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Tatton bids farewell to city council after many years of service

Richard Tatton

Sun Advocate associate editor

When Richard Tatton first took a seat on the Price City Council more than a dozen years ago, there was no such thing as Heritage Park, and Terrace Hills - home of the city's skateboard park - was nothing but a patch of native plants.

Now that he has bid farewell to the council, he looks back on those years of service, recalling the ups and downs of that branch of his public service.

The transformation of the parks is probably the most visible of the changes that he had a hand in.

What is now called Heritage Park was once the site of a gas station that closed down when the First North overpass was constructed. The city bought the property and razed the building.

It was untended and mostly vacant except for a stand of Chinese Elms and a stack of red rock slabs.

"The city was into using red rock for various things and they stored the slabs there," he recalls. "We had talked in council about what to do with Redevelopment Agency money, and I asked why not use some of that money at the baseball fields and this lot?"

One thing led to another. Mayor Louis Colosimo and other council members liked the idea, so the city hired an architect.

"One of the things I wanted was to get rid of the Chinese Elms," Tatton says. "But Lyle Bauer, our cemetery guy, said that the trees could be sterilized somehow so they wouldn't be shedding leaves all over. So the trees stayed.

"And then - how should I say it? - it took on a life of its own." Suda Merriman, whose gardening talents are visible across city property in town, took over the landscaping. The Chamber of Commerce, under then-president Mike Halloran, contracted for a bronze statue.

Later the city erected a flagpole in honor of its veterans, complete with an American flag that had once flown over the U.S. Capitol donated by Congressman Jim Matheson.

Terrace Hills Park was another idea that bore fruit. Tatton says he had been visiting his daughter upstate and saw kids enjoying themselves at a skate park.

"I thought we needed something like that in Price," he recalls. In talking it over with the mayor, council and public works director Gary Sonntag, the group discovered something, however: "None of us at the city were age-appropriate to design something like that, so we went around to the schools and asked kids to help out."

So the city bought clay and set the young people to work in teams designing their concept of what features they wanted. Once the sculptures were done, the city hired an architect who specialized in this sort of design.

The design and concrete work were done professionally, but laying acres of sod was a community volunteer effort.

When asked about the biggest change he's seen in the city and its government, he says without a moments hesitation that it is the increasing professionalism among city employees.

It's not that workers were not competent before, he explains, but they have been harnessing technology and improving training across the board. (See related story on Page 1A).

For example, the city started a safety committee to look at practices and conditions. One situation the committee looked at was a dangerous steep and rocky slope leading the the diversion at the Castle Gate water plant.

The city terraced it to make it safer.

The involvement of the council and city employees probably dates back as far as the days when J. Bracken Lee was mayor, he says. Brack Lee demanded parliamentary order at council meetings and expected employees to take seriously their jobs as public servants.

Tatton says that tradition has continued through successive administrations.

Any regrets or mistakes he'd care to talk about? "Emma Park comes to mind," he replies. The city committed itself to drilling exploratory water wells in that area to augment its sources, but both deep wells came up dry.

He has gotten satisfaction from the interactions with other agencies and entities over the years.

Tatton has served on the Price River Water Improvement District Board as chairman, and has recently been reappointed by the county commission to the county's Planning and Zoning Commission, where he has been serving as chair.

As far as predictions about what challenges the city will face in years to come, he has no warnings, just a basic confidence.

"The personnel are exceptional. They know what needs to be done," he concludes.

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