DeVilbiss presses for tree topper’s identity | AspenTimes.com
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DeVilbiss presses for tree topper’s identity

John Colson

One city councilman says he is “profoundly disappointed” with Aspen’s efforts to learn who topped a half-dozen trees on East Hopkins Avenue.J.E. DeVilbiss might propose that the city post a reward for information leading to the identification of the perpetrator.”We use our money in a lot of different ways,” DeVilbiss said, “and I’ll probably meet some resistance on this, but I’m not interested in letting the matter go.”DeVilbiss believes the perpetrator should be publicly identified, and also has been critical of statements made by Mayor Helen Klanderud about the matter.The case came to light in early April, when the city discovered six young cottonwoods with their tops lopped off. Someone had sawed off up to 6 feet from the trees that occupied the public right of way along Hopkins.The act, damaging public property, is a violation of the city’s municipal code and punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and one year in jail.The investigation, now in its third month, has yet to yield any concrete information regarding who is responsible, despite the efforts of both the police department and the city attorney’s office.Assistant City Attorney David Hoefer claims not to know the identity of the perpetrator, although he has been negotiating with an attorney representing an unidentified property owner who has expressed a willingness to pay for replacement trees and considerable upgrades to the right of way. That attorney, Fred Peirce, has declined to reveal the name of his client. Hoefer has said he has no evidence to link the tree lopping incident directly with Peirce’s client.City officials announced recently that they had reached a deal with Peirce’s client, who has offered to pay the cost of replacing the trees and the topsoil around the trees, as well as installing an irrigation system and a special membrane to keep the tree roots from buckling the nearby sidewalk. The exact cost of the deal has not been released.DeVilbiss said he was told this week that the police investigation has yet to be completed.”As I understand it, nobody’ll talk … they can’t find anybody to talk to them about it,” DeVilbiss said, adding he was “deeply frustrated” with the issue. The matter has yet to become a topic for City Council discussion, although DeVilbiss has made references to the matter more than once during council meetings. “At the very least, I want to know who the unnamed east side property owner is, [and whether] this property owner has any connection to the nearby duplex,” DeVilbiss said.DeVilbiss was also critical of Klanderud’s recent remark to a reporter that the deal to replace the trees will cost the landowner more than any fines the city might have assessed in the case. “What that tells me,” he said, “is that money is doing the talking here.” DeVilbiss said he “couldn’t care less” about the relative values of the fines and the cost of replacing the trees.The mayor said she wants to prevent such acts from becoming “a pattern of activity” around the city, to which DeVilbiss replied, “To my way of thinking, the best way to see that this does not become a pattern of activity is to see that the person’s identity is broadcast. I’m extremely interested in broadcasting the identity of the perpetrator … priority No. 1 is finding out who did it.”City Councilman Torre expressed support for the police department, despite the fact that it is no closer to solving the case: “I think they’re actually putting a lot of effort and a lot of manpower into finding out … who did it,” he said Thursday. “They don’t have any leads.”DeVilbiss said it is not clear that the City Council can do anything to affect the case, other than call for an accounting, and he added, “I think this topping of trees is an act of cowardice … this is an egregious act, a deliberate act, and it should not be allowed to pass.”John Colson’s e-mail address is jcolson@aspentimes.com


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