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News from the week of December 15, 2004

Canaries job is homerun

By Val Scherbart Quist

A love for baseball has landed an area native in the Birdcage.

Misten Schelhaas, daughter of Bruce and Dawn Schelhaas of Balaton, is Community Relations Coordinator for the Sioux Falls Canaries, a team in the Northern League, an independent baseball league.

The 1999 Russell-Tyler-Ruthton graduate began with the Canaries last March as an intern. She had graduated in December from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, where she majored in Sociology of Law, Criminology and Deviance, and Psychology. She was looking for a full-time job for the summer before she started graduate school, and wasn’t sure what she would attend graduate school for.

Her older sister, Mandi Haase, was determined to get her to move closer to home, said Schelhaas. Her cousin, Greg Schelhaas, once played first base for the Canaries, so her family was familiar with the team.

Mandi called Canaries Operation Manager Julie Malmberg, and convinced her to give Misten an interview.

“I thought working for a baseball team for a summer would be a blast, so I decided to try it out,” Schelhaas said. She was offered an internship under the General Manager, who at the time was John Hindle.

At the end of her internship, Canaries management changed hands and Schelhaas was offered a full-time position. She decided to put graduate school on hold, since she was still undecided about her choice of studies, and continue to gain experience in the sports field.

Schelhaas said her main responsibility is to create a favorable image of the Canaries. This includes setting up player and mascot appearances, charity events, and other community projects.

She also works with the local media to make sure the public is informed about what’s happening at the Birdcage (Sioux Falls Stadium). Her work involves writing press releases, arranging press conferences, keeping records of where the Canaries name shows up in the media, overseeing the team’s website, and producing a newsletter.

Schelhaas said the love of baseball drew her to the job.

“I thought all it took to work in sports was a love of the game, but there is really more to it than that,” she said.

The hours can be hectic during the season, she said. For example, there are days when she comes in to work at 8 a.m., leaves at 1 or 2 the next morning, and comes back to work at 8.

“A month of two of that really tests your love of the game,” she said.

The job doesn’t slow down much in the off-season. They plan 48 parties for the summer, and it takes all year to get ready for the season, Schelhaas said. Some tasks include selling season tickets, selling merchandise, setting up sponsorships, group outings, and special promotions, as well as producing all of their print projects such as schedules, brochures, souvenir programs, ticket booklets, ticket stock, newspaper ads, and promotional materials.

Schelhaas enjoys the creativity her job allows her to express.

“I am a huge baseball fan, and now I get the chance to take ideas that I have and make them a reality at the ballpark. It’s awesome to have John Kuhn, our general manager and my boss, throw out an idea, and have myself and my co-workers work with it to make something fun.”

Her co-workers are another enjoyable part of the job.

“We all share a love for baseball and care about the experience of our fans,” she said. “The Canaries have a long history of being a great place for everyone on a summer night, and it’s something that I am very proud to have the opportunity to be a part of.”

Balaton native Brian Pickering is the team’s trainer.

Schelhaas said she enjoys seeing people from Southwest Minnesota at the Birdcage, and encourages anyone who comes out to stop and say “hi.”

As one of only a few women working in the industry, Schelhaas encourages girls to not be afraid to give a career in sports a try.

“Women bring a unique perspective to the sports arena, and I encourage young women who are interested in being more than receptionists and cheerleaders to apply for internships with sports teams.”

• • •

The Sioux Falls Canaries season runs from May through Labor Day. Other teams in the Northern League include the Fargo-Moorhead Redhawks, Joliet JackHammers, Gary Southshore Railcats, Kansas City T-Bones, Saint Paul Saints, Schaumburg Flyers, Sioux City Explorers, Winnipeg Goldeyes, and two expansion teams, the Edmonton Cracker-Cats and Calgary, which doesn’t have a name yet.

For more on the team, visit

City following up SMSU business leads

Tracy business leaders are following up on several economic development leads generated by a Southwest Minnesota State University class.

“Some of the ideas that they gave us could be huge,” said Robert Gervais, Tracy economic development director.

Thirty-six SMSU students presented Tracy business development ideas to local people at a Dec. 7 forum in Tracy. The proposals, drafted as a class project, required students to develop in-depth plans for prospective business ventures in Tracy.

Gervais thinks enough of one lead that he is planning a Jan. 10 trip to Arkansas with three other Tracy people to meet with owners of an expanding technology company. The company, Gervais said, has expressed a strong interest in establishing an operation in Tracy, and has extended an invitation for a tour its facilities.

Business expansion ideas presented by students ranged from door and utility trailer manufacturers to the development of a franchised daycare center and franchised motel. Gervais doesn’t feel that all of the SMSU ideas are feasible, but he says several are worth pursuing. The groundwork that the SMSU students have laid, Gervais would have taken him months to accomplish on his own.

• • •

In developing workable business ideas for Tracy, students were to analyze the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats to each proposal. Often, students found that their ideas weren’t practical. One group considered the construction of a new movie theater in Tracy, for example, only to conclude that the Tracy market wasn’t large enough to support a facility that could be competitive with existing theaters.

Tracy’s major strengths in attracting new business and jobs, students decided, were its tax-free Job Opportunity Building Zones, a stable and hard-working labor force, community optimism, and the existence of railroad, airport, and major highway transportation and the availability of infrastructure, including high-speed Internet connections. Students noted that Tracy, unlike many small towns, has a hospital, two nursing homes, and a K-12 school system. Students also considered nine churches as a community asset.

Tracy’s weaknesses, students concluded, included an aging population, the lack of English-language skills in some segments of the population, its distance from Interstate highways, and lack of railroad switching facilities in town.

Students described the difficulty that they frequently encountered in getting access to decision-makers at companies.

• • •

SMSU Professor John Gochenouer, who taught the class, said that students were told to select businesses that would not adversely affect existing businesses. Tracy is the third town that his class has selected for a business development plan.

People attending the Dec. 7 meeting included representatives of the Tracy Area Development Corporation, Tracy Economic Development Authority, and Tracy City Council.

FFA savors fruitful campaign

Tailgates agape, a caravan of vehicles backed up to the Tracy Area High School ag room Monday afternoon. Inside, a platoon of students hoisted and counted boxes of grapefruit, oranges, and apples.

Deliveries for the Tracy FFA’s annual fruit sale were underway.

About $17,000 worth of merchandise was sold in this year’s drive, according to FFA advisor Paul Skoglund. The event is the chapter’s largest fund-raiser of the year.

Like all FFA activities, the fruit sale stresses hands-on student involvement. FFA members in grades 9-12 are responsible for taking their own orders, making deliveries, and collecting the money. Parents sometimes get involved too, especially if their son or daughter is too young to have a driver’s license.

The Tracy FFA has typically bought their fruit directly from an orchard in Florida. But a severe hurricane season in Florida wiped out many orchards. Skoglund said that sources in Texas and California provided most of the FFA’s fruit this year, although at significantly higher prices compared with last year.

Besides fruit, the FFA sale includes several other food items such as beef jerky, cheese sticks, and herring.

Laura Lanoue and David Schiller coordinated the fruit drive.

Kids spread holiday cheer to food shelf

Tracy Elementary School students collected nearly 1,600 food items for the Tracy Food Shelf during a recent food drive.

The drive began Nov. 29 ended Dec. 10. Students competed to see which class could bring in the most food, with the winning class promised a pizza party. Coming within five food items of each other were the fifth and sixth grade classes, so both will be rewarded with a pizza party.

Student council president James Fultz said the goal of the drive was to do something for people who are less fortunate during the holidays. The entire student body—kindergarten through sixth grade—participated in the drive.

Peer counselors from Tracy Area High School helped deliver the food to the Tracy Food Shelf Friday afternoon.

School board has no interest in selling land
Issue dies for lack of motion

By Val Scherbart Quist

Land owned by District 417 will not be the site of Tracy’s next housing addition.

The issue died for lack of a motion at the Tracy Area Public Schools Board of Education meeting Monday following time set aside for public comment.

Robert Gervais of the Tracy Economic Development Authority (EDA) started the discussion. He said the first question was whether the school district needs or would need the land.

“If you do, it’s a moot point,” he said. “If not, we would like to put some houses there.”

He said he doesn’t think one housing development is sufficient in Tracy because people want to have choices. He said some people don’t understand why the EDA would want to put houses by the school.

“It’s prime real estate,” he said. He noted that in many communities schools draw housing developments, and cited the new school in Marshall as an example. He added that the EDA would dictate what types of housing could be built on the lot to ensure quality houses are built.

“I think as a community we need to grow, and growth means change,” he said.

He said he thinks Tracy needs housing, and that if the goal is to attract families, the school land would be the best place to build.

Brian Ludeman spoke in opposition of the sale.

“One of the best attributes this school has right now is the buffer zone that surrounds it,” he said.

He expressed concern that the housing development would be too close to the elementary school. He said that in Marshall, the current high school has a buffer between it and the houses that surround it, and that the new school would have a buffer too.

Ludeman said something that would benefit the public might be a better use of the land.

Paul Knoblauch also spoke in opposition of the sale. He has many concerns, including traffic and noise issues, and agreed with Ludeman that a buffer zone is needed.

He said the district may need the land in 20 to 30 years.

“Times change and areas change,” he said.

He said if the board did decide to sell the land, he hoped that the development would be on the tax roll within three to five years so the district would receive the tax dollars generated.

Gervais responded that the property currently does not generate any taxes. He said that as the city of Tracy tries to attract industry, lack of housing is a major concern.

“Industry and housing go hand in hand. If the housing isn’t there, we won’t attract industry,” he said. “We lack that in Tracy.”

Board member Eric Nelson said he didn’t think anyone was against new housing developments, but that there is plenty of available land that is not school property.

