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News from the week of January 29, 2004

Apple Valley businessman buys former bank building

Restaurant operation is planned

The former 21st Century Bank building has a new owner.

Greg Ipsen, Burnsville, has purchased the property from Minnwest Bank South. Ipsen plans to open a restaurant in the building.

"I feel that this is a good business opportunity," Ipsen said in a telephone interview Monday. He intends to hire someone to manage the restaurant.

"I'm looking for an entrepreneur."

The Downtown Tracy landmark has been empty for since early 2001, when a restaurant called Maxine's went out-of-business.

Ipsen has owned and managed Wet Pet, a tropical fish and supply store in Apple Valley, since 1985. He is the grandson of Lyle and Leona Porter of Tracy, and says he feels a strong affection for Tracy.

"Every summer we would come to Tracy," said Ipsen, 45, of his childhood. "I've got a lot of good memories of Tracy." He said he's had his eye on the old bank building ever since Maxine's closed.

"I've always admired that red granite fašade."

Ipsen has no timetable for opening the restaurant. His first priority will be to check out the building's mechanical systems and turn on utilities, a process that is scheduled to begin this week. Overall, the building appears to be in good condition, he said.

"It's surprising how close to a turn-key operation it is," Ipsen said. Most of the restaurant equipment and fixtures from Maxine's are still in place.

The basic concept for Maxine's—a fine dining restaurant that could attract people from a wide area—was a sound one, Ipsen feels.

"The vision, I think, was about right. I think that a destination restaurant, a nicer restaurant with linens, where people can come for special occasions like birthdays, graduations, and anniversaries, can work." He feels that people will drive a distance to dine out, as long the food and ambiance are good. A more informal noon lunch menu can also be successful, he said.

The key, he says, is finding the right person to manage the restaurant.

"I'm willing to offer terms that I think can work for someone. He said he has "some leads" about prospective managers, but nothing definite.

The new Tracy real estate owner is an optimist about the future of Tracy and rural America.

"I really like Tracy. I think it has a lot of potential. Rural American is an undervalued resource. That could change."


Bank open house set for Lila Manguson

Lila Manguson has a perspective of Tracy commerce that few can match.

Minnwest Bank South's Senior Vice President/Cashier has been employed by the bank since 1964. But next week, Manguson's 39-year Tracy banking career is coming to an end. The bank is sponsoring an open house to honor Manguson on her retirement, Tuesday, Feb. 3, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

"It's time," the veteran banker says. "There are other things I'd like to do that I haven't had time for. I don't want my husband to have to keep telling me that I've got too many flowers for him to take care of,"

When Manguson began working at what was then the Farmers and Merchants State Bank of Tracy, Wendell Anderson was the bank president. Tracy High School still occupied the corner of Third and Rowland. The bank was on the opposite end of the block, diagonally across the street from the Kirkpatrick variety store. Lyndon Johnson was in the White House. "I Want to Hold Your Hand" was a No. 1 hit for a new musical group called The Beatles.

"We did everything manually," remembers the 1964 Edgerton High School graduate. "We closed at three and posted all of the checks by hand." Her first day, in August of 1964, came at an especially busy time for the bank. She worked until 11:30 p.m. "I remember thinking, 'I thought was supposed to be done working at three.'"

She can think of only three current Tracy business people—Marlene Buck (Four Seasons), John Schleppenbach (John's Drug) and Dean Salmon (Salmon Automotive)—who were working in Downtown Tracy when she started at the bank.

After two months at a front customer service desk, Manguson was promoted into the bank's teller line. In 1967, she was moved into the bank's bookkeeping/proof department. She became an officer in 1979 when the bank moved into its new building on the old high school property. In 1988, she was promoted to Operations Officer and Cashier. She is now Senior Vice President /Cashier.

"I've seen a lot of good people come and go, both employees and customers," she remarks. "I've got a lot of good memories."


Milroy forum set on school options

A public forum is planned in Milroy Monday to discuss the future of District 635's K-8 school.

The gathering begins at 7 p.m. in the Milroy School gym.

