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News from the week of June 23, 2004

Decision still elusive on hospital planning

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could...

—Robert Frost

Like the traveler in Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken," two alternate paths confront Tracy medical leaders. Like the traveler, local leaders are finding the choice difficult.

A consensus about how to best improve area specialty medical services remained elusive after the Tracy Area Medical Services (TAMS) advisory board meeting June 16.

"We don't seem to be getting anywhere," said City Administrator Audrey Koopman, who expressed a concern that other communities would soon expand their medical outreach facilities, and close a window of opportunity for Tracy.

"We all have to agree that doing nothing is not an option," said Dan Reiner, chief executive officer for TAMS, and

affiliated medical centers in Slayton and Westbrook.

The three medical centers— collectively known as Shetek Medical Services—have been studying options for improving specialty medical services for more than two years. A tri-hospital task force recently narrowed collaborative options to two scenarios. They are:

1) Collectively establish a specialty medical clinic at a neutral site, and recruit about six specialists to staff it. Possible specialty areas could include: oncology, orthopedics, pulmonology, urology, cardiology, and pediatrics. Primary-care clinics, emergency rooms, and hospitals would continue to operate in Westbrook, Slayton, and Tracy.

2) Improve existing medical facilities in each town and have each community specialize in different medical needs. Patients within the tri-hospital group would be encouraged to seek medical care within Shetek Medical Services.

Both scenarios would require successful physician recruitment efforts and investments in state-of-the-art diagnostic equipment.

Financial projections are now being prepared for both models. TAMS board members have said that they need to see financial data before making a recommendation.

Assisted living services seen for O'Brien Court

Assisted living services could be coming to O'Brien Court.

Thirteen of 28 O'Brien Court apartments would become assisted living units in a plan now being studied. Tracy Area Medical Services board members were briefed on the possible change last week.

"It looks like it pencils out and it fills a need," said Rick Nordahl, TAMS chief operating officer. Nordahl cited a recent housing study that estimates the Tracy area can support an additional 24 assisted living units. Some existing O'Brien Court residents, he said, would likely be eligible for assisted living services.

O'Brien Court is now solely a congregate senior living complex. People must be able to live independently in order to live at O'Brien Court.

A plan envisioned by Nordahl would utilize up to 13 second-floor apartments as assisted living units. An investment of about $10,000—mostly for new communication equipment and furniture—would be needed.

Staff expenses are the greatest cost of the assisted living change. Nordahl estimates that 4.2 full-time equivalent positions would be needed to offer the required around-the-clock assisted living service. Estimated cost for the added staffing, he said, is $105,000 a year.

Assisted living residents would be charged a fee on top of their base O'Brien Court rent for the additional services. Under one scenario prepared by Nordahl, assisted living residents would pay an additional $900 to $1,200 a month, depending on the service needed..

Thirteen assisted living apartments, generating an additional $900 a month, would add up to revenues of $140,400 a year. That, in turn, would generate a bottom line of about $35,000, if operating costs were $105,000. Nordahl indicated that the rental of 9.5 assisted living units would be the break-even point.

Daycare money available, site selected near hospital

Two major building blocks for a new Tracy daycare center have fallen into place.

Long-term financing for Tracy Kids' World has been secured. And a site south of Tracy Hospital and the Prairie View nursing home has been identified as a preferred site.

Louise Noomen reports that 40-year, low-interest financing is available for the project from the federal Rural Development agency. The Tracy Kids' World board has selected the Union Street site as the preferred location for the daycare center. Noomen, administrative assistant for the Tracy Chamber of Commerce and Community Development office, has spearheaded the project for 2 years. Tracy Kids' World is a non-profit organization.

Tracy Kids' World will be licensed for up to 60 children, infant to grade 6. Before and after-school programs would also be offered. It's envisioned that the daycare center will be connected to some kind of memory loss living facility for seniors. The proximity of the senior memory loss facility— although separate from the daycare— would make possible mutually beneficial contact between the old and young generations, Noomen said.

A combined facility could save money too, Noomen said, if some services could be shared.

It is estimated that the daycare will need about 11,000 square feet, although that footage could be trimmed, if utility areas could be shared.

• • •

Noomen updated the Tracy Area Medical Services advisory board last week. Noomen said that Kids' World board needs to know how the daycare fit into possible expansion plans now being considered for the hospital.

"We are waiting to see if this would work with your plans." For example, she said the daycare would prefer having its meals prepared offsite.

Hospital board members expressed support for the daycare center near the hospital, and directed staff to work with Noomen in determining space needs.

Crops lag as cool weather persists; patience advised

Worries about stunted corn and soybean crops are mounting this week, as unseasonably cool weather continues. But Bruce Potter, integrated pest management specialist at the Southwest Research and Outreach Center, offers this suggestion:

“I wouldn't sell the farm yet."

