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News from the week of March 10, 2004

Feasibility study to consider senior housing near hospital

Is there a need for a new senior housing complex near Tracy Hospital? Should O'Brien Court be transformed into an assisted living facility?

A consultant has been hired to study both questions, Tracy City Council members were told Monday night.

"We are doing some master facility planning," said Dan Reiner, chief executive officer for Tracy Area Medical Services. "We are going to look at the feasibility of having all or some of O'Brien Court being assisted living, as well as looking at a senior living facility south of the hospital." A new senior housing project, he said, could incorporate a new daycare center.

The complex could be built on vacant lots along Union Street, directly south of the hospital and O'Brien Court. TAMS has a purchase option on the lots.

O'Brien Court, Reiner indicated now has a vacancy problem, with eight vacant apartments, now open. (Three units are leased for hospital purposes).

"The young active seniors do not want to live at O'Brien Court," Reiner said. At the same time, the administrator said, O'Brien Court residents are getting older, and more in need of health care services.

Reiner indicated that the vision for the new senior apartment complex and O'Brien Court could be affected by other facility planning now underway for hospital and clinic services.

"There could be some synergy between the two projects," Reiner said.

The administrator said that the Sioux Valley Health System is paying for the Tracy senior housing study. Sioux Valley is the Sioux Falls, SD entity that manages and leases Tracy Hospital, Tracy Medical Clinic, and O'Brien Court. Sioux Valley also manages Murray County Hospital in Slayton, and the Westbrook HealthCare Center in Westbrook—facilities that share resources and programs with TAMS.

Milroy seeks more sharing with Tracy, breaks on costs

Representatives of the Milroy School District have asked District 417 for help in cutting expenses.

Tracy board members considered the Milroy requests Monday night, with the board agreeing to continue discussions with Milroy. Board consensus was that Tracy would work cooperatively with Milroy as much as possible. But reservations were also expressed about the limitations of District 417's ability to help Milroy.

A committee of Tracy and Milroy representatives met last week to discuss possible ways the Tracy district can help Milroy save money over the next two years. Tracy school board members Eric Nelson and Eric Fultz, along with Supt. David Marlette, represented District 417.

Milroy is currently in statutory operating debt, and will be about $130,000 in debt by the end of the school year. Milroy has applied for a kindergarten through fourth grade charter school as part of a plan to eliminate the district's debt while keeping current programs in place.

As part of a plan to get the remaining district out of operating debt by 2006, Milroy has requested several new areas of cooperation, and financial concessions from Tracy:

Marlette said that while he would like to be able to help Milroy out with several of the above issues, he felt uncomfortable in asking the Tracy community to subsidize the Milroy district in addition to their own. He said Tracy would in turn have to adjust in several areas to find the money that any adjustments may cost the Tracy district. He also expressed concern that whatever is done for Milroy would also have to be done for Balaton.

Train excitement steams up Currie

For the first time in perhaps half a century, a steam locomotive straddled the wooden turntable at the End-O-Line Railroad Park in Currie on Tuesday.

But unlike the sooty black leviathans that once worked Currie's rail yards, the ornate locomotive that arrived at End-O-Line Tuesday looked fancy enough for a Walt Disney fantasy. It's brass fittings and shiny trim paint gleamed in the dappled March sunshine.

"Isn't this wonderful?" exclaimed Maxine Piersen, longtime Murray County resident, as the locomotive arrived in Currie.

No one was heard disputing that sentiment in Currie Tuesday.

The 1875 Baldwin locomotive was trucked to Currie from the defunct Prairie Expo building in Worthington, where it had been an exhibit since 2000. After the Prairie Expo closed, the property's new owners gave the train to Murray County and the End-O-Line Railroad Museum and Park.

Van Dyke Movers of Chandler put the 48-foot locomotive and tender car on a flatbed trailer and trucked the unit to Currie Tuesday morning. The train engine and tender car arrived in Currie at about 9:45 a.m. Knots of people watched the unusual procession head north on Currie's main thoroughfare, past the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church and through downtown to End-O-Line on the north edge of town. Someone clanged the engine's brass bell as it passed.

