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News from the week of March 24, 2004

Aquatic center testing continues

Engineering experts now testing the Tracy Aquatic Center are expected to report their findings to the City of Tracy's legal team by April 1.

Assistant City Attorney Jim Kerr, who is working with Minneapolis attorney Jeffrey Coleman in preparing an aquatic center lawsuit for the city, told city council members Monday that the consultants' reports will be used in planning for the litigation. The Tracy legal team faces an April 15 court deadline to "amend its pleadings" in the litigation.

Testing and evaluation of the aquatic structure continues. Kerr recommended, and the council approved, additional tests by an outside engineering firm, with costs not to exceed $4,800. The council also approved, retroactively, $1,000 worth of surveying conducted at the aquatic center site last week.

Public Works Director Rick Robinson said that the surveying was done to determine whether the gutters on the aquatic center were installed level. Having the gutters level, he said, was an important factor in whether the aquatic center's mechanical system operated properly. Preliminary indications are that the gutters were installed significantly off grade, Robinson said.

Additional testing is needed, he added, to determine if any of the pipes underneath the pool are broken, or if there are cracks in welds.

Engineers are also analyzing the pool's 6,000-gallon a day water loss rate last summer, Robinson said, and are calculating how much of the loss could have been due to normal evaporation. A loss of 6,000 gallons a day, Robinson said, "was obviously too much."

The pool testing is being done by the engineering companies of Gremmer and Associates Consulting Engineers of Lakeville and WJE Engineers, Architects & Materials Scientists of Minneapolis. Earlier, Braun Intertec, also of Minneapolis, did extensive tests that included taking core samples from the pool shells.

Kerr said that representatives of pool contractors Olympic Pools and Salonek Construction, and the project engineer USAquatics, had visited the pool recently or were planning visits. Kerr said that, according to standard rules of engagement, there has been no direct communication between the parties about the on-going aquatic center tests.

More discussion set for parking lot pavilion

The much-discussed proposal to build an open-sided shelter across from Tracy City Hall is set for another round of discussion.

This winter, city council members decided to seek proposals for drawing up plans and specifications for the building. Monday night, the council considered a response submitted by Group II Architects of Marshall. Group II expressed interest, but asked to meet with a city committee to determine more precisely what type of building is wanted. Group II's response was the only one received by the city. City council members agreed to have city staff, as well as members of the Tracy Chamber of Commerce, meet with Group II.

Group II also recommended that a topographic survey be conducted on the proposed building site before the plans are drawn. Council consensus was to wait with the survey until after the initial meeting with Group II.

The proposed parking lot building has been discussed since last fall. Chamber of Commerce representatives have asked the city to provide financing for building. The open-sided pavilion would be about 60x120 feet with an overhead roof. Flaps that could pull down and enclose the building are an option. The structure would be used for special events, such as the Tracy spring sportsmen's show and the Box Car Days beer gardens.

The Chamber has offered to pay for half of the building's cost over a period a years, with $1,500 annual payments, plus 10% of the profits from the sportsmen's show.

Three bids—with prices ranging from $71,283 to $77,972—were considered for the structure in November. Council members rejected the bids, citing financial uncertainties facing the city. In December, after hearing business people voice support, the council voted to reconsider the project.

EDA loan guideline on job creation faces change

Should job creation continue to be a criteria for Tracy Economic Development Authority (EDA) business loans?

EDA members wrestled with that question last week.

The EDA now has a written guideline stating that one new job must be created for each $5,000 lent through the EDA's revolving loan program. However, EDA members are on the verge of dropping the written money-to-job guideline.

At a meeting last week, EDA members noted that the guideline has often not been followed in granting past loans. It was the board's consensus that it would be better to eliminate the written guideline, since the policy was not being followed.

"Each loan is unique," said EDA and city council member Tim Byrne, explaining why he felt it was difficult to have an iron-clad job requirement for EDA loans. The "ma and pa businesses" that the EDA typically lends money to, Byrne said, often don't employ many more people than the business owners.

Community Development Director Robert Gervais said that job-creation requirements were difficult to enforce. "What are you going to do if they don't create the jobs that they said they would?" he asked.

Board members were ready to vote on a motion eliminating the job guideline for business loans. But Mark Priegnitz said that he wanted it made clear the EDA should still have the authority to impose job criteria on future loans, even if the present dollar-to-job guideline was abolished.

Other EDA members agreed. Action on changing the job requirement for loans was postponed until their next meeting.

Speech team repeats as sub-section champ

17 advance to region tourney

The Tracy Area High School speech team repeated as Sub-section 11 speech champions, topping teams for Canby, Dawson Boyd, Lakeview, Minneota, Redwood Valley and Russell-Tyler-Ruthton. Redwood Valley was the runner-up.

Four Tracy students earned individual championships: Seniors Dani Jones in storytelling and Ann Lanoue in great speeches, sophomore Brad Lanoue in serious prose, and ninth grader Julia Olson in humorous.

