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News from the week of September 15, 2004

Tracy enrollment rises

Enrollment is up for a second year at Tracy Area Public Schools (TAPS).

A total of 812 students are enrolled at TAPS this fall, compared to 780 when school ended in May. That’s a jump of 32 students since spring, and 43 since last fall, when first-day-of-school enrollment was 769.

Superintendent David Marlette told Board of Education members Monday that the enrollment figures were about a dozen students over budget projection.

Marlette said one of the reasons for the enrollment jump is that some families, whose children will attend Tracy Area High School (TAHS), are choosing to send their children to Tracy before ninth grade. This year’s eighth grade class gained three students, and the seventh grade gained 11 in its transition from Tracy Elementary to TAHS.

Another noticeable jump was from eighth grade to ninth grade, where 12 students were gained as tuitioned and St. Mary’s students joined the roll. This year’s senior class is considerably larger than last year’s class of 65. Eighty-eight students are in the 12th grade, a gain of five students since their junior year.

While enrollment at TAPS has jumped, enrollment at other area schools is holding fairly steady.

Enrollment at St. Mary’s School this fall is 55, which is down five since last year. Milroy Public School’s enrollment is also down five, from 81 to 76. Balaton Public School’s enrollment dropped by one student, from 76 last year to 75 this year.

Minntronix is movingto Watertown, S.D.

Minntronix. Inc. has announced plans to move its Tracy operations to Watertown, S.D. President Lew Tollefson said that the move likely would be completed in November.

"I have mixed feelings about leaving Tracy," he said. "We've had a good run here, and I've learned a lot here." He said the Tracy community has been very supportive of Minntronix. Nonetheless, Tollfeson feels that the move to Watertown will offer Minntronix a number of advantages, including freight and transportation benefits.

Tollefson and partner Dave LeVasseur have operated Minnetronix in Tracy since spring of 2000, when they purchased the business from founders Todd and Harold Radke of Tracy.

Minnronix now employs about 15 people in Tracy. But at its peak, Minntronix employed over 80 people in Tracy. Employment dropped, after Minntronix decided to do less on-site manufacturing. Company operations today center on the sales, service, design, and a limited amount of on-site production, of magnetic components used in telecommunications products.

"It's a business model that has worked well for us," said Tollfesen.Minntronix's 12,000 square foot plant along Hwy. 14 is for sale, Tollefson said. The facility that Minntronix will move to in Watertown is about 10,000 square feet, he said.

In an announcement elsewhere in this newspaper, Tollefson and LeVasseur express gratitude to Tracy area people.

"We want you to know…that we are thankful to have been a part of your community for more than four years. This community has been a significant part of our business and personal lives and we will not soon forget your kindness and good wishes. You should be proud of your fine community."

Aquatic center repairs estimated at $486,000

Putting the Tracy Aquatic Center back in working order by next summer has an estimated price tag of nearly half million dollars.

Consulting engineers estimate that the aquatic center repairs will cost $486,000. However, consultants also recommend that the city set aside an extra 30% contingency fund for unforeseen expenses. Adding the 30% contingency fund pushes estimated aquatic center repairs to $631,000.

Council members hope that aquatic center repairs can begin this fall and completed next spring. With that goal in mind, the council Monday agreed to seek bids for the pool repairs and tentatively approved plans and specifications.

Bids will be received up until Oct. 7, with the council scheduled to consider bids on Oct. 11.

It is hoped that construction can begin prior to the onset of cold weather this fall. May of 2005 is the targeted completion date.

Tracy's $1.8 million aquatic center was opened in July of 2002. However, significant water leakage from the pool was observed during the 2003 swim season, and an unusual amount of cracks were observed after the pool was drained in August of 2003. Tests conducted at the pool since last fall turned up a variety of deficiencies at the pool, including foreign materials and voids in the main pool shell.

Andrew & Martha Wixon bequeath $10,000 scholarship

A new scholarship for Tracy Area High School students has been created in honor of Andrew and Martha Wixon.

TAHS counselor Chris Kamrud said the school received a letter from the Wixons’ two sons, Ward and Vincent, stating that their parents had left the school $10,000 in their will to be used for scholarships.

Kamrud described the Wixons as people who were always supportive of education. "To want to continue their support of education even after they’re gone is commendable," he said.

Martha Wixon was a 1930 graduate of Tracy High School who also attended the Normal School in town to receive her teaching certificate. She taught in country schools before marrying Andrew Wixon. She also taught, as a substitute, full-time teacher, and Title teacher, at Tracy Elementary School for many years.

Andrew Wixon, a graduate of Marshall High School, was the only one among his siblings to graduate from high school. In order to do this, he had to move away from his family and live in Marshall, while also working at a restaurant.

"Education was really important to my folks," said Vince Wixon. "They expected my brother and I to get an education."

