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More public input on fate of Poplar St. trees

by Carol Dunn
LA VETA- At the La Veta town board meeting on February 5, Mayor Jerry Fitzgerald allowed La Veta citizens to comment on the proposed removal of two old cottonwood trees on Poplar Street.
By legal survey, one tree is considered to be in the middle of the road, so Chip Kraynyk asked the Board for clarification of what “middle of the road” means. He said the street itself is 20 feet wide, but including the right of way would be 80 feet wide. He said it’s common throughout town to find things within that right-of-way area, including one homeowner’s porch.
Robin Richards told the board, “I question using $5,000 of taxpayer funds to cut down the cottonwood trees. The trees are valued over $90,000. Why would the town destroy a $90,000 asset?” Richards said a municipal attorney told her, “Regarding liability, the trees have to be proven to be unhealthy.”
Rena Kaplowitz said, “We have really made an attempt to grow trees … in a climate that is not really hospitable. I don’t feel that having straight streets is worth cutting down elderly trees.”
Trustee Ken Sajdak reminded the board that the original vote was to have both trees removed at a cost of $5,000. He said, “Both bids are in excess of the amount appropriated,” and neither bid includes removing the wood or debris. I don’t think there’s anything to discuss.” Sajdak recalled that removing the trees was supposed to be part of a plan by the Streets & Alleys committee to address a serious drainage issue on Poplar Street. “But,” he said, “there are other streets that are much narrower and in much more need of improvement. This issue of reclaiming the right of way on Poplar Street is just a house of cards; I don’t buy it.” Sajdak said if the removal of the trees is pursued then it’s either a matter of saving face or doing a $5,000 favor for someone in town.
Trustee Bill Stark said he would like the board to get a legal opinion about town right-of-ways. “We have been setting a precedent to maintain street right-of-ways. I have not heard a rebuttal to that.”
Trustee Shane Clouse admitted, “I haven’t seen a total scope of work. I’d like to see what would happen to the whole street, not just the trees.” A meeting to do that was set for February 12 at 6 pm.
Trustee Nancy Dick discussed a possible drainage study for La Veta. Although GMS Engineering has broadly estimated such a study would cost about $50,000, the board decided it would like more details. On a vote of 5-2, with Trustee Dale Davis and Trustee Dave Molyneaux voting no, the board decided to have GMS provide an outline of the scope of work, what the study will cost, and put forth any possible funding sources.
The board will be soliciting letters of interest for the Park & Tree board. At present, there are no members on that board because they were all term limited, with terms expiring on January 1, 2013.