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News from the week of July 27, 2005

59 properties identified in nuisance inspection
A citywide inspection has identified violations of Tracy’s residential nuisance ordinance on 59 properties. Certified letters to the property owners with violations are expected to be mailed within a week.

Property owners will have two weeks to correct problems. Violations not cleaned up after the initial two weeks would be subject to a $75 fine. Violations still not resolved after the imposition of the fine could be prosecuted in district court.

Police Chief Bryan Hillger, and volunteer inspector Shorty Engel recorded the nuisance ordinance violations during a street and alley tour of the city earlier this month. The Tracy City Council ordered the inspections.

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At a Monday night city council meeting, Sandi Rettmer reported that inspectors discovered a wide range of ordinance violations. Problems ranged from old unlicensed vehicles and tires to abandoned appliances and mattresses.

Rettmer said that the violation notifications sent to property owners will include a list of resources that people can turn to in getting rid of old materials and cleaning up problems.

Citizens can appeal the findings of inspectors by calling Tracy City Hall after their receipt of the certified letter. People can then take their cases directly to the Tracy City Council.

Commercial properties were not included in the city inspection. However, Rettmer said that the commercial inspection will be conducted soon.

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The idea of reviving a free pick-up and disposal day for Tracy residents was discussed briefly by council members Monday and rejected.

City Administrator Audrey Koopman said that the city-sponsored free pickup date had been stopped for two reasons. The event cost taxpayers $5,000 to $6,000 the last time it was offered, she said, and in some ways was counterproductive. Some citizens, knowing that a free-disposal day was available once a year, Koopman said, would stockpile old items until the clean-up day, thereby creating accumulations of junk in the interim. It was also felt that it was fairer to have people pay for the disposal of their own items, rather than have all taxpayers foot the bill.

Council members did agree to look into the possibility of working with a private recycling company to have an appliance pickup day. Under that scenario, property owners would sign up to have their old appliance picked up on a certain day with the payment of a fee. The company would then pick up old appliances set at curbside on a certain date.

$146,000 airport bid accepted

A paving project for the Tracy Airport is moving forward.

City council members accepted a $146,000 bid for the airport paving Monday. Federal and state grants will pay for 95% of the cost, leaving the City of Tracy’s share at $7,300.

The project will create a paved taxiway to the airport hangars on the airport’s west side. Central Specialties of Slayton was awarded the bid.

The Tracy Airport Commission recommended the improvement. Commission members have said they will seek charitable gambling donations from local service clubs to cover Tracy’s share. If donations aren’t adequate, commission members said the price of aviation fuel sold at the airport will be increased.

The $142,000 bid is 12% greater than a $130,000 engineer’s estimate.

Bumper-to-Bumper traffic
Farmers grab opportunity to deliver corn

By Megan Meyer

The Cenex Harvest States elevator in Tracy appeared to be rolling in the corn Monday. Lines of tractors and wagons, grain trucks and semis extended from the elevator almost to the former Central Livestock building driveway. This is one of the first weeks this summer that farmers are to deliver corn to the elevator every day.

Lower recent corn prices didn’t stop some farmers from emptying their bins at home. Some reported that they had already sold their corn or had it contracted at higher prices. Due to the elevator being full or the need to meet deadlines, hauling is just taking place now.

Many of the farmers were finding ways to make the time pass as they waited in line. Some were outside talking in small groups and others were sitting in their tractor cab watching the line or catching a short nap.

Sam Lau, a Tracy Area High School senior, was one of many waiting in line. He has sometimes waited two and a half hours before reaching the elevator to unload. “This is horrible. I don’t really like to haul corn.”

So far he had been waiting about 20 minutes, but he figured he was still about an hour from getting into the elevator. “I would go to sleep, but I don’t think I would wake up. People would probably cut in front of me.” Lau said with a chuckle.

Dave Knott was hauling his corn to meet a deadline. A company that he has his corn contracted to needs it by August 1. He has about 3,000 bushels left to haul and is assuming it’s going to take a couple of days to get it all hauled in. “At this rate,” Knott joked.

Another farmer, like many others, had been to the elevator and back more than once today. Wayne Anderson’s tractor was pulling two wagons and this was his third trip to the elevator.

“Everybody is just trying to get done. Much of the corn has already been sold, just not delivered.” He figured many were hauling today because the elevator hasn’t been taking very much grain lately.

“The elevator was full. They are filled up all over.”

Bob Anderson, Tracy elevator manager, confirms that storage space has been tight. “We didn’t take any corn last week. We were trying to move things around so farmers could get it in now. I think we will be taking corn all this week.”

Most farmers are assuming the elevator will be busy all week.

