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News from the week of April 10, 2002

Tracy Call Center would need public financing

Consultants suggest that EDA `incubate' business for year

What role should public financing play in the development of a significant new Tracy business? Is it an acceptable risk to invest tens of thousands of dollars in public funds to create a business that could employ dozens of people and be sold at a substantial profit?

Tracy Economic Development Authority (EDA) members were confronted with those issues Friday, after two consultants presented a detailed business plan for the development of a call center in Tracy.

EDA members were told that while there are no guarantees, a Tracy call center has a high-upside potential. The business plan projected that the call center would show a small profit in its first year of operation, with gross revenues of $501,000. Twelve jobs would be created in the first year, with employment growing to 25-30 jobs within two to three years, with an annual payroll about $1,000,000.

A substantial investment will be needed to start the business. The business plan— developed by Everest Information Systems, Inc. of Bloomington—estimates that up to $273,000 will be needed to start the call center. In the absence of a private investor, the consultants recommend that the EDA provide the start-up capital and “incubate” the business during its first year of operations. Once a successful track record is established, the call center would be attractive to a private buyer, and could be sold, perhaps at a significant profit, the consultants said.

EDA members are scheduled to discuss the call center business plan again Friday. They took no action after Friday's presentation, which was given by Frank Cesario and Dale Petelinsek.

Pop agreement fizzles

The Tracy City Council is seeking new proposals for soft drink concessions rights at the new Family Aquatic Center, after disavowing a document that had been signed by two city officials.

On a 6-1 vote, the council voted to overrule a decision made by City Administrator Audrey Koopman and Mayor Claire Hannasch in signing a 10-year concession agreement with the Pepsi-Cola Bottling of Pipestone. The Pepsi proposal was chosen over a competing offer from Viking Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Marshall.

Council members complained because they hadn't been consulted on the issue and maintained that a 10-year contract needed council approval.

“I was told that this is none of the council's business,” said councilman Robert Caron. “If a 10-year contract with the city isn't the council's business, what is?”

Steve Ferrazzano said he also questioned the lack of council involvement. “I don't question that this was done in good faith. The procedure is what concerns me. We need to be part of the decision-making process.”

Councilman Dave Berndt also felt that the concession proposals should have been presented to the council. “I thought this was going to come back to us.”

Jan Otto-Arvizu, the senior member on the council, said: “The point we are trying to make is, without causing hard feelings, is that we (the council) do not want to be left out.”

Hannasch said he had been under the assumption that members of a pool fund-raising committee had been charged to make the best deal that they could in granting the soft drink concession rights for the pool. “If I was wrong on this I apologize...If there was an error, it comes back to me.”

Tracy studio is selling old family photo negatives

Stassen Photography of Tracy is cleaning house.

Until Friday, customers have the opportunity to buy pre-1990 negatives. The files cost $30 for the first and $10 for each additional negative file.

Overcrowding of the business's basement is a major reason for the house-cleaning sale, said owner John Judkins.

“We have everything I've taken and everything Don Stassen took, going back to 1950,” said Judkins. Some of the files from around 1954-1955 are missing as the result of a fire when the photography business was located above Enderson's Clothing.

Judkins took over the business from Stassen in 1987.

In addition to Judkins' and Stassen's negatives, the files also include some negatives taken by Stassen's predecessor, a man named Mr. Hanapel.

“I have boxes of eight-by-ten negatives of wedding images, and I have no idea who they are,” said Judkins.

While Judkins has been using a computerized filing system since he began taking digital photographs a couple of years ago, all of the older photographs are still filed using a card system. The cards are filed alphabetically by name. Each card has numbers that correspond with boxes that line several shelves.

One problem Judkins has run into is that sometimes there are multiple customers with the same name, so it is difficult to determine which negatives a family wants. Sometimes it is helpful if a customer knows if the file is older.

FFA offering community garden plots

Gardening anyone?

Get ready to grab your seed packets and hoes. The Tracy FFA is digging into a new community gardening project. Anyone with a hankering to grow his or her own vegetables is eligible to have a garden plot.

