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News from the week of October 22, 2003

Technology march continues for Tracy Public Schools

300 computers in two schools reflect changes in education

By Val Scherbart Quist

Walk down the halls at Tracy's schools, and it's obvious that technology is all around. Certainly much has changed since the days of 100 years ago when students solved math problems on slate using chalk.

Today, technology is as much a mainstay in the classroom as pencils and paper. It's also a part of education that is constantly evolving.

Nan Ladehoff, who has served as the district's technology coordinator for the past 10 years, has seen this evolution take place. When she began the job, the district was using Apple GS computers that had very little memory, which was measured in kilobytes.

Ladehoff brought the idea of a new networking system to then-superintendent Harold Remme, who was receptive to the idea. The first portion of the project was to wire the west end of the high school, which cost $22,000.

“We were the first district in this area to invest in technology,” said Ladehoff.

The east end of the high school was wired the following year. The entire elementary school was wired the third year. After the elementary was wired, the district buried its own fiber and connected the two buildings together, making information accessible from anywhere in the district's buildings. The district was also the first in the area to get Internet access.

Today, there are about 300 computers being used in the district. This is compared to about 40 computers 10 years ago.


Health-care forum set Thursday night

The "economic impact of health care" is the theme of a community forum sponsored by Tracy Area Medical Services this week.

The event is set Thursday, Oct. 23, 7 p.m., in the Tracy Area High School cafeteria. All interested people are invited to attend.

David Nelson, University of Minnesota Extension economist, will present information on how hospitals, clinics, nursing homes and other medical services affect communities financially.

"We are hoping community leaders of all genders, age groups and professions will attend this meeting and possibly participate in subsequent planning sessions," said Carol "Cookie" Cooreman, director of Community Relations/Marketing for Tracy Area Medical Services, Murray County Memorial Hospital, and the Westbrook Health Center.

In addition to the economic data, the forum will also focus on how local medical services are being used by area residents.

Cooreman explained:

"Recent studies have shown that Tracy Area Medical Services is currently providing health-care services to only approximately 30% of residents in our services area. Those same studies also show that to remain a viable community entity, and expand and sustain the scope of services we offer, that number needs to increase to 50% or more."


Christmas Tree Walk set for Downtown Tracy

A Christmas Tree Walk is being planned for Downtown Tracy this holiday season.

The Tracy Business Partnership hopes to have 30 evergreens decked out in holiday finery for the event. The Christmas Tree Walk is planned at Jacobsen Park, at the corner of South and Fourth streets.

Area businesses and organizations can sponsor a tree for $30. The business partnership will have evergreens erected in the park by Nov. 15. Sponsors are responsible for decorating their tree by Nov. 23.

Deb Schenkoske, who is helping organize the event, said the park was chosen because of its appearance and its downtown location. The Hoe & Hope Garden Club maintains a garden in the park. Outdoor lighting for the park was recently donated by Lights and Beyond.

The decorated trees will remain in place through the holiday season. Decorations should be taken down by Jan. 3, when the evergreens will be removed. Schenkoske notes that the business partnership can not be responsible for any decorations that are vandalized or stolen.

Participation in the Christmas Tree Walk is open to all area organizations, clubs, churches, and businesses. To reserve a tree, people can call Schenkoske at 212-2400 or the Tracy Chamber of Commerce at 629-4021.


Tracy selected for technology group

Tracy has been selected for the Minnesota rural Broadband Promotion Project.

Robert Gervais, Tracy Community Development director, said he was notified of Tracy's selection Monday. Tracy is one of nine Minnesota towns with populations of less than 2,500 selected. Minnesota towns with populations of less than 2,500 selected. Minnesota Rural Partners, based in Redwood Falls, is organizing the broadband project. The Blandin Foundation of Grand Rapids is providing financial support.

"It's a step in the right direction," said Gervais.

The Tracy Economic Development Authority gave their blessings to the application at their October 3 meeting and committed $2,000 to the project.

The stated goal of the Minnesota Rural Broadband Promotion Project is to "help communities with fewer than 2,500 residents increase the use of high-speed Internet and technology by citizens, businesses, and community organizations."

The broadband project would promote economic development by "helping businesses become more productive through the use of technology."


School's general fund balance shows increase

Needs of aging bus fleet discussed

By Val Scherbart Quist

The Tracy Area Public Schools Board of Education heard a favorable audit report this week.

Jim Nester of Nester and Nester, CPAs, presented the information to the board at their regular meeting Monday night.

In the general fund, the budgeted fund balance was $956,028, and the actual fund balance was $1,075,114, for a favorable variance of $119,086. The special revenue fund also had a favorable balance, of $6,636.

Also reflected was the $594,795 spent on capital projects.

The district has installed a new heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system at both the elementary and high schools. The first phase of the $1.3 million project is reflected in the 2002-2003 audit. Nester told the board that the inclusion of this number somewhat skews the total picture for the district. With the capital projects included, the district went backwards by $433,678 during the fiscal year 2002-2003.

“If you throw out the capital projects, you were in the positive,” Nester said.

The only reportable condition listed in the audit was that the district does not maintain adequate segregation of duties among its accounting personnel. Nester told the board that this is a problem within all small school districts.

Transportation

District transportation Bob Bruder presented transportation purchase projections to the board. At a previous meeting, the board had discussed getting back on a set replacement schedule, and requested the information Bruder presented.

Bruder told the board that the district has not bought a new bus in more than five years. He said he has been looking into costs on late-model buses.


Chief: Early morning fire at compost dump set illegally

Tracy firemen were called out to a fire at the Tracy compost dump at 4 a.m. Tuesday.

Fire Chief Dennis Vandeputte said the fire appeared to have been deliberately set.

"It looked like it had been recently lit, because of the way it was burning and some of the things we found out there." One possibility, he said, is that someone brought some household debris out to the site, and then set it on fire. Bits of bedding and clothing were found on the west side of the burn pile. Dumping household garbage and debris is prohibited at the site. Only lawn and garden clippings and tree branches are allowed at the dump.

Public Works Director Rick Robinson said that City of Tracy crews have not lit the dump large brush pile since January.

Most of the fire department's trucks were at the compost site until 5:30 a.m. The last two trucks left at 6:45 a.m.

The early morning fire call made for a short evening of sleep for many firemen. Monday night, the department had a fire-fighting drill at a vacant house on Union Street.

Friday, firemen were called to a field of corn stubble south of the compost site and north of the Wheels Across the Prairie Museum. That fire was ignited by a pickup being driven in the field. The pickup was pulling a trailer and skid loader.