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News from the week of October 23, 2002

Services set for former mayor & councilman

Ken Anderson served 21 years

Ken Anderson, former Tracy mayor and longtime city councilman, is being remembered this week.

Anderson, 77, died Tuesday at the Prairie View Healthcare Center in Tracy. Visitation is scheduled from 5 to 7 p.m. at St. Mary's Catholic Church Thursday, Oct. 24, with a prayer service set at 7 p.m. Funeral services are planned Friday, Oct. 25, at 1 p.m. at St. Mary's.

“I really respected him a lot,” said Jan Otto-Arvizu, who served with Anderson on the council during the 1980s and early 1990s. “It meant a lot to him to serve on the council. He felt really strongly about being a watchdog for the city, making sure that the taxpayers' money was being spent wisely, and that everyone was doing their job and working hard.”

Anderson, who was involved most of his life in the trucking business, was first elected to the city council in 1969. He was elected mayor in 1987, and took office in January of 1988, serving a four-year term. All told, Anderson served 21 years on the council.

Otto-Arvizu said she appreciated that Anderson could disagree with people, but not let a difference of opinion become personal. “He always treated me with respect, even if we disagreed.” Although people sometimes got the impression that Anderson was a gruff man, he really wasn't, Otto-Arvizu said.

“He was pretty precious. We became pretty good friends.”

She said Anderson had the ability to look on an issue with an open mind, and change his opinion if the facts warranted. For example, she said Anderson originally felt the city couldn't afford to make improvements to the city airport during his mayoral term. He changed his mind, after he became convinced of its importance to the city, she said.

Lake septic inspections planned for next year

Septic system inspections for homes and businesses in the Shetek-Sarah lakes area will begin next year, said Chris Hanson, Murray County Water Resources Administrator.

Inspections will continue for a three- to four-year period on all systems older than five years without certification.

Certified inspectors will conduct inspections, Hanson said.

“The vast majority will need to be inspected,” he said. The number of inspections could reach 400-500 when all is said and done.

He said that if a system doesn't comply, the landowner will have a year to put in a new system, unless it is an imminent health threat. In that case, landowners will have 90 days to fix the system.

Hanson said the types of systems installed will likely vary depending on soil conditions. He expects that many of the new systems will be at-grade or mound systems.

Cluster systems are a possibility in some areas, he said. While this may be a good option for some, it may not necessarily be a money-saving option, however. Earlier estimates for a cluster system were as high as $12,000 to $15,000, he said.

Hanson said this option can be especially expensive around lakes, where lots are smaller and certain setbacks must be kept. Different permits may also apply for larger systems.

Most Tracy students have home computer & Internet

A vast majority of Tracy students have computers in the home, according to a recent student survey.

The survey showed that 91 percent of Tracy students in grades K-12 have computers at home. Only nine percent do not. Staff members were also surveyed.

Of those who have computers, most have PCs (Dell, Compaq, etc.)—84 percent. Only eight percent have Macintosh computers, while 1.7 percent have both.

The majority of these computers, 53 percent, are one to three-years old. Twenty-one percent less than a year old. Twenty-six percent are more than three years old.

Eighty-six percent of those surveyed also have Internet access at home.

Eighty-three percent said their home computer is used for the Internet. Seventy-eight percent said their computer is used to do homework, and 81 percent said it is used for e-mail.

The number of students who use the computer at home generally increased with the age of the student. Freshmen reported the highest usage for homework, at 71 percent. Forty out of 47 fourth graders reported using the computer for e-mail.

Fifty-eight percent said their parents use the computer for business or record-keeping.

About 40 percent of Tracy students said their computer is used an average of one to three hours every day. Thirty-six percent said they believed their computer was used for more than three hours every day, and 23 percent said their computer was used for less than one hour every day.

Dr. Clark submits resignation

Tracy Public Schools will need to begin a search for a new Superintendent of Schools.

Dr. Rick Clark, Tracy Supt. of Schools since the middle of the 1997-98 school year, has submitted his resignation to District 417 School Board members.

Dr. Clark told the Headlight-Herald Wednesday morning that he was mailing the resignation letter Wednesday, and board members would likely receive the letter on Thursday.

"It's time for me to move on," he said. The superintendent, who indicated that he has begun looking for a new position, siad that he is proud of what he has accomplished during his tenure.

The resignation is effective June 30, 2003.