Gervais responded that the EDA can look—and has looked—elsewhere, but that they want the best possible scenario to draw people in. He said he is open to suggestions on what would be the best location to draw in families.

Sylvia Vahle spoke next in opposition of the sale. She said her husband, John, served on the school board at the time the schools were built, and that a major consideration in choosing the location was safety.

“That is your first priority more than anything else is to remember the children because that’s who you’re serving,” she said. “That nice, green island that we have around the school—that’s for the children.”

Mike Carlson, a former school board member, agreed that safety was an issue, and said the land could possibly be needed by the district for softball or baseball fields. A more community-based project, such as a theater or gymnasium might also be an option, he said.

“You might need that property someday.”

Vahle agreed.

“We don’t know what’s ahead of us,” she said, citing the old elementary school that was destroyed by the tornado in 1968 as an example.

Gervais addressed the safety issue. He said there are kids crossing busy streets and highways everyday to go to school.

“Wouldn’t it be a ‘bad’ problem if we had 20 houses built there and we had to hire a crossing guard or put up some lights?” he said. “If we look back 30 years from now and this land is still empty, are we going to ask if we did the right thing?”

Following a few more comments from people opposing the sale, board chairman Dan Zimansky asked the board if anyone would like to make a motion in favor of the sale. Hearing no motion, Zimansky moved on to other business.

Decision time looms for waste-to-energy plant

By Val Scherbart Quist

The deadline is approaching for area counties to say “yes” or “no” to a proposed waste-to-energy facility in Lamberton.

Eighteen counties in Southwest Minnesota were originally asked to participate in the project, which is expected to cost $37-$40 million. Several counties, including Lyon County, have already chosen not to participate.

Redwood County Commissioner Brian Kletscher said a meeting was held Nov. 12 with representatives from the nine counties still in talks at that time. At the meeting, discussion was held on the proposed joint powers agreement and the financial implications each county would face if the project moves forward.

Of the nine counties that were still involved in discussions, Redwood and Lincoln counties have since signed the joint powers agreement, and Jackson County has decided not to sign, said Kletscher. Counties yet to make a decision are Kandiyohi, Meeker, Renville, Yellow Medicine, Murray, and Pipestone.

At the November meeting, Kletscher said, counties were asked to make their decision by Dec. 15. He said the deadline will likely be extended until January for counties that have requested that those spearheading the project come back and do another cost analysis. Kletscher said this will be done, and hopes commissioners in those counties will provide input at that time.

He said at least five counties would probably be needed in order to make the waste-to-energy facility work. That depends on the size of the counties that sign on, he added.

Kletscher said that while he would not like to see the facility downsized, that would be taken into consideration once the final number of counties that are going to participate is known.

“We don’t want to do that, but we will look at that option if we have to,” he said.

In the research that has been done, Kletscher said, a number of facilities have been looked at. Among them is a facility in Fosston, located in Polk County. This facility takes in garbage from five counties, and burns 100 tons per day.

“We know these facilities can work, but it’s a matter of cost-effectiveness,” Kletscher said.

Had all 18 counties that were originally approached about the project signed on, facility size and cost to individual counties wouldn’t be as big of an issue, said Kletscher.

“It’s more difficult as we move forward with fewer counties involved.”

Benefits vs. costs

Kletscher believes strongly that the benefits of a waste-to-energy facility in Southwest Minnesota far outweigh the costs, particularly when it comes to the environment and energy needs.

“In this day of high energy costs, we need to look at all the energy resources in front of us. I think we owe it to the general public to capitalize on that instead of burying it in the ground and leaving it there.”

Leonard Runck, who is another supporter of the project, agreed.

“It’s in the public’s best interest to take a resource like garbage and turn it into another resource like energy,” he said. “Most would agree that burying garbage or landfilling is not the best option.”

Runck, RRCNet Network Administrator, became involved in the project when representatives of the Redwood County Commissioners and city of Lamberton approached the Red Rock Central School District about helping with literature, documents, Power Point Presentations, and other promotional items.

Kletscher said adding jobs to the region could be another benefit of a waste-to-energy facility. He said there would probably be 25-30 employees at the start, and that the number could grow from there.

Additional jobs could stem from the project as well, he said. French Ag Research out of Lamberton has signed a letter of intent for partial use of steam energy that would be produced at the facility, Kletscher said. The company is looking into the possibility of a corn processing facility, he said.

“That’s what’s so great about this if we can pull it all together,” Kletscher said.

He said once the joint powers agreement is passed, the project timeline would begin to move along more quickly. The permitting process would begin shortly after approval, and counties would be asked to make a financial commitment up-front. Late 2007 or early 2008 would be the target date for the facility to be up and running.

“I encourage people that if their county isn’t involved, to make contact with their commissioners and voice their concerns, whether they’re for or against it,” said Kletscher.

Runck said he is hopeful that the project will move forward.

“If Redwood County sticks to their guns, I think it’s going to happen,” he said.