Unloading the locomotive and tender car took more time than the trip from Worthington to Currie. But the unloading, that used a winch to pull the engine and car off a ramp, went without a hitch. Both pieces were moved first to End-O-Line's hand-operated turntable, and then to End-O-Line's engine house.

Plans are to permanently display the locomotive and tender car in the engine house. In order to accommodate the new acquisition, a 20-foot addition is planned for the engine house this spring. To make room for the train, some artifacts had to temporarily be moved from the engine house to a "coal bunker" building where tour groups often have picnics. Those items will be moved back to the engine house after the addition is complete.

New play equipment is okayed for park

If all goes as expected, children will be climbing over new playground equipment at Sebastian Park by mid-June.

Tracy City Council members have accepted bids for $47,472 worth of playground equipment that will be installed in an open area southwest of the Tracy Aquatic Center. Another $3,998 bid was also accepted wood chips that will go around the equipment. Set up of the colorful, pieces of modular playground equipment is scheduled for the first week of June.

Two clusters of playground equipment will be installed; one for toddlers and the other for older children. Each has a variety of slides, and play equipment. Concrete walkways will connect the equipment with the Tracy Aquatic Center parking lot.

A picnic shelter is also part of the project. Tracy Area High School shop students are building the shelter.

The City of Tracy is receiving a $30,000 grant from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to help pay for the improvements. City of Tracy employees will do most of playground equipment assembly.

The city council accepted the playground bids Monday night from Weber Recreational, after being advised by the city's park committee that the equipment meets all specifications. Flanagan Sales, Inc. submitted a proposal that cost $2,876 less than the Weber bid, but the committee felt that Flanagan didn't meet bid specifications.

Food shelf drive is Sunday

A community drive for the Tracy Food Shelf is planned Sunday, March 14. Volunteers from local churches will pick up food in a door-to-door campaign beginning at 2 p.m.

"People have been so good to the food shelf," comments Rosemary Hemmingsen, food shelf director. "We really appreciate all the support people give to the food shelf."

People who wish to give to the food shelf are asked to set out their donations in a clearly visible place. It is suggested that food be placed in a bag or box. Financial contributions are also appreciated. Checks, made out to the Tracy Food Shelf, can be placed in envelopes and put in bags or given directly to volunteers.

The March "Food Share" campaign is one of the food shelf's biggest drives of the year. Matching grants are available to boost the impact of food shelf donations during the month. Statewide, an estimated 3,700 congregations are participating in the Food Share effort. Major corporate donators include WCCO Radio and US Bank.

All non-perishable food donations are welcome. However, suggested food donations are: pancake mix, syrup, canned vegetables, spaghetti, spaghetti sauce, pork and beans, cereal, peanut butter, Hamburger Helper, and tomato sauce. The food staples are among the items included in food boxes given to food shelf recipients. Other food staples can often be purchased from the Second Harvest Food Co-op, at prices far below retail.

"There are some things that we can get really inexpensively through the food co-op," Hemmingsen said. "That's why cash donations go a long way."

Monetary contributions also used for vouchers that can be redeemed at Tracy grocery stores for the purchase of perishable items, such as eggs, milk, and meat.

The Tracy Food Shelf last year distributed 39,338 pounds of food in 496 food-shelf visits. That compares to 630 visits in 2002 and distributions of 35,555 pounds of food.

There were 152 food shelf beneficiaries. The recipients consisted of 81 Caucasian, 52 Hmong, and 19 Hispanic families. Sixty-eight families were first time users.

Speech team articulates No. 1 showing

the Tracy area High School speech team finished first among 22 schools at Montevideo Saturday.

"The team had an awesome day," said Suanne Christiansen, assistant coach. "They are realizing the success that hard work can bring. It's an exciting time as we work towards the end of the season and look forward to sub-sectional competition which is just two weeks away."

The Panthers did especially well in Storytelling, capturing first, second, and third. Senior Dani Jones placed first followed by sophomore Bobbi Buyck and freshman Celia Brockway. Eigth grader Brittnee Michael earned a ribbon in this category as well.

Thirty-firve Tracy students participated in the meet.

The team travels to Redwood Falls Saturday. Competition begins at 9 a.m. and is open to the public.