$82,200 is added splash pool cost

The bill for repairing the Tracy Aquatic Center has increased by $82,200.

The extra cost, okayed by city council members Monday, adds to the $1.1 million in aquatic center repairs approved earlier.

The $82,200 change order covers the extra labor needed to remove all the concrete and base materials around the aquatic center’s splash pool area, and replace it with new construction.

The extra work was ordered because of tests showing poor fill material underneath the old splash pool concrete, dating from the aquatic center’s 2001-02 construction. Engineers recommended the old base and concrete be removed and replaced before proceeding with repairs. Placing the renovated splash pool over a poor foundation would expose it to a high risk of cracking and settling, council members were told.

Councilman Bill Chukuske said he was disappointed that the city’s consulting engineer hadn’t been able to negotiate a lower price.

“We are on the high end of where we thought we were going to be,” he said, referring to estimates presented at a special July 18 council meeting. Legal counsel Jim Kerr said that the $82,200 change order cost was based upon figures from original construction bids. The extra cost will be paid out of a $150,000 contingency fund that has been set aside for unexpected repair expenses.

City leaders hope to recover the cost of pool repairs in a lawsuit that it has filed against a pool contractor, the pool architect, and a bonding company. The case is scheduled to come to trial in January.

The aquatic center has been closed for the past two summers. Built at a cost of $1.8 million, the Tracy Aquatic Center opened in July of 2002. But the pool operated only two seasons before problems were discovered.

Pool repairs—which will include the installation of pool liners and gutters and the demolition and replacement of a major retaining wall—are expected to be completed in October. The aquatic center is scheduled to re-open for the summer of 2006.

'Million dollar rain' boosts crops

By Kyle Lessman

The proverbial “million dollar rain” fell over large swaths of Southwest Minnesota Monday.

According to the Tracy Weather Center web site, Tracy received 1.5 inches of rain Tuesday. Other area precipitation reports include: Amiret, .8”; south of Balaton, 2.25”; Milroy, 1.4”; Southwest Outreach Center Lamberton, 1.5”; Currie, nearly 4”. Late Monday afternoon, the National Weather Service in Sioux Falls issued a flash flood warning for Pipestone, Murray, and Cottonwood counties.

Local observers say the precipitation is a huge boost to crop prospects.

“Some people talk about million dollar rains and this may have been one,” said Bruce Potter, an agronomist at the Southwest Research and Outreach Center in Lamberton.

The Monday rains were the first significant precipitation in Tracy since July 8, when .87” of rain was recorded. Precipitation during July has been below average across the region.

“We were very fortunate,” said Shannon Christenson, the president of the Amiret Grain Elevator. “A rain like this is always important.”

The steady Monday afternoon and evening precipitation came at the perfect time, Amiret Township farmer Ben Ludeman said.

“This was very crucial to corn development,” said Ludeman. “It is most important the week before and the week after pollination.”

Christenson agreed, “This will definitely help fill in the ears on the corn and the pods on the beans.”

“This, with cooler temperatures, should be enough for right now,” said Potter.

“Our soil profile is doing very well,” agreed Ludeman.

The United State Department of Agriculture’s Minnesota Field Office reported that as of July 22 only 33 percent of the state was in need of soil moisture. Sixty-two percent of the state was judged to have “adequate” soil moisture, with five percent fit into the surplus category. The Tri-County area was classified as having “adequate” soil moisture.

The USDA crop report as of July 22 estimated that 84 percent of the corn was silking, compared with 46 percent last year and 59 percent for the five-year average. Eighty-two percent of the soybeans were blooming, compared with 69 percent last year and 72 percent for the five-year average. Soybeans setting pods were 21 percent compared with 14 percent last year and 16 percent for the five-year average.

Although soil moisture levels are good right now, Christenson feels that some later season rains would also be beneficial.

“It is very important for the beans that we get another shot of rain in mid-August.”

St. Mary's School to mark 50th anniversary

A 50th anniversary celebration is being planned for St. Mary’s School, Saturday, Sept. 3.

Many Sept. 3 activities will be held in parking lot behind St. Mary’s Church and School. A pork BBQ dinner will be served from noon to 2 p.m., with an offering being accepted. Children’s entertainment will be provided from noon to 3:45 p.m. Live music, spiritual puppet theater by Wee Bee Kids and a magic show by Lary Parker are among the planned activities.

St. Mary’s School will be open for tours. Memorabilia from the school’s 50-year past will be on display. An Alumni Mass of Celebration is planned at 4 p.m. in St. Mary’s Church.

The cornerstone for St. Mary’s School was laid in October of 1955. The completed school opened in August of 1956.