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News from the week of June 29, 2005

Drainage project gets 'thumbs up'

Housing idea still considered

Engineers have been hired to draft detailed plans for a South Tracy drainage improvement plan. If no glitches develop, bids could be awarded in late August or September, and construction begin this fall.

Tracy City Council members “ordered in” the project Monday night, following a public hearing.

The project’s estimated cost has been lowered to $498,000. Earlier this month, the project’s total cost (construction, engineering, legal, and a 10% contingency fund) had been estimated at $677,000. Actual costs won’t be known until construction bids are received and awarded.

It has been the city’s policy to assess benefiting property owners with 50% of costs, with city taxpayers at large absorbing the other half.

Based on the $498,000 estimate, property owner assessments are calculated at .072 cents a square foot for commercial/institutional property, .031 a square foot for residential, and .019 a square foot for open space. Under that formula, a homeowner with a 10,000 square foot lot would have an assessment of $310.

The drainage project calls for a new storm sewer line built from the northeast corner of the Tracy Area High School property to the intersection of South Fourth and Front streets. A second storm sewer would be built from Spring Street to South Fourth. An open drainage ditch would be built from the new storm sewers, northeast toward County Ditch 23.

The exact location of the city’s new drainage ditch has not been determined. The $498,000 estimate includes money to purchase five to seven acres of land along the north side of Front Street for the ditch. However, several council members indicated Monday that they may consider buying the entire 30-acre Central Livestock parcel, if the city chooses to develop a new housing addition with the drainage project. Constructing an open drainage ditch along Front Street, would render that property useless for future residential home building.

Purchase of the entire Central Livestock property, which has been assessed at $4,000 to $6,000 an acre, would enable the city to build a shorter drainage ditch. But buying the entire parcel also entail some demolition costs if the decision were made to tear down the former Central Livestock barn.

Bonding likely

In a memo to council members, City Administrator Audrey Koopman indicated that the city would likely need to borrow money through the sale of a city-backed revenue bond in order to pay for the drainage improvements. She wrote that the city did not have enough cash on hand to finance the project, and that the project would be unlikely to qualify for any low-interest state loans or grants.

Benefited area

The area that will benefit from the drainage project is bounded by the Highline Road on the west, Greenwood Ave. on the north, Pine Street on the south, and an imaginary line about 850 feet east of South Fourth Street on the east. A final assessment hearing will be conducted when improvements are complete.

SEH Inc. of Worthington is handling the engineering work on the project.

Wellness Center land sale agreed to

A proposal for a privately owned Tracy wellness/rehab center moved a step forward Friday.

Ron and Warren Gramstad of Tracy Ace Home Center reached a tentative agreement with the Tracy Economic Development Authority to buy 1.7 acres of land in the Eastview Addition for the wellness center. Conditions attached to that sale are scheduled to be considered by the Tracy Planning Commission Tuesday.

The Gramstads are studying the possibility of building a wellness center south of the Prairie View Healthcare Center, if a long-term lease agreement can be reached with Tracy Area Medical Services. The Gramstad/Ace Home Center proposal does not involve any public financing.

EDA members accepted a $5,000 offer from the Gramstads for five undeveloped lots between the platted eastward extensions of Union Street and Sunrise Drive. However, the land transaction has several contingencies. 1) The Gramstads and TAMS work out a long-term lease agreement for the wellness center; 2) Zoning issues are resolved to allow a wellness center in the Eastview Addition; 3) Union Street is vacated between Fifth St. East and Sixth St. East.

The street and zoning issues have been placed on the planning commission’s agenda for Tuesday, July 5. The EDA has recommended that the street vacation be granted, as long as the city retains the right-of-way. EDA members also recommend that the wellness center be allowed by either establishing new zoning for the proposed wellness center site, or by defining a wellness center as a permitted use in the R-1 zone.

• • •

The community wellness and rehab center has been discussed for several months. In April, TAMS unveiled blueprints for a 6,000 square foot facility. The wellness center part of the facility would be accessible to dues paying members through a card access system. State-of-the-art exercise equipment would outfit the center. The hospital’s rehab center would use some of the same equipment, but would have separate facilities for use by patients. Staff would be utilized in both areas to save on operating costs. TAMS would operate and manage the center. Hospital space now used by therapists would be freed up for additional outreach medical services at the hospital.

The Gramstads would build their own private driveway from Union Street to the new center. A parking lot near the wellness center would provide off-street parking.

New Methodist pastor excited about mission

New Tracy United Methodist Pastor Kaye Brandt felt positive on Monday morning about her first Sunday at her new church.

“It feels good to be here,” she said. “I’ve been very warmly welcomed.” Pastor Brandt began her duties at Tracy United Methodist Church last Thursday.

The Wyoming native said she was working as an accountant at a private firm in Fridley when she felt the push from God to become a pastor.

“I became more active in my local church and finally recognized that I needed to take this leap of faith,” she said.

She attended United Theological Seminary in Minneapolis, and upon graduating served a small church in Minneapolis as a half-time appointment for two years. She was then called to Lake Crystal and Madelia, where she served for the past four years.

Brandt said she is looking forward to getting to know the Tracy congregation and see the direction they are going with their faith and service in the community.

“The motto of the church is, ‘Open hearts, open minds, open doors,’” Brandt said. “One goal of mine is to see how we are living out that motto in this particular church.”

She hopes to be able to guide parishioners into areas of service and help them discover and use their personal gifts.