"It's a meeting to discuss, 'what are our options?'" explains Principal Dan Deitte. "We're taking a pro-active approach to our future." Milroy school board members, he said, especially want to hear the public's ideas and opinions.

Deitte said that the school district finances have been hurt in recent years by declining enrollments. In 2000, the school had about 110 students. This year, Milroy has 81 students, a drop of nine pupils from last year.

"We are trying to keep our expenses in line with our revenues, but it is getting more difficult."

One option for the district, Deitte said, is to continue operate the Milroy school by making further spending cuts. "But there is a certain point that you would reach, where you might not want to make those cuts," the principal said.

The establishment of a charter school is another option that's been discussed, Deitte said. Steve Dess, executive director of the Minnesota Association of Charter Schools in St. Paul, has been invited to the Monday meeting. A representative of the K-12 charter school in Echo has also been invited.

"This is a community meeting. We want to know what people think about our school and what direction we should be headed," Deitte summed up.

Milroy Public Schools has about 25 employees.


Medical planning continues

What's happening on the front lines of area health-care planning?

Plenty.

Tuesday night, members of the Marshall city council and Weiner Memorial Medical Center took an unprecedented tour of Tracy Hospital, and medical clinic. The Marshall delegation then joined members of the Tracy City Council, Tracy Area Medical Services, the Westbrook HealthCare Center, and Murray County Memorial Hospital for supper at the Mediterranean Restaurant. The supper was followed by an informal presentation about the collaborative efforts involving the three Shetek area hospitals and their relationships with Sioux Valley.

The meetings stemmed from an overture made by Tracy City Council members last month, who asked to meet with the Marshall council and hospital board, about possible medical links between Marshall and Tracy.

The Tuesday gathering came at a time when both Weiner Memorial and TAMS are considering options for improving medical programs. Weiner Memorial is wrestling with a decision of whether to remain independent, or align itself with either the Sioux Valley or Avera-McKennan. TAMS has joined a task for with the Westbrook and Murray County hospitals to develop a strategy on how to recruit more medical specialists, and decide what type of facilities are would be needed for the specialty programs. The development of centrally-located specialty medical clinic is one of the concepts the task force is studying.

Dan Reiner, chief executive officer at Tracy, Westbrook, and Slayton, told the Tuesday night gathering that he could see many mutual benefits stemming from a collaboration between the Shetek Hospitals, and Marshall, if Weiner Memorial chose to align itself with Sioux Valley. Weiner would immediately benefit from an enlarged market base, Reiner said, noting that the Shetek Hospitals serve an area with an estimated 20,000 people. Collaboration would "be more of a challenge" if Weiner Memorial chose to go with Avera-McKennan, Reiner said.

"We are really pleased to be here and have a chance to learn from you," said Dick Slieter, chief executive officer for Weiner Memorial.

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Davidson, Jones are 'Triple-A' nominees

Anders Davidson and Dani Jones are the 2004 Academics, Arts, and Athletics (AAA) Award nominees at Tracy Area High School.

The "Triple-A" award is intended to recognize and honor high school seniors who have excelled in the classroom, on the athletic field, and in the fine arts. The Minnesota State High School League sponsors the award.

Davidson is the son of John and Kay Davidson and Dani is the daughter of Tim and Nancy Jones.

Davidson ranks second in the senior class with a grade point average of 3.967. He is a member of the National Honor Society, Spanish Club, and Peer Helpers. He is also on the knowledge bowl team and plays in the school band. He plays football, basketball, and baseball, and was a Wendy's High School Heisman nominee and ExCEL award nominee. He has received seven gold Spotlight on Scholarship certificates.

Anders was chosen for Boys' State as a junior, and has been on the student council all four years of high school. He has volunteered for many organizations, including the Big Buddies mentoring program. He has acted as bloodmobile coordinator, little league umpire, and has volunteered with the Balaton Lion's Club, Balaton Fire Dept., Colonial Manor Nursing Home of Balaton.

In his student essay, Davidson wrote, “Athletics and fine arts have taught me many important and valuable lessons ... Whether it be on an athletic field, a classroom, or a concert hall, success won't just come to a person. Many people see success and only see glory. I see sweat and sacrifice.”

Jones ranks fourth in her class with a grade point average of 3.92. She is a member of the peer counselors, National Honor Society, and Spanish Club. She has received gold Spotlight on Scholarship awards in all four years of high school, and was an ExCEL award nominee.

Jones has been active in cross country and track throughout her high school career. She also participates in band and speech, and takes piano lessons. She volunteers in several ways at Tracy Lutheran Church, including being a Christmas program assistant, retreat counselor, and food shelf volunteer.

In her essay, Dani wrote, “Education is a lifelong process and I believe that in order to excel along the way it is important to be well-rounded. My participation in extra-curricular activities has played an enormous role in preparing me for my life ahead.”


St. Mary's School: It's not just for Catholics anymore

By Seth Schmidt

When Alita Lenertz's oldest son started school at St. Mary's in 1957, most if not all, of his classmates were fellow Catholics.

"I can't remember anyone (at St. Mary's School) who wasn't Catholic," she said. "That's the way it was." All nine of her children attended St. Mary's, with the youngest finishing the sixth grade in the 1970s. She doesn't remember any non-Catholic students.

Times have changed. Today, one out of every five students at St. Mary's belongs to a non-Catholic church.

"Over the past ten years, we have witnessed an increase in the number of non-Catholic families that are enrolling their children in St. Mary's School," comments Lisa Schaar, St. Mary's principal. "It used to be that only those of the Catholic faith would consider enrolling their child in a parochial school. Not so today."

Of St. Mary's 59 students, 14 are from non-Catholic families. The non-Catholic families include Methodists, Lutherans, Baptists, and Missionary Christian Alliance members.

Schaar feels that St. Mary's Christian environment is the main reason for the non-Catholic influx.

"Although Catholic doctrine is our main focus, much of what we teach at St. Mary's School is non-denominational Christian values. Students of all faiths take part in our prayer services, religion classes, and masses," she said.

Michelle and Brian Hicks, who are members of the Tracy Alliance Church, chose St. Mary's for their oldest daughter, Meredith.

"We chose St. Mary's because there is a presence of Jesus Christ there," said Michelle. "The teachers pray with the kids and they help them grow spiritually."

She also said that she has been impressed with St. Mary's academically and that she appreciated the school's high standards, strict classroom atmosphere, and philosophy of holding students accountable. She likes what she calls the family atmosphere at the school. But spiritual growth, she says, is her No. 1 priority as a parent.

"We just really felt that the Christ part of St. Mary's is really important."

Sue and Terry Nelson belong to Lake Sarah Baptist Church. They have three sons at St. Mary's School. The school's Christian atmosphere was also an important factor in their decision.

"Our faith is very important to us. (At St. Mary's School) they intermingle the Christian faith in everything that they do." As an example, she cited a first-grade handwriting lesson that one of her sons brought home. Traditional methods were used to teach the children how to form the letters, but the practice words that the children wrote out were a Bible verse.

"The kids and teachers can pray in the classrooms. They can talk about Jesus. When it is Christmas, it's Christmas," Nelson said.

Doctrinal differences between the Catholic and Baptists faiths haven't created a problem, she said.

"If there is a difference, we talk it over with the kids at home. Our kids have a great attitude about it. I don't think that it is hurting them at all."

Paying tuition for three children at St. Mary's "is expensive," Nelson said, "but we definitely feel that it is worth it."

A variety of spiritual and academic factors caused Jim and Melissa Christian to enrolled their two oldest sons at St. Mary's. Melissa grew up Catholic and attended St. Mary's as a child. Jim grew up Lutheran. After their marriage, they became members of Tracy Lutheran Church.

"We are very happy with St. Mary's," Melissa said. "We like the small classes, which allow students to get a lot more individual attention." She said that she also likes the spiritual emphasis at St. Mary's, especially the religion class taught by Mary Engesser.