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News from the week of January 14, 2004

Steve Jones accepts Maple River position

“Big shoes to fill.”

That's how school board members and administration described Tracy Area High School English teacher Steve Jones as they accepted his resignation Monday. The resignation is effective Friday, Jan. 16.

Superintendent Dave Marlette said Jones had accepted the position of principal at Maple River High School in Mapleton. Mapleton is south of Mankato.

“We hate to see him leave,” said Marlette.

Jones has taught English at TAHS for the past five-and-a-half years. He has also served the district as a speech, cross-country and track coach. This fall, a student vote selected Jones as District 417's high school "teacher of the year"

Jones had many good things to say about the Tracy district in his letter of resignation.

“I have been blessed to work for and with some outstanding educators who have the best interests of young people constantly at heart,” he wrote. “This caring and concerned community of educators is what makes Tracy Area Public Schools the respected organization that it is, and it will surely propel the district to even greater accomplishments in the future. I am proud to have been associated with such a school district.”

Interviews are underway to find a replacement for Jones; four people have applied. Marlette said that under the unusual circumstances of filling a position mid-year, it will be made clear to applicants that the position will be re-opened at the end of the school year.

“We want to make sure we have the best person for the job,” he said.

Rural water system looks to Tracy

Partnership could result in softer city water

The Red Rock Rural Water System is looking at the City of Tracy as a potential new source of water. Tracy leaders are interested enough to explore the possibility further.

Monday night, Tracy City Council members gave their blessings to feasibility study for the proposed Red Rock-Tracy water partnership. All costs will be paid by Red Rock Rural Water.

"Maybe there is a chance for us to partner with Tracy," Red Rock Rural Water Systems Manager Dominic Jones told council members.

Red Rock, he said, needs additional water capacity to handle growth in the Lake Shetek area. Purchasing treated water from Tracy, he indicated, would be significantly less expensive for Red Rock than investing in new facilities. If the city has excess water to sell, Jones said Red Rock would be willing to help finance needed water improvements in Tracy.

The city could benefit from Red Rock's involvement, Jones suggested, by giving Tracy users a better quality of water and by generating on-going revenues from water sales.

"It's a win-win situation," said Chuck Schwartz, a consulting engineer working with Red Rock.

The water produced at Tracy's treatment plant is too hard to meet Red Rock's specifications, Jones said. However, Red Rock would be willing to help pay the necessary water softening improvements at the Tracy treatment plant.

Council members made no commitments to the proposed Red Rock link other than their approval for the feasibility study.

Councilman Russ Stobb said that studies must show that Tracy's aquifer will support additional demand. Councilman Tim Byrne said that Tracy must consider the additional water needs of a proposed Tracy corrections facility.

Mayor Steve Ferrazzano felt that citizens would appreciate having access to softer water.

Costly utility projects are on Tracy's radar screen

Major sewer and water improvement expenses are on the horizon for the City of Tracy.

A recently approved five-year capital improvement budget for Tracy pencils in $100,000 for a Hollett Street sewer bypass and another $100,000 for water improvements along South Street. In 2005, $300,000 is budgeted for a new trunk water main on the Highline Road. A $3 million project to rebuild the city's sewer treatment lagoons is slated for 2007.

The budget, approved by council members last month, is not the final say on future city spending. Proposed spending still need final city council authorization, since the budget is a guide for city's long-range equipment and facility needs. However, items in the capital improvement budget frequently become reality. The capital improvement budget is updated annually.

Landa, Fultz join school board

Two new members were sworn in Monday on the District 417 Board of Education.

Al Landa and Eric Fultz were elected to the board in November, along with incumbents Dan Zimansky and Peggy Zwach. All four were elected to four-year terms. Landa and Fultz fill board seats formerly held by Mike Carlson and Steve Johnson.

Landa taught industrial arts for 33 years in the Tracy district, and is in his sixth year of retirement. A native of Glenwood, he attended college at South Dakota State University in Brookings. During his teaching tenure, Landa was also the defensive coordinator for the football team for many years, and served as head coach for both girls' and boys' track. He will be coaching track again this spring.

Landa is a partner in OWL Construction of Tracy. He is married to Janice Landa, a third grade teacher at Tracy Elementary. He has two sons, Todd and Wade, and two daughters, Bailey, a junior at TAHS, and Megan, an eighth grader.

Landa said he wanted to become more involved with the school again. “I missed being a part of the system,” he said.

Eric Fultz is a Tracy native who graduated from Tracy Area High School in 1981. He farms with his father and brother.

When not farming, Fultz stays busy with three children at home. He and his wife, Sandy, are parents to Mallory, an eighth grader; James, fifth grade; and Brian, a third grader.

Having children in the school system prompted Fultz to run for school board.

“I felt it was the right time with my children the age that they are,” he said. “I felt it was important to have board members who have kids in school.”

TAMS gets new option on land south of hospital

Tracy Area Medical Services has renewed a purchase option for property south of O'Brien Court and Tracy Hospital.

The Tracy Economic Development granted the option for five 100-foot wide lots that it owns along Union Street. Rick Nordahl, chief operating officer for TAMS, requested the option. He indicated that TAMS wanted to maintain the availability of the land, should the hospital pursue a future building project. The right-of-first refusal option gives TAMS the right to match other offers that the EDA might receive for the lots through Jan. 1., 2006. TAMS would be given two weeks to respond to any offer.

An option that TAMS took on the lots last year expired Nov. 1. No financial consideration was given to the EDA for the new, two-year option.

Jr. high knowledge bowl teams advance

Two Tracy Area High School junior high knowledge bowl teams have qualified for regional competition.

The two teams, a boys' team and a girls' team, placed fourth and 22nd, respectively, in sub-regional competition last week. They were among 51 teams competing at Southwest Minnesota State University on Jan. 8. Eileen Schimming coaches both teams.

Members of the boys' team are Will Johnston, Blaine Edwards, Logan Sanow, Dan Dieter, and Jeremiah Martin. Celia Brockway, Julia Olson, Ann Byrne, Brittnee Michael, and Bekah Zens make up the girls' team.

The boys' team, which came one place from winning a trophy, was in seventh place after the written round.

“Both teams had excellent oral rounds,” said Schimming.

That's one of the reasons the teams practice with the buzzer strips they have to use in competition: rarely is a question heard in its entirety, said Schimming.

The two Tracy teams will take part in regional competition on Jan. 19 at SMSU, where they will compete against the best teams in regions six and eight. There is no state competition for junior high knowledge bowl; regional competition is the highest level of competition for junior high participants.