Both sons are Tracy graduates. Ward, who now lives in Madison, Wis., graduated in 1959. Vincent,who lives in Ashland, Ore., graduated in 1962. Vincent said his parents appreciated the education their sons received.

"They felt that my brother and I got a good education there," he said. "They had a very strong loyalty to the Tracy school system," added Vincent’s wife, Patty.

Music and art were stressed in the family. During the 100-year anniversary and all-school reunion, Martha, Vincent, and Ward Wixon all sang in the choir. Both sons went on to careers on the creative end of the spectrum: Ward as a creative director in advertising and Vincent as an English teacher.

"I think they wanted a broad education for us," he said.

Wixon said his parents would not have wanted restrictions placed on the scholarship. They would have wanted it open to any student who plans to further his or her education.

He said the plan is for the scholarship to continue in honor of his parents. Contributions would help the scholarship to continue, said his wife, Patty, who added that they will be contributing toward the fund themselves.

School board discusses pros & cons of land sale

By Val Scherbart Quist

Should the Tracy Area Public School District sell approximately 14 acres of land to the Tracy Economic Development Authority?

That question was again considered Monday night as Board of Education members weighed the pros and cons of selling the land, which is located to the east of Tracy Area High School.

Superintendent David Marlette began the discussion by telling board members he had received a letter from Robert Gervais of the EDA stating that the group is definitely interested in buying the property.

Marlette told the board that he had heard opposition from one individual who did not think that the school should sell the land. The individual suggested that, since the school is not likely to make much money on the sale, it would be more advantageous to keep it. It was suggested that it could be used in the future for a daycare center, auditorium, soccer field, softball field, or some other building project that would benefit the community.

Marlette said Gervais indicated that the EDA might be willing to pay between $2,000 to $3,000 an acre, though he declined to give a more specific amount.

"If we are only going to get $2,000 an acre, the land is of more value to us," Marlette said.

Board member Eric Fultz said the district could benefit from the land sale because the city would have to develop a storm sewer system. The district has been considering doing tile work on its own to deal with drainage problems, but has decided to hold off to see what city-hired engineers have to say.

"We should be getting storm sewer service anyway," Nelson said. He added that a business or developer interested in the land would likely be willing to pay top dollar.

Nelson said that if the board is to proceed further, he would like a public hearing to be held."It’s not our property, it’s the district’s."

State 4-H projects bring home purple

Two of the top animals in Minnesota State Fair livestock shows came from small Tracy area farming operations.

A steer shown by Kyle Lessman was the grand champion shorthorn at the Minnesota 4-H market beef show. The animal also received an unofficial fourth-place rating in an all-breed beef "parade of champions."

Jeremiah Martin showed the grand champion commercial whiteface ewe. Both 4-Hers are students at Tracy Area High School.

Surprise in beef

Lessman said that he knew he had a good steer. But he didn't dream that he would wind up as the purple ribbon winner. "I've showed at the state fair before, but have always gotten reds (ribbons). "Yes, I was very happy."The 1,1,32-pound steer was the smallest animal in his class.

"My steer was so light I was afraid that he would be knocked down in the placings. But the judges seemed to like small this year."

To win grand champion honors, Lessman's entry placed first in two sets of nine animals each. "They liked his muscling. One of the judges commented that he was 'way cool.'"

Lessman bought the animal last October as a 470-pound calf from Brookings, S.D. The calf was named "Mr. Fuzzy Pants."

Getting the calf ready for the show ring began almost immediately. Besides the normal work of feeding, watering, and keeping the animal clean, Lessman worked with the calf twice a day. Every morning, the calf got used to having a halter put around its head. Evenings, Kyle led Mr. Fuzzy Pants around the yard. "You need to work with them or they will be too wild to show," Lessman explained.

The calf was put on a special feed ration and given special indoor accommodations. A heifer was put into his pen to keep him company. This summer, a fan helped keep Mr. Fuzzy Pants cool. If it really got hot, the critter was hosed off with water.

Busy summer

Martin, who is a high school freshman this year, didn't have time to play summer baseball. "I was too immersed in 4-H projects."

Besides sheep, Jeremiah also had canine, horse, and photography projects. On Sept. 25, he's taking two dogs to the state dog show.

The sheep was leased from Doug and Melanie Pamp of Tracy. As part of his sheep project, he did sheep chores at the Pamp farmstead every other day this summer. While there he worked with his show animal and cared for her.

"I learned a lot from the Pamps. They are like third generation sheep producers. It was really a good experience."

At the Pamp farm, Martin learned how to look for flaws in sheep, learned how to show the animal, and learned how to correct flaws in sheep. Working with animals, Martin said, has lessons that go beyond the show ring. "When you learn how to handle an animal, you also learn how to work with people better." He felt that it was a great honor to win a purple ribbon."I was really happy with it."

The Amiret Busy Bees member is the son of Rosemary and Mike Martin.