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News from the week of June 12, 2002

Prairie View expansion plans taking longer than expected

A planned expansion of the Prairie View Healthcare Center is taking longer than expected.

“We're waiting for the architect to finish the drawings,” Prairie View Administrator Tim Byrne said Friday.

This winter, plans were announced for a $4 million expansion at Prairie View. Construction was targeted to begin in June or July. Last week, Bryne indicated that project is still “a go,” although groundbreaking won't take as early as hoped for.

“It is going to happen. We're moving forward slowly.”

The project has three components. A 20-room assisted living addition will be build onto Prairie View's south side. A new wing with 12 single nursing home rooms would be built onto Prairie View's north side. Renovations are also planned for the existing nursing home.

In order to add the assisted living wing, Prairie View will need to purchase property in the Eastview Addition. Byrne said that discussions with the Tracy Economic Development Authority about the land purchase have been put on hold, until it is determined how much property is needed. It was originally thought that three Eastview lots were needed for Prairie View's expansion. Now, Byrne said, it is possible that Prairie View will need four Eastview lot.

“We're waiting to see how many lots we need before making a bid,” Bryne said.

Despite funding veto, planning continues for Casey Jones Trail

Supporters of a multi-use recreational trail linking Walnut Grove and Split-Rock Creek State Park tasted both success and a disappointment during the 2002 legislative session.

First, the success. The Casey Jones Trail was officially designated as a part of Minnesota's state trail system.

The disappointment? A $500,000 appropriation for the trail was approved by the legislature, but vetoed by Gov. Jesse Ventura.

“It was disappointing to see the funding cut out,” said Robert Klingle, Murray County Economic Development director. “But the trail designation was a big step forward.”

Dreams for the Casey Jones Trail date from the early 1970s, when a Slayton to Pipestone rail line was abandoned. In 1971, the legislature authorized a Casey Jones multi-use trail from Lake Shetek to Pipestone, but most of the trail was never developed. Only a 12-mile segment between Pipestone and two miles east of Woodstock was acquired by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Horseback riders, snowmobilers, hikers and mountain bikers now use the unimproved, Woodstock-to-Pipestone segment.

The state legislature's designation this year expands the Casey Jones Trails to include the 11 miles from Pipestone to Split Rock Creek, and the segment between Shetek State Park and Walnut Grove. In effect, the designation makes the six-mile End-O-Line to Shetek State Park segment a part of the Casey Jones Trail.

Efforts to obtain money for the trail will continue, according to Klingle. Although next year is not a bonding year for the legislature, other avenues will be pursued. “We'll be staying very active on this,” said Klingle.

Klingle hopes that the DNR will devote some planning money to the trail this year.

Conservation programs impact traditional farm land values

Marginal ag lands fetching big sale prices

By Nancy L. Torner

It might not grow crops worth a darn, yet some of the region's worst farmland is bringing in big bucks.

In the last year, county assessors have watched land they value as marginal and waste sell at escalating prices, including land with easements registered in government conservation programs. While this is a boon to farmers selling the land for hunting and recreation, it could prove a bane to others as assessors wrangle with valuing this property fairly.

"It's got to the point where the worse your (farm) ground is, if it qualifies for RIM (Reinvest In Minnesota) and stuff, you can get more money for that than you can a good Grade A farm," Delton Zimmer, Renville County assessor said. "It's a completely different market out there now."

Government conservation programs like RIM and the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP), created in part to reduce pollution, have helped create the sales market. These programs pay farmers to take marginal land out of production. In turn, property values drop to anywhere from 80 percent of the tillable rate to just under $200 per acre, depending on the county.

To date, RIM land accounts for most sales. CREP is a newer program implemented initially in the Minnesota River watershed.

Bus service planned to Tracy Aquatic Center

Bus service is planned to and from the Tracy Aquatic Center from four communities this summer.

The service is being arranged for Balaton, Garvin, Walnut Grove, and Currie.

The charge for the round-trip bus trip and admission to the aquatic center is $7. The charge is $3 for riders with a season pass to the aquatic center.

A bus to Balaton and Garvin will be offered Tuesdays and Thursdays. Pick-up is 1:15 p.m. at the Balaton School, and 1:30 p.m. from the Garvin City Park. The bus returns at about 6 p.m.

Walnut Grove and Currie service is offered Mondays and Wednesdays. Swimmers will be picked up from Walnut Grove City Hall at 1:30 p.m., with a return at 5:30 p.m. The Currie bus will pick up swimmers from Mike's Mini-mart at 2:15 p.m., returning at 6:15 p.m.

The soon-to-be-completed aquatic center has four pool areas: a plunge pool with two large flume slides, a diving area with a spring board and drop slide, a large lap pool, and a shallow-water splash pool for younger children and supervising adults.

There is no extra charge to use any of the pool features once the general admission is paid.

School board discusses community ed accord

Tracy Area Public Schools and the City of Tracy are moving closer toward approval of a new joint powers agreement for community education.

The Tracy Board of Education considered a draft of the joint powers agreement Monday. The board reviewed the agreement and unresolved issues.

A new agreement is needed, because last summer, the school board announced their intention of terminating the present agreement. The board wants a new agreement without any direct school district involvement in the operation the Tracy swimming pool.

One still unresolved issue is the allocation of insurance costs. The proposed agreement currently states that “the parties shall share equally the cost of liability insurance covering the at-large members of the Advisory Council, the facilities used by the Community Education and Recreation programs, and any personnel of the Community Education and Recreation programs.” The board will ask for clarification of this portion of the agreement.

Supt. Rick Clark raised another question. The document states that the community education director will prepare and recommend a budget for community education and recreation programs, with the exception of the Tracy Aquatic Center. The draft also states that the proposed budget will be presented to the city council and school board for review and approval, and that a management committee will resolve disagreements concerning the budget. Dr. Clark questioned whether the budget should be brought to the management committee before it is decided on the board.

Board member Eric Nelson noted that the proposal is only a draft, and that there may still be changes or additions.

The Tracy City Council also discussed the proposed community education agreement Monday. A school board-city council committee meeting is expected to hash out language differences prior to each board's next meeting.

Lorraine Wigen elected as as District Legion president

Lorraine Wigen was recently elected as the new Seventh District President of the American Legion Auxiliary.

A Unit 173 Auxiliary member, Wigen is the second Tracy woman to hold the post. Mildred Mitchell served as district auxiliary president in 1951-52.

Lorraine Wigen was eligible for the office through her husband, Orwill Wigen, who was the Seventh District Commander for 2000-01. Orwill Wigen was elected as the American Legion's district adjutant for the coming year. Orwill Wigen is running for the American Legion position of Department Vice Commander of Minnesota.

Erv Krosch of Morris was elected as the new Seventh District Commander.