said she wanted to take me to court. I leave that judge to decide since we couldn’t come to an agreement,” he said.

Hegenauer said if she could do it all over, she would have used a licensed contractor and researched them by calling the Better Business Bureau before she paid anyone.