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Ripon: What do you want in town square?
An artist’s rendering of the proposed Town Square park area at the eastern entrance to the city of Ripon shows a fountain in the foreground and a gazebo at the far corner with work expected to begin this summer. - photo by Rendering contributed
RIPON — The Ripon City Council Tuesday night voted to move forward on the Town Square park development on the eastern entrance to the city that has already been partially funded by new car dealership owner Tony Mistlin of Ripon.

Mistlin has been a constant benefactor for his city in recent years donating land for the sports park and other fountains in the community.  The Town Square development will include a fountain as well as his promise to provide funds for park maintenance.

Mayor Chuck Winn recognized Mistlin who was sitting in the audience saying he had definitely demonstrated his generosity many times over.

The city council hopes to garner additional community support for the project similar to what was offered with the building of Stouffer Park on the Stanislaus River years ago.

Ripon businesses, service groups, churches and residents will all be invited to help see the completion of the park at the corner of Second Street and Stockton Avenue.

The park site was originally in the planning for a three-story complex that would have condominiums on the upper floors and business located below on the ground level.  The city had paid $1.2 million for the land in preparation for the development that would have cost $3 million for the lower level and $9 million for the condos upstairs.

Seeing little chance of any commercial development in the near future or finding someone’s desire to purchase the property, council members in a 3-2 vote opted for the park with its fountain, gazebo plus turf that came with a generous offer of support from personal funds of Tony Mistlin.

Mistlin agreed to confirm his donation if the city were to guarantee the park to have a life of at least 10 years that could be followed by purchase of the property for commercial development.  The council agreed that the property would only be sold with the condition that new engineering design would encompass the fountain on the southeast corner.

The maintenance of the central corner property is to eventually be turned over to the city’s public works department.  While part-time parks staffers have recently been terminated, public works director Ted Johnston agreed that it would be possible to hire a summer parks worker to help care for the new facility.

The funds would come from the rental of a home on River Road that Mistlin recently dedicated to the city along with another 20 acres adjacent to the Mistlin Sports Park.  The income from that rental – expected to be $20,000 to $30,000 a year – would more than cover the cost of maintenance if it were earmarked for that purpose, he acknowledged.

Mayor Chuck Winn noted that there are two options for groups or individuals wanting to participate in the project: First, to contract directly with a contractor to complete a portion or portions of the work or secondly to donate labor and materials.

The estimated cost for the total project if it were contracted out would be $300,000 to $500,000 on the 30,000-square-foot parcel equating to $12 a square foot.

The prime goal is to provide an attractive entrance to the city that is now only a dirt field – feared to continue to be that for years to come in the current economy.  It is also felt by most council members that the development will allow the entire community to take pride in ownership.  

Council members hope that it will become a setting where families can enjoy a variety of activities including concerts, weddings, social gatherings, and fund-raising event.

Councilmen Elden “Red” Nutt and Dean Uecker reiterated their objections to the project fearing it will in fact cost the city money if the community fails to come forward in its support.

Nutt said while he is not in favor of the Town Square he will be one of the first to grab a shovel and get to work digging and pulling weeds as needed in the project.