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News from the week of January 16, 2002 Headlight Herald - Serving Tracy, Minnesota, since 1880

Street plans move forward
Bids will be sought on 54 blocks of improvements

The City of Tracy is moving ahead with a large street improvement project this summer.

Tracy City Council members unanimously “ordered in” 54-blocks of street work Monday night. Engineers will now draw up detailed plans and specifications so the city can seek contractor bids.

Several changes were approved from previously announced plans. Plans to improve a one-block segment of First Street from gravel to bituminous, were deleted. East Fourth Street in the Tracy Industrial Park was upgraded from a bituminous overlay to a mill and overlay. The council also instructed engineers to study a possible “rural design” for a one-block segment of Tenth Street being upgraded from gravel to bituminous. The rural design uses a gravel shoulder and drain tile in place of curb and gutter.

All told, the 2002 improvements will include 33 blocks of a bituminous overlay, 19 blocks of mill and overlay, and two blocks of new street construction. The estimated price tag exceeds $500,000.

Property owners on the overlay and mill and overlay streets will be assessed for 25% of costs, with city taxpayers at large paying the rest. Property owners on newly-constructed streets will be assessed 100% of improvement costs.

Estimated assessments are: $48.68 a front lineal foot for new street construction, $4.48 a front lineal foot for mill and overlay, and $2.44 a front lineal foot for an overlay. Actual assessments will be determined by construction bids and the interest rate the city pays on bond money.

Preventive maintenance
Rick Seifert, the city's consulting engineer from RLK Kuusisto, said the improvements will extend the life of existing streets. An overlay, he said, can make a street serviceable for an additional 10-12 years, although cracks will often reappear. A mill and overlay, he said, can be expected to last about 15 years, while the life expectancy of a new street is about 25 years.

Don Polzine, Tracy Public Works Director, said the choice facing the city is simple. Either spend money now to maintain streets, or have streets deteriorate to the point where remedies are more expensive.

“You either do the streets now, or you'll lose them.” He said the need for street repairs is obvious to anyone driving down the selected streets.

Mayor Claire Hannasch agreed.

“It is preventive maintenance. When streets start getting bad, the time to get them fixed is now. If we wait another five years, we could be looking at $38 a foot (the cost of a new street) instead of $5 a foot (for a mill and overlay).”

The mayor said that the low interest rates now available make it advantageous for the city to pursue a large street project.

Concerns aired
A public hearing allowed citizens to express their opinions.

Ken, Dave and Dan Anderson protested the proposed assessments for the former Central Livestock property, which abuts Front Street on the north.

Dave Anderson said it would be “unjust and unfair” for the property to be assessed the same amount as the homes and church along the south side of Front Street. Anderson said that, with 1,691 feet of frontage on Front Street, their proposed assessments for an overlay on the street would be about $4,000. Anderson didn't feel that was fair, since the property has no access from Front Street, he doesn't drive on Front, and the land is classed as agricultural, with a tax value of only $29,000.

The Andersons indicated they would appeal the proposed assessments.

Marv VanAcker, who lives on the corner of Morgan and First Street, said he didn't want to help pay for a paved street on First Street, which he said gets little traffic. “It's been gravel for 40 years and I see nothing wrong with it being gravel for another 40 years.”

Julie Wyffels said she could see the need for improvements to Greenwood Ave., but not an adjacent side street.

Several Broadacres residents wrote to question the need and cost of street improvements in their neighborhood.

“Many in this area do not feel the roadway improvements are necessary. The roads are in good condition,” wrote Betty Pool. “Many living in this area are on fixed incomes. A tax of this size will create a hardship on us. Do the elderly and low-income need to be given additional burdens?”

Home sweet home...Bakker sisters move into own house

Stephanie and Holly Bakker once faced an uncertain future.

Born with Down's Syndrome in New York State 26 summers ago, the identical twins were given up for adoption by young parents who were unable to care from them.

Yet last week, the two young women might have been the happiest two people in Tracy. That is, unless you count their adoptive sister, Suzanne.

On Jan. 7, the Bakker sisters moved into their own home, a brand-new four-bedroom rambler in Tracy's Broadacres neighborhood. For the first time in their life, the Twenty-Something women are living independently from their adoptive parents, Irene and Guys Bakker.

“It's fantastic,” smiles Stephanie Bakker, describing her new house.

Holly seconds the motion.

“Welcome to my new home!” she says enthusiastically, gesturing for a visitor to come in.

Suzanne, who was born with cerebral palsy, has difficulty speaking. But the grin on her face expresses her happiness without words.

Residential group homes for adults with disabilities are nothing new. But the Bakker home is thought to mark the first time vulnerable adults in the region have owned their own house.

Oh, yes, the Bakker sisters do have help running the household. Habilitative Services Inc. of Windom provides around-the-clock services for the Bakkers and a fourth house resident, Judy Gordon. But it is the Bakker sisters who own the house, and it will be their money that pays monthly mortgage payments, house repairs, and property taxes.

“I'm so happy for them,” comments Irene Bakker. “They are where they can be happy for the rest of their lives. It is a nice home for them and they have wonderful people to take care of them.”

