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Madrid officials spend €104,000 on rotting tree

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Madrid officials spend €104,000 on rotting tree
A healthy pin oak (L) was intended to be a feature of Pozuelo's new park but the one purchased is now a "dried-up stick" according to some. Photo: Wikipedia Commons/F de Halley
15:52 CEST+02:00
A pin oak tree, imported at a cost of €104,000 ($134,000) during an all-expenses-paid trip to Belgium by officials of a suburb of the Spanish capital, is "half-dead and rotting".

The mayor of the wealthy Madrid suburb of Pozuelo de Alarcón and a party of local council members from Spain's ruling Popular Party made an all-expenses-paid trip to Belgium in 2007 to buy the Quercus palustris pin oak tree.

The tree was meant to be a highlight of the renovation project in Las Cárcavas park. When the park was opened with a fireworks ceremony in 2007, despite being unfinished, the mayor in charge was Jesús Sepúlveda, who would later be implicated in the Gurtel  corruption scandal.

The original park budget of €4,570,814 ran over and ended up costing local residents €9,610,052 according to Spanish daily El Pais.

At the time, the local opposition Socialist Party (PSOE) filed an official legal complaint about  the financing of in the park's construction.

But a judge shelved the complaint, saying that the conduct of those involved was not punishable from a legal point of view and merely constituted "administrative irregularities".

One of those irregularities was the price of the tree, which had cost €27,000 according to a statement made to police by one of those responsible for its purchase.

The town hall, however, paid the construction company €104,000, including €7,000 in transport costs.

Despite the high price tag, the tree has not been a success. One of its two main trunks, which join halfway up, is now dead and the other is rotting from a fungal infection.

The rot is being treated and the tree is due to be fitted with a safety support in ten days.

"Not because it's at risk of falling down," said a town hall spokesperson, "but so the treatment it's receiving can work better."

Municipal sources blamed adverse weather conditions and said that other oak trees had similar problems.

Local socialist councillor Vania Bravo, however, said, "The tree has been sick for a long time. It's a nonsense what they did to buy it and the citizens' money that they spent."

"It's a dried-up stick," she added. "We've given it up for dead."

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