Monday night, the Board of Education postponed until Novembers 25, a decision on whether to renew the superintendent's contract beyond June 30.

Dr. Clark came to Tracy from Brandon, S.D., where he served as the high school's activity director. He earned his doctorate degree from the Univesity of South Dakota in 1996. He succeeded Harold Remme, who resigned in the fall of 1997 to accept the superintendency with New Ulm Public Schools.

EDA returns $1.2 million

No lasting consequences expected from bonding snafu

What happens when someone sends you a $1.2 million check, and then asks for the money back within the hour?

That's the unusual situation that faced the Tracy Economic Development Authority and the City of Tracy recently, during a process to refinance O'Brien Court bonds at a lower interest rate. The city and EDA returned the money, which was to be used to pay-off older bonds bearing a higher interest rate. But efforts are underway to complete the refinancing. No repercussions are expected from the glitch, except for about a 30-day delay in getting the lower interest rate bonds.

“It's just more paperwork,” said Community Development Director Robert Gervais, in an update to EDA members Friday morning.

Finance Director Dave Spencer said that the snafu arose when bond consultants belatedly realized that the Sioux Valley Health Network manages and leases O'Brien Court from the EDA. (The lease arrangement didn't exist when O'Brien Court's bonds were originally sold in 1994). Bond consultants became concerned that Sioux Valley's role would jeopardize the tax-exempt status of the new bonds. However, Spencer said that using different language in the refinancing documents will take care of that concern. The bond refinancing is expected to proceed as scheduled in about 30 days.

The good news for the EDA and Sioux Valley is that once refinancing is completed, the savings from lower interest rates will be substantial. The new interest rate will average 3.66%, compared with 5.491% on the O'Brien Court bonds sold in 1994. O'Brien Court's bonded debt payment will decline by $929 a month when the new interest rates take effect.

The original 1994 O'Brien Court bond issue of $1.7 million has now been paid down to about $1,220,000.

Call Center prospects

Gervais said that two parties—one from Virginia and the other from South Dakota—remain interested in the business plan that the EDA has developed for a call center. A third party from the Twin Cities has expressed interest in farming out work to a Tracy center.

Gervais said he is assisting the parties in looking for suitable facilities.

`PrairieWave' succeeds McLeodUSA in Tracy

The transition from McLeodUSA to PrairieWave Communications is underway in Tracy.

Letters announcing the change were recently sent out to customers. Telephone calls to the firm's Downtown Tracy office are answered with a two-part greeting: “McLeodUSA—PrairieWave.” Beginning Nov. 1, the greeting will be changed to only PrairieWave Communications.

Tracy is one of 36 communities where former McLeodUSA cable television, Internet, and telecommunications systems have been acquired by PrairieWave. The change became effective Oct. 1.

McLeodUSA merged with the Dakota Telecommunication Group in 1999. Many people from Dakota Telecommunications Group's senior management are involved in the newly-formed PrairieWave Communications.

Craig Anderson, chairman and chief executive officer of PrairieWave, said the company will have a special commitment to small markets.

“PrairieWave was organized to serve the special needs of small communities and their citizens.” He said the company intends to offer new products and service to customers as quickly as they become commercially available.

PrairieWave communities are:

Minnesota—Tracy, Marshall, Currie, Slayton, Lake Wilson, Edgerton, Pipestone, Luverne, Adrian, Worthington.

South Dakota—Madison, Colman, Flandreau, Santee Sioux Tribe, Harrisburg, Tea, Canton, Vibor, Centerville, Yankton, Elk Point, North Sioux City, Watertown.

Iowa—Storm Lake, Lakeside.

PrairieWave has advanced network control centers in Viborg and Marshall; a new customer service center in Viborg; and administrative and operations headquarters in Sioux Falls. The firm has over 200 employees.

Following the DTG and McLeodUSA merger three years ago, the company built fiber-optic networks in many small communities, including Tracy. But a national recession that hit technology companies especially hard forced McLeodUSA to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in February. A subsequent reorganization plan reduced company debt by about $3 billion and erased most stockholder equity. As part of its reorganization plan, McLeodUSA agreed to sell its directory-publishing branch and other assets not essential to its core operation.

Brent Norgaard, PrairieWave's new vice president and chief operating officer, is upbeat the company's prospects.

“We're excited to bring the focus of our company back to the towns we serve. Local presence and high quality service are very important to us, and will be enhanced by our new operations.”