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News in Brief

A bill providing more leverage to surface-rights owners whose property and land values are damaged by oil and gas operations has passed its second test.The bill, sponsored by Rep. Kathleen Curry, D-Gunnison, cleared a bipartisan vote in the state House on Wednesday. It next returns to the House for a third and final vote. The bill requires gas drilling companies to try to negotiate settlements with landowners over surface damages. It sets up new procedures if settlements cannot be reached. A similar bill died last year on a 5-6 vote in the House Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee, of which Curry is chairwoman. That bill faced widespread opposition from the oil and gas industry. The issue is contentious because separate entities often own surface rights and subsurface mineral rights, and surface owners cannot prevent a gas company from drilling wells.Many landowners feel Colorado law favors gas operators in those circumstances. “At present, landowners have no protection under the law,” said Curry, a Democrat whose district includes Pitkin County and much of Garfield. “There is no requirement to compensate landowners for damages or lost land value. We can drill and have energy production while protecting our rural way of life and agricultural lands.”

It’s one thing to steal a coat in the dead of winter.But when you find a cell phone in the garment and start using it as your own, that’s “gutsy,” in the description of Aspen police Sgt. Bill Linn.That’s one word for it. Dennis Baszile, who lives in Denver and Myrtle Beach, S.C., allegedly used the phone for his business. So when the victim called the cell phone’s voicemail, a message from the suspect’s business and the victim’s phone bill were enough to allow Aspen police officer Chip Seamans to track Baszile down, Linn said.He was arrested Tuesday at the home of a client.”The guy was actually wearing the coat when Chip caught up with him,” Linn said. “Which is pretty interesting. Kind of hard to argue your way out of that.”The jacket, which also had a camera in a pocket, was stolen at Cooper Street Pier on Jan. 28.Baszile, 42, is charged with felony theft of between $500 and $15,000 and possession of drug paraphernalia. He was freed after posting a $2,750 bond. Other charges are possible.”He did a really good job of chasing this guy down,” Linn said of Seamans.

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the Aspen Community Foundation contributed more than $150,000 to the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, more than any other local community foundation and third most of any foundation in the country.The Aspen Community Foundation developed the Community-to-Community Disaster Relief Fund shortly after Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in late August 2005 and partnered with the Baton Rouge Area Foundation so local aid would go to Katrina victims whose needs were most critical.Ninety community foundations contributed more than $4.7 million to the Baton Rouge Area Foundation; the Aspen Community Foundation gave $153,455, following the California Community Foundation and Community Foundation of New Jersey.Locally, 36 individual donors and families gave $94,155 to the Aspen Community Foundation’s disaster relief fund within one month. The city of Aspen also donated $59,300 to the fund, half the proceeds from its “Fat Tuesday” benefit event in September.Aspen Community Foundation staff maintained steady contact with Baton Rouge throughout the process and did not take an administrative fee for the fund.


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