As she and her husband have gotten older, Mrs. Bakker said they have worried about who would take care of the girls if something happened to them. Now their minds are at ease.

“This is wonderful,” Mrs. Bakker says of the new house. The home is in the same neighborhood where the girls grew up, just a block away from the senior Bakkers' home. “They've got real good neighbors who know them. It's ideal.”

• • •

The house was custom-made for the Bakkers by North Star Modular Homes of Tracy and Marshall. Hallways are extra wide to allow maneuvering room for wheel chairs. A front door ramp provides step-free accessibility. An elevator connects the basement and first floor.

Like most new houses, some improvement projects will be done as time and money allow. A backyard deck, off the kitchen patio, is a goal for the summer. A concrete driveway ends at an empty expanse of mud next to the house.

“There wasn't enough money for the garage,” Mrs. Bakker relates. “Maybe someday...”

Planning for the house took several years. Mrs. Bakker credits Ann Meyer, a Lyon County social worker, and Dennis Collins, of the Association of Retarded Citizens, with helping make the house become a reality. A 30-year, low-interest loan was secured from Rural Development. The lot at 712 Randall, which had been tax-forfeited, was purchased from the City of Tracy for a nominal sum.

Down payment money came from a trust fund that had been set up for Holly when she was eight.

Once the house plans were finalized, a sister, Abby, was asked if she wanted to move into the house too. But Abby, who lives at an HSI operated group home at 260 Harvey Street, decided to stay where she was.

“She is happy where she is,” Mrs. Bakker explained. “She decided she would miss her housemates too much.”

After Abby opted out, the Bakkers learned of Judy Gordon, who was then living at the Prairie View Healthcare Center. Gordon pays rent to the Bakkers.

“It is a wonderful place,” Gordon says of the new home. Like each of the Bakker sisters, Gordon has her own bedroom.

• • •

Because of the special needs of the residents, the house is staffed by Habilitative Services 24-hours a day, except when the residents are at weekday jobs. Two people work during the day. One person stays through the night.

Residents and staff function like a family, with specific responsibilities and jobs assigned to each person. Like any house, there's work to be done, and residents pitch in with making meals, doing dishes, laundry and cleaning.

The idea is to provide help for residents when needed, but otherwise allow them to live as independently as possible.

Weekdays, the Bakker sisters and Gordon work at the ECCO Developmental Achievement Center in Downtown Tracy. Holly and Stephanie also work at Tracy Food Pride and at Prairie View.

Sue Muenchow is the HSI team leader at the Bakker house, with Linda Guild the assistant. Gloria Zabel, Carla Pemble Dorothy Eischens, Marianne Ankrum, Dan Zimansky, Deb Skoglund, and Cindy Rignell are the other staff members at the house. Some are full-time, others part-time.

• • •

Holly, Stephanie, and Suzanne are three of eight children who were adopted by the Bakkers in the 1970s and 1980s. Each child was born with some type of disability.

Before the adoptions, Guys and Irene also had four boys of their own. Jerry, Lonnie, Mike and Danny Bakker now range in age from 36 to 49.

“Our boys were getting older and we decided that we'd like to offer a home to some other children,” Mrs. Bakker remembers. “A social worker asked us if we would consider children with handicaps. I said, “why not?”

Abby and Betsy, two sisters with Down's Syndrome, were the first children the Bakkers adopted 25 years ago. Abby, now 30, lives at the Harvey Street group home, while Betsy lives at a RIM group home in Marshall.

Holly and Stephanie were adopted 23 years ago when they were three.

“At first they were only going to let us to adopt one, but I said, `no,' I wouldn't take them unless we could take both of them. Twins belong together.”

Suzanne, now 21, was adopted 15 years ago from Korea.

Jeffrey Bakker, 23; also lives at a RIM home in Marshall. Brian, 28, and Sheri Lynn, 20, still live at home.

The children all attended Tracy Public Schools and earned high school diplomas. Raising the children, Mrs. Bakker says, has been a blessing.

“They grew up like they were all brothers and sisters. It's been a great experience. They have taught us a lot about what's important in life.”

But why did she and her husband say “yes” to so many children in need?

“Everyone deserves a chance to have a happy life,” she answers.

Panther football invited to join Little Sioux Conference

A possible conference move could mean less travel for the Panther football team next year.

Activities Director Bill Tauer informed the school board Monday that Tracy Area High School has been asked to join the Little Sioux Conference for football.

Tauer feels there could be several advantages to joining the Little Sioux Conference, which includes Minneota, Canby, Murray County Central, Adrian, Russell-Tyler-Ruthton, Ortonville, Fulda, and Dawson-Boyd. Advantages include less traveling distance, and competing with schools that are closer to the same size as TAHS.

“The benefit would be for our kids,” Tauer said.

Football coach Joe Kemp told the board he also likes the idea of joining the Little Sioux Conference. He especially likes the idea of rivalries with towns that are closer to Tracy, where players might know some of their opponents.