Crops, he said, still have time to rebound.

"As soon as we get some heat, it will come up pretty fast," said Potter, who was standing knee high in corn during a telephone interview. He said that corn that doesn't require replanting is okay.

Last week's temperatures were 10 degrees below average, according to data from the SWROC. But a cool June is far from abnormal. It happened just last year.

“It's not typical to go through a cool month of June. We've rebounded from it before,” said Robert Byrnes, regional director for the University of Minnesota Extension Service.

But there's a difference. June was dry last year. Cumulative precipitation at Lamberton this year is four inches above historic averages, according to data from SWROC.

Recent cool, wet weather is causing problems for crops, Potter said. Those problems include stock rot in corn and root diseases in soybeans, Potter said. Cool damp weather can often lead to fungal diseases.

There is no question that cool weather has stunted crop development to date, Potter said. But, he added, the unseasonably low temperatures, combined with surplus soil moisture, haven't caused widespread damage.

“In '93, everything was in a world of hurt, now it's just some areas,” Potter said.

Things could be much worse, he said.

Low spots that have been flooded with standing water for long periods of time will have to be replanted.

“If rains hold off and temperatures warm up, we can still do spot planting by the end of June,” Byrnes said. But he acknowledged that the sooner that sunshine and heat arrive, the better.

Volunteers spruce up highway

Lady Bird Johnson would have been pleased, had she motored through Tracy on Hwy. 14 Saturday.

The First Lady from the 1960s—who was well-known promoting highway beautification efforts—would have noticed Tracy volunteers rolling up their sleeves to improve the looks of Hwy. 14. The Tracyites pitched in to build four oval-shaped planters along the highway. All told, about 440 square feet of bricks, and 160 square feet of paver blocks were installed.

"I'm really thankful to all of the people who helped," said Audrey Koopman, Tracy city administrator. Some of the volunteers worked from 8 a.m. until about 3:30 p.m., with just a couple of breaks. The volunteers were primarily from four local service clubs: Tracy Lions, Kiwanis, Eagles, and American Legion.

Plans are to plant about a dozen rose bushes in each oval-shaped bed. The flowerbeds are located southeast of the intersection of Hwy 14 and the Highline Road (near the Dairy Queen), the southeast corner of Hwy. 14 and Morgan (near The Mediterranean). The other two are in city parks. One is in the Legion Park near Tenth St. The other is at Nehls Park (horseshoe park) near Fourth Street East.

Tracy received an $8,000 state grant from the Minnesota Department of Transportation to pay for materials. Each planter was built according to state specifications. That meant that each planter area was dug out to a depth of eight inches, and filled in with six inches of gravel, fabric, and two-inches of sand before the brick was laid. Koopman hopes that the rose bushes will be planted soon. Volunteers are needed to help with planting.

The rose-bush planters continue a Craig Avenue beautification effort that began in 2002, when the Tracy Revitalization Committee built a patio area in the Roadside Park at the corner of Center and Hwy. 14. It is hoped that efforts to beautify the highway corridor will be on-going.

Hwy. 14 within Tracy is also designated as Craig Ave.

Soldier in Iraq often thinks of Tracy's peacefulness

Editor's note—This e-mail note sent to the Headlight-Herald from Iraq by Darrell Klante, a 1981 Tracy Area High School graduate.

Hello Tracy! I was just sitting here in Iraq thinking of days gone by and all the people I used to run with back in Tracy. I left Tracy and the girl I loved in 1983. My folks owned the Cozy Grove Motel way back then. I remember me and my buddies as bunch of wild young country boys and girls just running wild and acting (like) fools. I some times wonder how we all survived those days, but wouldn't change but one thing if I had to do it all over again...

I often wonder about my buddies like Larry, Scott, Brett, John and Lori. I wonder how they are all doing and if they have met their dreams? As for me I have met mine, I own a small ranch in Texas. I married the lady of my dreams and have three great sons, cattle, chickens, dog and a big old 4x4 and am due to retire from the Army after I return home from this war.

Funny, with all the danger I face day to day, Tracy and my times there still pop into my daydreams. I love the friends that I left behind to this day and think of them often. Many days I wish I could get in contact with the above mentioned so what I will do is give ya all my e-mail address and maybe I will hear from some of the old gang.

Right now I am in Iraq fighting for their freedom. I am stationed at Fort Hood, Texas. I am a war planner for the III Corps Headquarters. We are in Baghdad doing all we can to end this war and get on back home.

It is a terrible place! Maybe that is why I think of Tracy and how peaceful it was the last time I was there to be driving down those dusty roads looking at all the beautiful corn and bean fields, then looking down at the speedometer and realizing I was only driving 30 mph. I do want to say a big HELLO to Ma Schmidt and to Bud Cochran. Well, really just wanted to say hello to Tracy as a whole. I really do miss this great town. My e-mail address is: