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Am.F. faces close mayoral race

Ted B. Barratt and Rick K. Storrs are both popular men with loyal bases among American Fork residents and are likely to run neck and neck until the polls close Nov. 4.

It's hard to imagine that one man will far outdistance the other in their bids for mayor of American Fork. The two candidates, who are very similar in many ways, earned the right to square off in the election by outgaining three other candidates - including current Mayor Jess Green - in the primary election.Storrs, 41, is in the middle of his second term on the City Council. If he wins the election, his council seat will have to be filled by appointment.

Meanwhile, Barratt, 50, is a former councilman to whom many residents are turning as a fresh approach after several years of bickering among Green and the current council. For Barratt, one of the most important campaign strategies has been to point out his lack of baggage from Green's administration.

"I don't understand how in the world the mayor has taken all this heat when he doesn't even have a vote (on the council)," Barratt said. "I don't know how things have gotten the way they are now."

Green has been lambasted for seeking leniency for a convicted drunken driver earlier this year and firing Police Chief John Durrant last month without the council's knowledge. Barratt promises an end to the political infighting that Green seemed to foster and enjoy.

"I don't think it has to be that way," Barratt said. "I don't think it will be that way. If it ends up that everyone keeps fighting, I'm in trouble."

Meanwhile, Storrs also hopes things will change under his guidance. He pledges to bring back the respect and pride to American Fork. His six years as a councilman provide the experience to lead the north Utah County city of 20,000, he believes.

For Storrs, ties to recent disputes could be problematic. Although he has opposed Green on many issues, Storrs' involvement in recent political battles may have left him scarred beyond repair inthe minds of some residents. The city seems increasingly swept up in an atmosphere of change as both Green and Councilman John McKinney lost their primary bids for the mayor's post.

However, Storrs continues to be a strong candidate with a wide base of support. His service and work as an emergency medical technician in the community mean many residents know and like him.

Probably the most talked-about issues in the race revolve around the bond questions on the Nov. 4 ballot. Voters will decide if they authorize American Fork to issue bonds in the amount of $4.7 million for a new library, $2.4 million for a public works complex, $1 million for downtown property on which to expand City Hall and $1.1 million to purchase a large tract of land from the Utah State Developmental Center.

The city has been trying to put the bond questions together for several years. In the interim, the price of the library increased substantially, and the downtown property purchase was included. The four questions are listed separately on the ballot, meaning each could pass or fail individually, regardless of what happens to the others.

Both Barratt and Storrs say they favor the bond questions. However, both men say they can save the city money on the library in particular. Whoever is elected mayor likely will have to deal with the issue of eventually raising more money to build a new City Hall and police-courts complex.

Probably the second-most prominent issue in the election is what to do about the city's Police Department. Green raised serious allegations of misconduct and insubordination in a memo to the City Council earlier this year. However, Green's allegations were vague and have yet to be proved.

Barratt has promised to see that an independent investigating team takes a thorough look at the allegations against American Fork police. He believes that will clear the air, whether the allegations are proved true or false. He says he has the support of Durrant in sponsoring the investigation.

Meanwhile, Storrs has worked closely with American Fork police on several projects in recent years. He helped start the highly successful Youth Council and Youth Court programs and regularly responds with police to emergency calls as an EMT. Some residents think he may be too closely tied to the police department to find out what's really going on. But Storrs says any allegations against police will be handled according to the city's policy and procedure guidelines.

Other issues that both Storrs and Barratt identified are rebuilding trust in city government among residents and improving relationships among city employees. Both men say they will be better managers of personnel and meeting agendas than was Green.

Barratt hopes to move the city away from "governing by the seat of the pants" and to reintroduce compromise into the political process. Storrs says city employees already like him. He also promises to curtail the city's notoriously long and superfluous council meetings.

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Additional Information

American Fork Mayor

What is the most important issue facing American Fork and how do you propose to address it if elected?

TED B. BARRATT: I think the most important issue is to bring sanity, unity and harmony to the community between the mayor, the council, city officials and city employees. We need to build trust and faith so that everyone feels like they are working in a safe environment, that they can perform their duties and all can work toward a common goal for the betterment of the city.

RICK K. STORRS: Two issues cloud American Fork currently: the police issue and the building-bond issue. I plan to educate the citizens as to the facts and details surrounding these issues. I know the facts and trust our citizens to make the right choices if they are given the facts. Loss of trust in our community has come from rumor and malicious innuendo.

Why should voters pick you instead of your opponent?

T.B.B.: I believe that my experiences qualify me to serve as mayor. I have had opportunities to work in city government as a city councilman, and there were no animosities, no hard feelings. We were able to make decisions and the city moved along. I believe that because I do not have ties to the current administration that I am not tainted in any way by what may or may not have happened. It's a new start.

R.K.S.: Most of American Fork's citizens know me and know that I am a man of my word. I promise you I will bring respect back to our great community. I have many years of experience serving our city. I am so very disappointed in our current leadership. I will bring integrity and pride back to American Fork.

How do you plan to vote on the bond questions?

T.B.B.: I am in favor of the bond issues. I have some concerns about how the money will be spent. I believe the next mayor and council can have a drastic impact on getting more bang for the buck. I have some ideas that I believe will greatly benefit the city in each of those areas that we're voting for.

R.K.S.: I am in favor of the current bond issue. Without a doubt, the public works and library are needed, but the amount proposed may be asking too much of the taxpayer. And even if the proposed bond passes, it will be the duty of all the governing body to spend the approved money wisely. The entire dollar amount does not have to be spent. I am totally in favor of our building needs being met immediately.

What specific things would you do as mayor to improve understanding between elected officials and employees?

T.B.B.: I would set up a flow chart so that city employees would know who they directly report to, who they work for, who is their ultimate boss. In this case, it is the mayor and City Council, but department heads are responsible for their departments . . . and for making sure that their goals and mission statements match the city's.

R.K.S.: I already have a working relationship with the city employees, and I have always been able to work with people and find it a pleasure to do so.

How would you deal with allegations of misconduct and insubordination in the city's police department?

T.B.B.: I have talked with Chief John Durrant, and I have suggested we have an investigation by an outside group that would . . . go through the department and would find if those allegations are true or false. Thereby, hopefully, this thing can be put to rest.

R.K.S.: The City Council already hired an independent law firm out of Salt Lake City to investigate any wrongdoing by our police. No evidence was forthcoming. The chief of police has not been insubordinate. There has been no evidence provided to show misconduct. But if an allegation occurs it is the duty of the governing body to follow the city's policies and procedures, not to use the media to destroy reputations.

Storrs' questions for Barratt:

Are your decisions regarding the future of our citizens tempered with experience and factual knowledge?

T.B.B.: Yes. Having been a businessman in American Fork for over 25 years and working with many residents, having served as a president of the American Fork Rotary Club, my experience and factual knowledge is that I come from a grass roots level. Probably more than half the residents of American Fork I know on a first-name basis. I talk with them and also know the city employees.

Are you prepared to lead our city in its top position of leadership without having first held other leadership positions such as City Council or committee member?

I am prepared because I have served on the City Council, on the planning commission and as a representative to the Timpanogos Special Service District. I have the experience and am willing to gain the experience.

Barratt did not submit any questions for Storrs.