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As coal industry wanes, Price invests in senior citizens

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PRICE — Coal is what many people think of when they hear about the small city of Price. But now, only silence remains at some local mines.

“The war on coal has produced a terrible challenge for us in the last seven or eight years,” Price Mayor Joe Piccolo said. He is used to outsiders wondering how Price is still alive.

“It’s not how many times you get knocked down that counts in this community,” Piccolo said. “It’s the fact you got up one more time than you got knocked down.”

Piccolo said one main reason Price survives is its 8,400 residents. With 30 different religious organizations in the city, diversity makes Price’s residents resilient, he said.

“The biggest treasure we have here is our people,” Piccolo said.

Even so, there’s been little population growth in Price over the past four decades.

“Even when the mines were in full swing, there were only so many coal mining jobs,” Piccolo said. “And it didn’t fill the needs of everybody.”

Another challenge for Price residents is finding high-paying jobs. Some coal mines, such as the Tower Mine, have shut down in recent years.

“We need to find a possibility to grow, and bringing seniors here can be an industry,” Piccolo said. “I’m excited.”

That's right — seniors. There is a vibrant senior citizen population in Price, and it’s growing.

“It’s not a fallacy,” Piccolo said. “This isn’t a makeshift dream. This is really the truth. It’s a good opportunity for seniors.”

Price's cost of living is low, it's easy to get around and there's the senior center.

“The (senior) center is like a family,” Price resident Nana Beth Davis said.

The Price senior center has plenty to offer, from a library full of books to a craft room full of activities. Plus, there’s a pool hall, a theater and a cafeteria.

“We have everything that anybody can want to do,” Price resident Shirley Prettyman said.

It's the beginning of what could be an industry in Price: senior living.

Castleview Hospital is another aspect of Price that’s attractive for seniors. It was recently named one of the top 20 rural hospitals in the country.

“There are 2,157 hospitals that fit into that category, so it’s pretty impressive,” Castleview CEO Mark Holyoak said.

He said the hospital has the types of services senior citizens need, such as cardiology and neurology.

“We truly get to take care of people that are our neighbors,” Holyoak said. “They’re friends, and they’re people we’re going to see tomorrow.”

But tomorrow may be somewhere else. Lots of people who grow up in Price move to other cities for jobs.

“Our greatest export in Carbon County are our children,” Piccolo said.

The mayor said they're working on keeping younger people in Price, but it's not easy. Many residents do come back later in life after their careers.

For residents like Davis, though, there’s no place like Price.

“It’s just — you really can’t explain it,” Davis said. “There’s just a feeling. It’s just home.”

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