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News from the week of December 11, 2002

Victim of pellet-gun shooting improves, remains hospitalized

An 18-year-old Tracy man remained hospitalized in stable condition Tuesday recovering from a pellet gun wound suffered on Dec. 2.

Christopher Grindeland was listed in fair condition at Sioux Valley Hospital in Sioux Falls Tuesday. Grindeland was been shot in the face by a .22 caliber pellet gun on Dec. 2, according to a statement from the Tracy Police Department. The pellet struck Grindeland in an eye socket. The incident took place at the Antler Apartments in Tracy.

A 16-year-old juvenile male was taken into custody following the shooting.

Police Chief Bryan Hillger said Monday that it is thought that the shooting was accidental and that the 16-year-old did not intend to shoot Grindeland. However, Hillger said, the juvenile was pointing the gun at Grindeland when it discharged.

Tracy Police and the Tracy Ambulance Service responded to the 911 call at 4:05 p.m. Dec. 2. Grindeland was first transported to the Tracy Hospital emergency room, and then transferred by air ambulance to Sioux Falls.

An investigation is being conducted by the Tracy Police Department, the Lyon County Sheriff's Department, and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

City, school at odds over Pavilion lease

Differing interpretations of a Prairie Pavilion lease have City of Tracy and Tracy Public School leaders headed for a wrestle-off, of sorts.

At issue is whether District 417 leaders have the right, under the terms of the lease, to hold home Panther wrestling matches at any site besides the Prairie Pavilion.

School leaders feel the answer to that question is “yes.” As a result, the Panthers' first home wrestling match of the season was held at the high school on Dec. 5. Home Panther wrestling matches have been run at the Prairie Pavilion for the past four winters, beginning in the fall of 1998. By holding the Dec. 5 wrestling meet at the school, District 417 avoided paying the rental fee that it has been charged at the Pavilion.

City leaders contend that language in the lease requires the school to hold its home wrestling meets at the Pavilion, and to pay the rental fees listed in the contract.

Tracy City Council members held at special meeting at 7 a.m. Monday to discuss the issue. A motion passed by the council, instructed City Administrator Audrey Koopman and two council members to request a meeting with two school board members and Supt. of Schools Rick Clark. Subsequently, the school board, at the recommendation of Dr. Clark, has sought to meet directly with city council members Monday night. Tentatively, the council and school board are scheduled hash over the issue Monday, Dec. 16, at 6:30 p.m. at city hall.

Buyers still interested in motel if fuel tank question is resolved

What happened to the underground fuel tanks at the gas station that was once located on the present Cozy Grove Motel property?

The question's answer is more than a bit of Tracy trivia. The existence or non-existence of the fuel tanks might determine whether new buyers purchase and remodel the motel.

Roger Sax, a Lakeville real estate broker representing the prospective buyer, said Monday that his clients remain very interested in purchasing the Cozy Grove. The only obstacle preventing the sale, he said, is the possibility that underground fuel tanks may still exist on the property. His clients, he stressed, do not wish to assume any future liability risks that could arise from the existence of underground fuel tanks.

Sax said that he is negotiating with the motel's owner to conduct environmental tests that prove or disprove the fuel tanks' existence. Preliminary tests did not turn up evidence of tanks, but were not conclusive. However, a 1962 notation on the property's abstract refers to two underground 1,000-gallon fuel tanks.

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The Cozy Grove was built along Hwy. 14 in 1953. A picture of the Cozy Grove dated in 1953 shows gasoline pumps in front of a small building at the approximate location of the present motel office. It is unknown when the gas station ceased operations.

Jim and Bob Samuelson, the original owners, sold the motel to Elmer and Cora Peterson. The next proprietors were Bill and Evelyn Callery. Jim Fritz and Phil Hess owned the motel for about six years before selling to Arden and Bette Klante. Bill Pell sold the property of JoAnne Burridge, who has operated the 22-unit Cozy Grove for 11 years.

Grassroots snowdrifts seen from state budget blizzard

Worsening state budget projections have local government officials bracing for the impact.

“It looks like a fairly big snowball is headed our way,” commented Greg Lewis, Lyon County administrator on Thursday.