Other students also earned a trip to the sectional tournament by placing in the top four.

Placing second were juniors Rebecca Gervais in great speeches and Kyle Lessman in serious prose, sophomores Dani Thooft in poetry and Casie Miller in drama, and ninth grader Jessica Mason in humorous.

Third-place section qualifiers were senior Johanna Schmidt in extemporaneous reading, junior Dane Bloch in original oratory, and eighth grader Rachel Stobb in creative expression.

Placing fourth were senior Yeng Xiong in informative, sophomore Jackie Vroman in discussion, ninth grader Celia Brockway in storytelling and seventh graders Carly Miller in serious prose and Melissa Noerenberg in poetry.

Alternatives are senior Erin McCoy in extemporaneous reading, eighth graders Jordan Christiansen in informative, Brittnee Michael in storytelling and Jeremiah Martin in discussion, and ninth grader Elizabeth Rayman in serious prose.

Coach Tammy Purrington gave credit to team members.

“We are very pleased to bring 17 competitors and 5 alternates to the next level of competition at Marshall on Saturday. But we are even more pleased with the whole team. Everyone worked hard this year, improved and represented TMB well all season. We are proud of all of them.”

Sportsmen's Show prizes displayed

Two major raffle prizes for the Tracy Sportsmen's Show are now on display.

A 16-foot Alumacraft boat, motor and trailer package is on display in the parking lot of Midwest Supply. A 52-inch high-definition television is displayed in the lobby of Minnwest Bank South. Both items will be given away in a raffle drawing at the sportsmen's show, scheduled Saturday, April 17, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. at the Tracy Prairie Pavilion. The raffle tickets are being sold for $20 each as a way to raise money for sportsmen's show expenses. There is no admission charge for the show.

The Alumacraft V16 fishing boat is the raffle drawing's grand prize. Equipped with a 25HP Yamaha motor and a Shoreland'r trailer, the boat package has a retail value of $9,500. The person whose name is drawn can choose to take $5,000 instead of the boat.

The wide screen, RCA television has a retail value of $2,200.

Four other major prizes will also be given away in the raffle: a sporting goods package worth from between $750 to $1,000; a $1,000 fishing trip or $500 in cash to Randall's Resort, a $1,000 gift certificate to Border View Lodge or $500 cash, and an original wildlife painting by Erik Gile.

Raffle tickets are on sale at the Tracy Area Chamber of Commerce office or from any sportsmen's show committee member. They are: Dan Anderson, Joe Beech, Nancy Beech, Robert Caron, Bill Chukuske, Shannon Cohrs, Kim Daniels, Joe DeSchepper, Dr. Mark Evers, Bryan Hillger, Jason Kainz, Ron Koopman, Keith Lubben, David Marlette, Mike Peterreins, Keith Peterson, Dave Spencer.

• • •

Many events are planned for the show. They include:

• Brody the Bear, a 1,200-pound Kodiak bear that has been featured on many television programs and commercials.

• Fred Scheer's Lumberjack Show.

• Bob Jensen, executive producer of the TV series "Fishing the Midwest."

• Prairie Wild Enterprises mobile environmental classroom.

• Demonstration shoot by Saratoga Archery Club.

• Craft and antique show at St. Mary's School.

About 70 commercial exhibitors are expected for the show.

Expanded city gardener position okayed

Help wanted: Hardworking individual needed to design, plan, plant, weed, water, and care for at least 11 municipal flower beds within the City of Tracy. Must have an eye for detail, be knowledgeable about plants, and not be afraid of getting dirt underneath fingernails. Plants, seeds, and garden supplies and water truck furnished, but must have own hand tools. Job starts in spring, and ends in fall. Job expected to require at least 360 hours. Pay is $2,500 a season.

The City of Tracy has not run that want ad. But it could have. Tracy City Council members have agreed to hire city's gardener, and have set the salary at $2,500.

Tracy also had a city gardener position last year. Bernie Holm was paid $1,350, logging about 360 hours on the job.

This summer, the gardener position has been expanded to include four new flowerbeds that will be part of a Hwy. 14 beautification project. Other responsibilities include the Tornado Tree Memorial garden, the park plot at Center and Hwy. 14, the street median plot at Rowland and Center, the flowerbed at the east Hwy. 14 Welcome to Tracy sign, flowerbeds at the Tracy Aquatic Center, and any other areas designated by the administrator.

City Administrator Audrey Koopman said that last year, Holm ended being paid about $4.17 an hour for his work. Koopman doubted whether the city would be able to find anyone this year at that rate of pay, considering the amount of work involved.

Council members voted to increase the gardener's salary to $2,500, which would work out to $6.94 an hour,, if 360 hours of work were put in.

A total of $1,500 was budgeted for the position. The council agreed to take the extra money for its "other financial use" fund. Koopman, Mayor Steve Ferrazzano, and councilman Russ Stobb will interview applicants and make a hiring recommendation to the full council.