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News from the week of June 26, 2002

Aquatic center expected to open next week

The long-awaited opening of the new Tracy Aquatic Center is close at hand.

Wednesday, July 3, is targeted as the pool's opening day.

“We are so close,” said Pool Administrator Shorty Engel Tuesday morning. “I feel real confident with that date.”

Delays in the completion of work have repeatedly pushed back the opening date for the aquatic center, which was originally slated to open June 1. However, representatives for USAquatics and pool staff are upbeat that contractors will complete remaining work soon.

“There is not that much that's left to do,” said Public Works Director Don Polzine. “Once they (contractors) get here, it shouldn't take that long.”

Planning progresses

If the aquatic center does open next week, swimming lessons could begin as scheduled July 8.

Also beginning the week of July 8, water aerobics will be held Tuesdays and Thursday from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., and Saturdays from 9 to 10 a.m. Infant aquatics are slated Saturdays from 10 a.m. to noon. Girls interested in a competitive Girl Scout swim team are invited to call the aquatic center (629-5537) or instructor Heidi Miller.

Pool staff members, even though they haven't had swimmers to watch, have been reporting for duty and doing whatever tasks can be done around the aquatic center.

Pool hours

Longer hours are being offered compared to last year.

Regular hours Monday through Friday are 6 to 8 a.m. early swim, 8 to 9 a.m. senior swim, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. swimming lessons, 2 to 9 p.m. open swimming.

Saturday mornings, from 9 a.m. to noon, is reserved for swimming meets and practices. Open swimming on Saturdays is offered from 1 to 9 p.m.

Open swimming Sundays is scheduled from 1 to 9 p.m.

Tuesday and Thursday nights from 8 to 9 p.m. is being promoted as a special night for high school and college students.

Plans are to have the concession stand open whenever the aquatic center is open.

Flume slide decision has colorful solution

Color the Tracy Aquatic Center blue—aqua blue.

Tracy City Council members settled a long unresolved question about the color of a flume slide. The issue had threatened to further delay the opening of the aquatic center.

City Administrator Audrey Koopman and other city officials had contended that the aqua-colored flume slide was unacceptable, since in their opinion, a royal-blue slide had been ordered. The royal-blue color was ordered to match a companion yellow flume slide, and the royal blue and yellow accent colors in the bath house.

The council accepted the aqua-blue slide after hearing that a supplier would discount the slide $5,000. USAquatics, the city's engineering consultant on the project, indicated they'd consider reducing their fee by up to $2,883.

The council was presented with two other options. The aqua slide could have been rejected, but a replacement slide would not have been installed until next spring. Miracle Slide, the supplier, also offered to have the aqua slide powder-coated a royal blue, at an extra cost of $8,500. This cost, Miracle proposed, could be split among Miracle, USAquatics, and Tracy. Installation would be delayed a month.

Cost of aquatic center season pass cut in half

To compensate for the late opening of the Tracy Aquatic Center, the price for season passes are being reduced.

The new rates are half of previous levels. City Council members approved the rates Monday night. A season pass for a Tracy family is now $40, instead of $80. A resident individual season pass is now $25 instead of $50. New season pass rates for non-city residents are $65 for families and $45 for individuals.

Daily passes will remain at $5 a person, or $2 for a non-swimmer spectators or early-morning swimmers. People who have already paid the full price for season passes will be mailed a refund.

The aquatic center was originally to have opened on June 1. The pool is now expected to open Wednesday, July 3.

School budget shows black ink

District 417's budget for the coming school year is in the black.

The Tracy Board of Education approved a preliminary budget for the 2002-2003 school year Monday night that shows a positive cash-flow of $122,969. Total revenues in the preliminary budget are estimated at $6,547,850. Projected expenditures are $6,424,881.

Supt. Rick Clark told the board that these numbers include tuition, billings, and the referendum levy, which was voted on last year.

One concern discussed by the board was why the community service fund is operating at a deficit. The preliminary budget numbers show expenditures over revenues totaling $32,090 in the community service fund.