The plots are located on public school land between the elementary and high schools. This site was plowed into 20x20 plots last fall. Once the ground dries out sufficiently, the soil will be tilled and the plots will be ready to plant.

“This is something new that we are doing for the community,” comments FFA Advisor Chris Howard. The project is designed especially for green thumb enthusiasts who don't have garden space by their home or apartment, as well as FFA horticulture students. “It also gives some of our students some practical business-related experience,” Howard added.

The fee for each plot is $25. Each gardener must also agree to the FFA's rules about the upkeep of the plot. A 1,600-gallon tank of water will be maintained near the plots, meaning each grower will at least be within bucket carrying distance for watering. All plots are in a full sun location with rich soil.

The garden plots are accessible from the South Fourth Street driveway that is used for the elementary school's overflow parking. Each plot has a grass entry.

The FFA project is funded by a $10,000 grant from the Southwest Minnesota Initiative Fund. Some grant money was used to purchase a John Deere B tractor, which was used for plowing up the plots.

For more information, people can contact Howard at 629-3971 or student project manager Jason Morin at 629-4031.

One fire-damaged house set for repairs; city seeks to inspect Rowland site

Tracy City Council members are taking steps to see that two fire-damaged houses are either repaired or torn down

One house is located at 173 Ninth Street, the other at 800 Rowland

City Building Inspector Gary Garrels said that John Carlson, the owner of the Ninth Street property, intends to repair his rental house. Garrels said that Carlson requested six-months to complete the exterior repairs.

Council members thought the request reasonable, but suggested that Garrels work with Carlson to establish a progressive timetable for the repairs. The matter is to be placed on the council's April 22 agenda.

The Rowland Street property has been abandoned since a Jan. 23 fire. Council members agreed that the city should seek an administrative search warrant to inspect the property. Once an inspection is done, the city can order the structure repaired or demolished.

Efforts will also be made to verify who the owner of record is.

Garrels said that according to information he received, Harmony Clark, the resident at the time of the fire, is still the owner. He said that Tracy State Bank, the mortgage holder, had received a $16,900 insurance settlement, but had relinquished all claims to the property. (Last month, Clark pled guilty to the charge of first-degree arson, not admitting guilt, but acknowledging that a jury could consider the evidence enough for a conviction).

The city recently condemned a third fire-damaged house at 473 Third Street.

`Babes in Toyland' is a don't miss spectacular

Final shows are Friday, Saturday

By Seth Schmidt

Was it a traveling company for the Minnesota Children's Theatre or the Tracy Community Children's Choir that staged Babes in Toyland in Tracy last week?

A non-local visitor might not have been able to tell the difference, because the children's choir production of Babes in Toyland is of professional qualify in every sense of the word.

The sets are gloriously lavish, costumes adoringly sweet, and the acting energetically polished. Some of these young actors are worthy of a Tony Award.

No doubt about it. Directors Ade Miller and Jesse James have produced another `don't miss' extravaganza. Local people have two more chances to see the show, Friday and Saturday, April 12-13, at 7 p.m., on the Tracy Area High School gym stage.

Based on the century-old musical written by Victor Herbert, Babes in Toyland has a cast of 45 children in grades 3-6. The musical tells the story of Barnaby (Megan Landa), a wonderfully wicked miser, who wants to knock off his nephew Alan (Ben Van Moer). Barnaby covets not only Alan's money, but also his girlfriend, Mistress Mary Quite Contrary (Maria Schmidt).

The romantic pair have several narrow escapes from Barnaby and his two henchmen (Chantalle Cooreman and Paige Hansen), plus a ticklish encounter with a two-headed spider, before making their way to Toyland. In Toyland, Mistress Mary and Alan meet the eccentric, but kind Toymaster (Jordan Christiansen), and his goofy sidekick Grumio (Molly Miller). With the help from the bumbling police inspector Marmaduke (David Nilius), Barnaby's evil plot to control Toyland's toys is foiled.