One day earlier, the Minnesota Department of Finance released a budget forecast showing a $4.5 billion deficit over the next 2 1/2 years. An estimated $356 million of the shortfall is estimated between now and June 30, 2003. Another $4.2 billion shortfall is predicted for the state's two-year budget that runs from July 1, 2003 to June 30 of 2005.

“I just about fell off my chair,” said Tracy City Administrator Audrey Koopman, of her reaction to the state shortfall. She said she'd expected the budget news to be bad, but never imagined that the shortfall would have risen to $4.5 billion.

The most recent projection is significantly larger than earlier forecasts. Prior to the Dec. 4 announcement, the deficit was estimated at $3 billion. A still earlier projection set the shortfall at $1.6 billion. Since the state constitution requires a balanced budget, the 2003 legislature and Governor-elect Tim Pawlenty must reduce spending and/or increase revenues to balance the budget during the 2003 legislative session.

Lewis considers it likely that Lyon County will see reductions in state aid.

“The magnitude of the reductions could be quite significant.”

Tracy Supt. of Schools Rick Clark is expecting state budget-balancing measures will include delays in sending money that's been promised for K-12 public education.

“It's going to be a cash flow issue with us.” Postponements in getting money from the state, will require District 417 to borrow more money and increase operating costs, the superintendent said. Having to borrow more money in order to pay bills could increase annual school operating costs by tens of thousands of dollars, he indicated.

The Tracy City Council plans to levy an extra $94,000 in property taxes for 2003 to cushion expected rollbacks from the state. The $94,000 represents a 10% cut in state aid. Koopman worries that even that might not be enough, in light of the growing state deficit.

EDA discusses delinquent loans

More than $60,000 worth of delinquent business loans confront the Tracy Economic Development Authority (EDA).

Friday morning, EDA members discussed how to deal with past-due loans from three now-closed downtown Tracy businesses—Maxine's Cuisine, Cordials & Catering, Enderson Clothing, and the Super P-Plus Asian grocery store.

The original loan for Maxine's, taken out by Marilyn Frederickson, in May of 2000, was $24,500. Three payments were made in 2000 and the restaurant closed in spring of 2001. Frederickson subsequently filed for bankruptcy. The EDA had a second mortgage on the building, but EDA consensus Friday was that the city has virtually no chance of recovering money.

DiJohn Clothing, a partnership comprised of John Swanson and Dianne Kamrud, received a $25,000 loan to help them purchase Enderson Clothing in November of 1999. The partnership made interest payments on the loan until April of 2001. The business closed in May of 2002.

It was reported at Friday's meeting that Swanson had filed for bankruptcy. EDA member Jim Garvin said that under bankruptcy laws, Swanson can not be pursued for collection of the delinquent loan. The board instructed Gervais to set up a meeting with Kamrud to discuss the loan repayment. The EDA has a security interest in the former Enderson building, but not a first mortgage.

The P Plus loan for $13,000 was given out in January of 2000. Owner John Herr made monthly payments of $95.71 until September of 2001. The store closed several months later.

Uff da! Lefse, lutefisk whet appetites at senior center

By Val Scherbart Quist

Volunteers from the Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) cooked up a Scandinavian treat last week as a fund-raiser for the Tracy Senior Center.

The idea to make and sell lefse came following a lutefisk supper at the Senior Center, which was also held to help fund building improvements. A packed house of 65 people attended the dinner, and RSVP and the Lion's Club helped with the event.

“We hope to do the lutefisk dinner again,” said RSVP coordinator Sheila Leonard. “We had a good turnout and had lots of compliments.”

Leonard and Senior Dining Coordinator Lola Cooreman said the lutefisk dinner was so well attended that a second seating is being considered for next year.

One of the most popular features of the meal was the homemade lefse.

“The lefse was a hit, so we decided we would make extra lefse to sell,” said Leonard.

Leonard and several volunteers made the lefse for both the lutefisk dinner and the lefse sale. Some had made lefse before; others had not. In all, the volunteers made about 20 dozen pieces of lefse.

Proceeds from this year's lutefisk dinner and lefse sale will go toward improvements, which include putting in new carpet and lowering the ceiling.

Looking to buy some lefse for the holiday season? Sorry, the batch made last week is already sold out.

“This has just been awesome,” Leonard said.