With the exception of driver's education and ECFE, other community education programs should pay for themselves, board member Eric Nelson pointed out. Even with the subtraction of those two services, the fund would still be operating at a deficit.

Board members also commented that the swimming pool is no longer included in this fund, except for a $2,500 contribution.

Dr. Clark told the board that he was unsure why there is such a deficit in the fund. He explained that part of the reason could be that a potion of his salary is still being allocated to community service. Another contributor could be children who are “on scholarship” because they are unable to pay for certain activities. Dr. Clark will research these and other possible reasons for the deficit.

Nelson said he felt this would be a topic for the advisory and management committee to delve into further as well.

$350,000 raised for hospice house

A fund-raising drive to build a new hospice house in Lyon County is halfway home.

Denise Brewers, administrative director for Prairie Home Hospice, reports that about $350,000 has been raised for the hospice house. Land worth about $50,000 has also been donated.

“We are just extremely pleased with the response.”

The goal is to raise $700,000 to build and equip a five-bedroom hospice house in Marshall. Reaching the goal will provide about $100,000 for initial operating money, in addition to building the house.

The purpose of the hospice house, she explains, “is to provide a home-like environment and care for people who are terminally ill and can't take care of themselves.” The hospice house, she says, can “fill a gap” between what can be offered in the person's home and what nursing homes and hospitals can provide.

She sees a huge and growing need. Demographics show a growing elderly population in the region. Often, patients don't have any nearby family members who can care for them on a daily basis.

“The large, close to home families...we aren't seeing that as much as we used to.” Brewers explains. As a result, families often struggle with care issues when an ill parent or sibling enters the final stages of life.

A hospice house, Brewers said, can be a wonderful comfort to both patients and families.

“We want it to be as homelike as possible, because this is their home.” At the hospice house, staff assist with daily care, therapy and pain management.

The proposed hospice house will have five private bedrooms and six bathrooms, plus a common living and kitchen areas that can be used by visiting family and friends. Space is also planned for clerical and laundry work.

The house will be built in Marshall, with an off-street parking area. Brewers said that the $600,000 estimated cost for the house is more a conventional house because of the oversize rooms and special equipment and requirements of the facility. The hospice house would be staffed 24-hours a day.

O'Brien Court refinance eyed

Sioux Valley is sounded out on purchase interest

Lower interest rates might lighten the bonded debt loan on O'Brien Court.

City of Tracy officials are looking into the possibility of refinancing about $1.22 million in O'Brien Court bonds. City Finance Director Dave Spencer told the Tracy Economic Development Authority (EDA) that it may be possible to get lower interest rates if the bonds are refinanced. Interest rates on existing O'Brien Court bonds range from 4.7 to 5.75%, for a net interest rate of about 5.5%. Spencer said that the EDA might be able to get a rate of about 4.5% when a “call date” on the existing bonds comes up in December.

Over the life of the bonds, Spencer estimates that the EDA and city could save $65,000 to $75,000 in interest costs.

The EDA and the City of Tracy sold $1.7 million in housing bonds when O'Brien Court was built in 1994. After eight years of principal and interest payments, the balance on the bonds has been reduced to about $1,220,000, Spencer reported.

EDA members instructed Spencer to explore the refinancing option. It was also agreed to notify the Sioux Valley Health Network, which leases and manages O'Brien Court. It was noted that a change in interest rates would affect Sioux Valley's lease payments, which are based upon bonded debt and depreciation.

Sioux Valley ownership?

The question of whether Sioux Valley would be interested in buying O'Brien Court was also raised.

Spencer said that if Sioux Valley has an interest in O'Brien Court ownership, now would be an opportune time because of the re-financing possibility.

“Is Sioux Valley interested in buying?” asked Dennis Fultz, EDA director.

Stacy Barstad, Tracy Area Medical Service finance director, said that the O'Brien Court ownership and refinance issues were brought up at a June 19 hospital advisory board meeting.

“It is real preliminary, but they are interested in looking into that,” she said. The question, she said, would need to be studied by a Sioux Valley finance board.