Some concern was raised from board members whether leaving the 212 Conference in football would affect other sports. Tauer told the board that the remainder of TAHS sports would remain in the 212 Conference. He said that MACCRAY has also been asked to join the Little Sioux Conference, and that if they decide to join, they will approach the 212 Conference together about their plan. Should the two schools be asked to choose between leaving the 212 Conference entirely or keeping the football program in the 212 Conference, both would choose to stay in the 212 Conference.

It was the consensus of the board to go ahead with the move if the TMB Joint Powers Committee is also in favor. Tauer will bring the matter to the Joint Powers Committee before the Jan. 28 school board meeting, at which time a final decision will be made.

SSU clean-up continues
Campus remains closed, Jan. 28 is target date for resuming classes

Mountains of crumbled brick and cement chunks mark the site of the former Food Service East building at Southwest State University

Inside the neighboring student center, where someone scrawled “Go Mustangs” on a soot-covered countertop, the acrid odor of smoke still lingers.

Ten days after the Jan. 2 fire that destroyed SSU's food service building, media personnel were invited to the sealed-off campus for a supervised tour. Tim Alcorn, SSU Director of University Relations, explained why the campus remains closed to the public.

“Our clean-up efforts have made a lot of progress, which is very encouraging, but the campus must remain closed now to maintain the integrity of the air system,” he said on the Jan. 11 tour. Non-authorized people must stay away so that clean-up efforts can continue at full force, he emphasized.

Scott Norton of Environmental Process Incorporated is heading clean-up efforts. “At any given time, 260 people are out there working. Work is going on 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

The vigorous efforts are part of a plan to resume classes by Jan. 28. The goal is to return campus life to as near normal as possible, Alcorn said. Because the student center, a favorite student hang-out, is one of the buildings that will remain inaccessible the longest, special events will be held in alternate facilities.

“We'll bring in comedians and live bands, just as before,” Alcorn maintained, “it will be a challenge to make up for this loss to the students.”

Demolition of the food service building, judged a total loss, was approved Friday.

The, adjacent Founder's Hall sustained the next most damage and will be among the last buildings to be cleaned and reoccupied. For the meantime, Founder's Hall offices are being relocated.

The relocation process is anything but simple. First, contractors identify salvageable equipment and furnishings. Then items must be cleaned, loaded to a truck and undergo “ozoning” before being moved to a new location.

“Ozoning,” as Norton explains it, “removes the smoky odor from the materials.” The process is also being throughout the buildings.

“We force air out with a HEPA unit,” Norton continued. “The letters stand for high efficiency particle absolute. It pushes out 24,000 cubic feet of air per minute.” The air is not simply evacuated, but filtered first. The quality of the internal air is then evaluated to see if it complies with standards.

City gets $99,600 insurance payment

City of Tracy recently received an unexpected $99,600 from an insurance carrier.

Principal Life, the city's health insurance carrier, sent the city a check for $99,670, it was explained to Tracy City Council members. Because the company recently “de-mutualized,” ownership shares that the city had earned were sold. The city's share from the sale was the $99,670.

Tracy City Council members agreed with an administrative recommendation to, for the time being, put the money in the city's Swimming Pool Improvement Fund.

Council members felt it would be unwise to leave the money in the city's general fund. because of the possibility of cuts in state aid based on general fund balances held by cities.

Council members indicated that they would decide what to do with the money at a later date. One possibility, they indicated. Another possibility suggested was to earmark money for downtown improvements.

Jr. High Knowledge Bowl teams test tourney skills

The Tracy Junior High Knowledge Bowl team competed in sub-region competition Thursday in Windom.

Tracy's No. 1 team finished 28th out of 48 teams with 67 points. The No. 2 Tracy team finished 37th with 62 points. The third Tracy team was 41st with 60 points.

This is the first year that Tracy has fielded a junior high Knowledge Bowl team. Eileen Schimming is the students' advisor.

Tracy Knowledge Bowl participants were:

Ninth grade: Anthony Vroman.

Eighth grade: Jackie Coulter, Nicole Hansen, Stacy LaVoy, Corey Lanoue, David Schiller, Krysta Tholen.

Seventh grade: Aurora Beltran, Ann Byrne, Celia Brockway, Dan Dieter, Jessica Mason, Julia Olson, Logan Sanow, Nick Soupir.

Tracy Knowledge Bowl team wins local meet

A Tracy Knowledge Bowl team had a clean sweep Monday night, winning every match in a meet held at Tracy Area High School.

The Tracy team—comprised of Mark Freeburg, Eric Nelson, Hank Schewe, Ryan Stobb, Tony Stephens, and Tina Gervais—topped the field with 59 points. A team from Springfield was second with 45, followed by Marshall with 41.

Thirty teams from 11 schools competed. Other top-scoring teams were: Murray County Central, 37; Tracy 2, 32. Tracy's second team consisted of Darin Hansen, Reuben Flesner, Shanna Lowe, Ryan Peterson, Randall Bornitz, and Anders Davidson.

The Tracy Knowledge Bowl team travels to Wabasso Monday, Jan. 21. Plans are to reorganize Tracy's two teams into three.