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News from the week of October 29, 2003

Tracy health-care impact? $17 million

What is the economic impact of local health-care services?


The adjective sums up a mountain of statistics presented at a community forum sponsored by Tracy Area Medical Services Thursday. The forum presented the findings of a Rural Health Works study that evaluated the economic effect of health-care services in the combined Tracy, Slayton, and Westbrook market areas.

How big is huge? The study presented these findings:

• There are 340 health-care jobs in Tracy, generating an estimated $7.6 million in payroll and benefits. An additional 60 related jobs exist in Tracy because of health-care, bringing the total estimated annual economic impact of health care in Tracy to $17 million.

• An estimated 891 health-care jobs exist in the "Shetek service area," (Tracy-Slayton-Westbrook) accounting for $20 million in annual payroll and benefits. An additional 156 jobs exist because of health-care services, bringing the total economic impact of health care in the Shetek service area to $48 million.

The Shetek service area is defined as all of Murray County, Tracy, Balaton, Garvin and Amiret in Lyon County; Walnut Grove, Revere, Lamberton, and Milroy in Redwood counties; and Westbrook, Storden, and Jeffers in Cottonwood County. In addition to hospital and clinic services, the study also included health-care services such as nursing homes, pharmacy, dental and assisted living.

"Health care is a significant cylinder in your economic engine," said David Nelson, a University of Minnesota Extension Service economist, as he presented the report's findings.

The study estimated the local "revenue capture" for health-care spending in Tracy at 62%. The same 62% was estimated for the entire Shetek Hospitals group.

Nelson said that local people should ask what could happen if consumers spent more of their health-care dollars locally.

"You have potential. Can you turn it up a notch?" Nelson said.

The Rural Health Works report said that the economic development potential of health-care is often overlooked in rural areas.

"Very few rural communities have realized the full potential of local health care as an economic and community development tool. Rural communities have an extraordinary opportunity to shift the tide in their local economies and develop health care as a local business. The "warms you twice" adage of wood chopping also can be applied to health care. Every health care service provided locally benefits the rural community twice—first, it improves people's health, and second, it improves the health of the local economy."

Six seek four Tracy school board posts

Tracy Public School voters will select four people for the District 417 Board of Education next week.

Six candidates—including four incumbents—have filed for four, four-year terms. The incumbents are Dan Zimansky, Peggy Zwach, Steve Johnson, and Mike Carlson. Al Landa and Eric Fultz are the new names on the ballot.

Polls will be open from 5 to 8 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 4, in Tracy, Currie, Amiret, and Garvin. Voters must cast ballots in the precinct in which they reside. Precincts and voting places are:

Precinct one—(City of Currie, Murray Township, parts of Mason and Dovray townships), Currie City Hall.

Precinct two—(City of Garvin, Custer and Lake Sarah townships), Garvin Town Hall.

Precinct three—(Village of Amiret, Amiret and Sodus townships), Amiret Town Hall.

Precinct four—(City of Tracy, Monroe, Shetek, Holly, Springdale, and Gales townships), Tracy City Hall.

City aims to crack down on downtown storage use

The City of Tracy is moving forward with the prosecution of a possible ordinance violation at the former Coast-to-Coast building in Downtown Tracy.

Council members instructed the city's attorney office to move forward with the prosecution, based upon the results of a report from the city fire marshal and building inspector. The city is contending that the vacant building is being used for storage. City ordinance prohibits warehouses in the Central Business District.

Joe Smarzik, Walnut Grove, owns the property, having purchased the building at an auction in the late 1990s. The city attempted to contact Smarzik earlier this month by certified letter, but the letter was refused.

A certified letter was also sent to Jerry Gladis, owner of the former Family Fashions store building at 124 Third Street. The letter charged that Gladis was also in violation of the ordinance prohibiting warehouses in the Central Business District.

Lots of lefse? You betcha!

Preparations underway for Nov. 18 dinner

The sign still reads "Tracy Multi-Purpose Center." But one of these days, someone might put up a new placard: Tracy Lefse Factory. Uff Da!

Ya, sure. It's the same old building. But there's no denying that lefse pans have added sizzle to the senior center of late. Using an assembly-line operation that might make Betty Crocker envious, a group of seniors is frying up lefse by the dozens.

"We want to make up 50 dozen packages," explained Marvel Erbes Monday, as she formed the lefse mixture into tiny balls.

No, a co-worker suggested, it's going to be 60 dozen. Truth is, no one knows when the lefse-making will stop.

The lefse is being prepared for a holiday supper Nov. 18 at the multi-purpose center. For $10, diners of all nationalities can belly-up to a feast of Scandinavian delicacies. Besides lefse, the meal with include lutefisk, meatballs, fruit soup, rice pudding, rosettes, and spritz cookies. Mashed potatoes—no respectable Norwegian would eat lutefisk without potatoes—will also be served. Two settings are planned at 5 and 7 p.m.

Any packages of lefse remaining after the meal will be sold for $10 a dozen.

The Tracy lefse-making operation uses a from-scratch recipe. First potatoes are boiled and riced. Then the potatoes are mixed with sugar, flour, and salt. After being fingered into small balls, the lefse is rolled out into a thin sheet and fried until golden brown on both sides on a special lefse pan.

Security camera eyed for Tracy compost site

Modest restrictions on hours at the Tracy Compost Dump have gone into effect.

The new hours are from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week. Public Works Dept. employees will lock and unlock the gates Monday through Friday. Police will perform the honors Saturday and Sunday. The gates had been left unlocked at night.

City council members ordered that the gate be locked, after hearing that another major violation had occurred at the dump. A dump fire in the early morning hours of Oct. 21 was deliberately set, apparently to burn a mattress and box spring that had been dumped illegally at the dump, council members were told.

Public Works Director Rick Robinson was instructed to look into the cost of installing a security camera at the dump.

Robinson expressed concern about the number of illegal dumping incidents that have occurred at the compost site. Not only is it a big expense to clean up after illegal dumpers, Robinson reminded council members, but the city could also face a state fine and the possible closure of the dump from continued violations. Leaves, branches, garden debris and other biodegradable plant matter are the only items that are allowed at the compost site.

Council not interested in county law enforcement

Should the City of Tracy continue to have its own police force?

Or should Tracy buy law enforcement services from the county sheriff's department and disband its police force?

City Council members discussed those questions briefly Monday night, with a solid consensus emerging to maintain the city police department. Council members felt that most citizens want a local police department.

The discussion was prompted by a memo from City Administrator Audrey Koopman. Noting that the council had considered the county law enforcement option several years ago, she asked whether the council wanted to revisit the issue.

The city now has an opening on its four-man police department. Officer Tony Rolling will be leaving the department Nov. 6 in order to accept a deputy position with Lyon County. That will leave Police Chief Bryan Hillger with two officers: Matt Loftness and Kyle Mork.