“One of my passions is listening to sacred stories of the people of the congregation and walking with them on their personal faith journey,” she said.

She is also looking forward to getting to know and becoming involved with the Tracy community, which she sees as an integral part of her appointment in Tracy.

During her free time, Brandt enjoys spending time with friends and family. She has four children, two in the Twin Cities area, one in Bemidji, and one in Ohio, and two grandchildren.

First activity stirs at aquatic center

Harbingers of a $1.1 million Tracy Aquatic Center restoration project have appeared at Sebastian Park.

Tuesday, a mobile home was moved into place north of the aquatic center. A gravel road from Elm Street had been beefed up southeast of the pool to allow heavy equipment onto the site. Colored flags around the aquatic center marked underground utilities.

City Administrator Audrey Koopman said Tuesday that she expected the delivery of pool repair materials any time, and repairs to begin soon after.

The repairs are expected to be completed late this fall, with aquatic center operations set to begin next year. The pool has been closed since the fall of 2003, when deficiencies were noticed in pool. The $1.8 million aquatic center had opened in July of 2002.

The City of Tracy awarded a $790,800 construction contract for pool repairs in April. A $297,000 contract for materials was awarded later.


Band's school reunion gig has played on for 15 years

When the Tracy Community Band takes the stage at the Central Park bandshell Thursday, it will be exactly 15 years since the band’s first performance.

The band was formed in 1990 as an alumni band to play for Tracy Area High School’s all-school reunion, said director Clint Peterson. Invitations were sent to people who had played in the high school band. One-hundred Tracy alums played in the all-school reunion band.

After the performance, Peterson said, some members began to ask, “When’s our next gig?”

Homer Dobson provided the answer, by asking the band to play for a July 4 program. The alumni band has since evolved into the Tracy Community Band, and has been playing “gigs” in Tracy and the surrounding area ever since.

A core group from the original alumni band—around 15, Peterson estimates—have remained with the Tracy Community Band and serve as the band’s core group.

Throughout the years, the band has come to include more than just Tracy graduates. Some high school students have shown interest, including some from this year’s graduating class and the class of 2006. Newcomers to the Tracy community and members from Balaton, Lamberton, and the surrounding area have joined and contributed to the band too, Peterson said.

“It’s quite a commitment but they’ve been willing to do that,” Peterson said. “I really appreciate the commitment these people have given to play in the community band.”

Peterson recalls that when he first came to teach in Tracy, the high school band played six concerts in the park every summer. One was scheduled the night of June 13, 1968, when an F-5 twister did extensive damage in Tracy, Peterson remembers.

After the new high school was built, the summer band concerts in the park fell by the wayside, Peterson said. The Tracy Community Band has brought music back to Central Park in recent years.

The band plays for many fund-raisers in the community, including the Lion’s Club’s “Burgers & Bands,” and Wheels Across the Prairie and fire department fund-raisers.

The band has also played in all but one Box Car Days parade since the band’s inception in 1990. Why was that one missed? Peterson was in the hospital, and Dr. Apostol wouldn’t release him until after the parade. The band has also played in numerous parades in other communities. Last year, they played a concert in the Lamberton city park. Another concert is set there on July 12.

A trip to Washington, D.C. two years ago has been the highlight of the band’s 15-year tenure.

“That was a great experience,” he said.

The band was invited to play in D.C. for Music Celebration International’s National Festival of the States concert series. Forty Tracy Community Band members went on the trip, which included three concerts, much sightseeing, and laying a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknowns. Band members John Schleppenbach, Ellen Garvin, Dave Kosse, and Chauncey Muedeking, all of whom have military service in their background, participated in the ceremony.

There have, of course, been many other fun and memorable experiences that have kept the band members returning year after year.

“It has been a good experience for us and I hope the people in the community appreciate and enjoy what we do,” Peterson said.

• • •

Thursday’s Community Band concert begins at 7:30 p.m. at the Central Park bandshell. Root beer floats will be sold as a fund-raiser for Lyon County’s Relay for Life.

Church dedication set at End-O-Line Sunday

A dedication ceremony for the recently moved First United Presbyterian Church of Currie is planned Sunday, July 3, at 2 p.m. at the End-O-Line Railroad Park and Museum in Currie.

Zorada Silvernale Hoge—the Currie native who gave $65,000 to move and restore the historic church at End-O-Line—is expected to be in attendance. The public is invited.

The church, built in 1872 or 1873, is thought to be the oldest building in Murray County. Originally called Lake Shetek Church, the congregation was organized in September of 1871 and is the longest established congregation in Murray County. The church was moved from its original location on Church Street in Currie on May 27. Work to refurbish the structure has been underway ever since.

Curator Louise Gervais is pleased with what’s been done so far.

“It won’t be completed, but it will have a nice appearance for the celebration,” she said.

Joe Schreier Construction of Currie finished the foundation and basement work around the structure last week. A hole around the foundation has been filled in and landscaping work is underway.

Plans were to hoist the church’s belltower back into place soon.

“It should be up the beginning of this week, which is really going to help the building look more like a church,” states Louise Gervais.

The boardwalk outside the building will also be constructed soon. The boardwalk will run from the Sunrise Schoolhouse all the way across the front of the church. The church’s interior also needs work. One project will be the construction of a stairway to the basement.

The entire project was scheduled to be finished July 3. But wet weather has delayed progress.

The refurbished church will be open as a museum exhibit. The Presbyterian congregation will be able to use the building for church events during warm-weather months.