Council blasted over the trolleys |

Council blasted over the trolleys

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

The city delivered a “slap in the face” to the donor who gave $20,000 for the restoration of a trolley car only to see Aspen give the car away, according to City Councilman Terry Paulson.

Paulson blasted fellow council members Monday for fiscal irresponsibility, while others urged the council to reconsider its plan to give away the other five trolleys, as well.

And Aspenite Kip Wheeler reiterated his offer to buy the remaining cars for $2,500 apiece (perhaps less for the one in the worst shape).

The majority of the council, however, refused to take up the fate of the cars yet again.

“I have no desire to reconsider this ? ever,” said Councilman Tony Hershey.

Issaquah, Wash., which is taking two of the cars, arranged the transport of the restored car, which had been displayed at Rubey Park. It was hauled away last week. Paulson was out of town at the time.

The anonymous donor who contributed $20,000 to the car’s restoration did not expect Aspen to dispose of the trolley, Paulson and other trolley supporters contend.

“What idiot would give $20,000 to go to Issaquah?” said trolley backer Camilla Sparlin. “I think it’s unconscionable, what has happened. I’m personally ashamed and embarrassed.”

Paulson suggested the donor of the grant be reimbursed by the city.

“I think the council should be ashamed of how it was handled,” he said. “I’m totally astounded.

“This is a slap in the face to all donors to the city.”

Although the $20,000 was given to the city, the money was immediately passed along to the Aspen Street Railway Co., which wanted to cosmetically restore a trolley in order to display it in advance of this month’s election.

The donation came to the city for tax-deduction reasons, but the intended recipient ? the railway group ? and its intended purpose was clear, said City Attorney John Worcester.

“That money was not given to the city. It was given to the trolley group,” said Councilman Tim Semrau.

And, council members warned the railway group it was risking money on restoration of the car with no guarantee citizens would vote to keep the trolleys for a local line, he pointed out.

“It was always clear that the election would determine the fate of the trolleys,” Semrau said.

Voters rejected a proposed trolley line in Aspen on Nov. 5, and the council proceeded with its plan to give the cars to places that would put them into service.

Last night, council members, with the exception of Paulson, indicated they are comfortable moving forward with the plan to give two trolleys to Issaquah, two to Tucson, Ariz., and two to a town in New Zealand.

“You don’t just give things away,” Paulson said. “I just find that totally distressing, as well.”

“This has been a difficult issue. This has been a difficult decision for 22 years,” said Mayor Helen Klanderud. “I don’t think it was made lightly or capriciously.”

[Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is]

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