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News from the week of September 14, 2005

 Honey, they shrunk the school enrollment
But drop smaller than expected

Student enrollments are a mix of good and bad news this fall for Tracy Public Schools.

First, the bad news.

The 766 students who were on District 417 rolls Friday represent a 5.7% decline from the 812 students Tracy Public Schools served a year ago. The smaller student numbers will result in a significant reduction in school district revenues, since each pupil generates about $6,000 in state aid.

Now, the good news.

The enrollment decline this fall was less than school officials expected. School administrators based their 2005-06 budget on a projected enrollment of 757 students. The nine additional pupils that showed up in Tracy classrooms will generate about $54,000 of revenue that the district hadn’t counted on.

The unexpected students softened the effect of a large 2005 graduating class last spring and a small incoming kindergarten class this fall.

“The main difference in our enrollment is that we had a class of 80 seniors graduate last spring, and this year’s kindergarten has 31 students,” observed Supt. David Marlette.

Tracy Public Schools ended the 2004-05 school year with about 800 students. The current enrollment is 766 pupils. The 34 fewer students thus represent the loss of about $200,000 to District 417 finances, if a value of $6,000 is given to each lost student.

Overall, Marlette said, recent enrollment trends for District 417 remain positive. Even with this year’s decline in numbers, Tracy still has 21 more students than it had three years ago.

Plans mapped for sports bar

Work is underway to transform the former Tracy Minntronix building into the Shetek Bend Banquet Bar & Grill.

“We hope that we will have the bar area open by Dec. 15,” said Neil Daniels, one of the partners in the venture.

The new facility will have a sports bar with seating for about 80, plus a banquet hall that can accommodate as many as 450 people.

“We are going to have a facility that is unique in this area,” Daniels said.

The sports bar will have a relaxed, but comfortable atmosphere, Daniels said, with a unique decor. For example, the bar will have two “pullouts” that will be real tree stumps with finished wood tops. The sports bar will have a “Northwoods outdoors” feel to it, Daniels said.

“It’s not going to be fancy, but it will be clean and nice.”

The bar area will have seven televisions, making it “a nice place to watch a Twins or Vikings game,” Daniels said.

The menu will include various appetizers, burgers, sandwiches, fries, broasted chicken, and steaks. According to Daniels, the goal will be to provide good food in a fun atmosphere.

“We’re not going to be fine dining. We’re not going to have seafood. But we will be a place where people can go out an enjoy a good meal.”

The remodeling now underway includes not only the bar area, but also a new kitchen with walk-in cooler, and new plumbing in the kitchen area.

Shetek Bend Banquet Bar and Grill will include a game room with pool tables, darts, and a variety of electronic games.


Big events sought

The banquet room will be marketed as a venue for many large events, such as weddings, banquets, reunions, conventions, meetings, and dances.

“We will have the largest banquet facility within a 40-mile radius,” Daniels said. A portion of the building’s original wood dance floor will be restored, Daniels indicated.

The group’s strategy, Daniels said, is to open the sports bar first, and then have the banquet hall ready for events beginning in February.

To help keep a lid on costs, Daniels said that the Shetek Bend group would buy some of its equipment and fixtures at liquidation auctions in the Twin Cities. The expectation is, he said, that it will be possible to buy items that are in excellent condition for a fraction of the new price.

Shetek Bend will be open seven days a week. Hours have not been set, although Daniels said that Shetek Bend would not ordinarily be open for noon lunches.

The operation will not do outside catering, Daniels said. Outside caterers will be hired for large banquets at Shetek Bend, he indicated.


Operating efficiencies seen

Daniels said that the bar and restaurant business is an extremely competitive business. But he feels that Shetek Bend Banquet Bar & Grill will have several advantages beyond its spacious size and attractive décor .

The number of major investors in the venture, and the amount of “sweat equity” being put into the enterprise, will allow Shetek Bend to be virtually free of debt when it opens, Daniels said.

The facility, he said, is in good shape with plenty of parking and excellent Hwy. 14 exposure. The layout of the kitchen and bar and grill area, Daniels added, will make it possible to use staff efficiently.

He’s optimistic that Shetek Bend Banquet Bar & Grill will be able to pull business from outside Tracy. But he adds that local support will also be vital.

“It was a wake-up call when the Med closed (this winter). People thought that the Med was going to be here forever. I think that people better realize now that if they want things in Tracy, they have to support them.”

Daniels said that Shetek Bend Banquet Bar & Grill will have “upwards of ten major investors.” All told, the business could have as many as 20 stockholders, he said. Additional investors, he said, are still being accepted.

Reservations are also being accepted for large group events and banquets. People can call Daniels at 828-2641 for more information.


Historic connection

The name “Shetek Bend” is a reference to the Tracy’s early days as a new outpost on the Winona & St. Peter Railroad. According to a 1912 history of Lyon County by Arthur Rose, Neil Currie built a warehouse in present-day Tracy in 1874 along the newly-built rail line. The warehouse was for goods that were shipped by wagon to the Lake Shetek area. The warehouse, and other enterprises that soon followed, was called “Shetek Station” or “Shetek Bend.” The name “Tracy” came into use in 1876.

The 20,000 square foot structure was built in about 1977 by the Tracy American Legion. It became the Tracy Servicemen’s Center in about 1985, shortly after the Tracy VFW Club closed. In the 1990s the building was remodeled for Tracy Minntronix. When Minntronix moved its operations to South Dakota last year, Jeff and Dean Salmon bought the property. The Salmons recently sold the property to the Shetek Bend group.

Lightning strike can't zap Tracy Food Pride

Business returns to normal after Monday outage

“We feel fortunate. We really do,” Tracy Food Price owner Dawn Schelhaas was saying on Tuesday. “This could have been a lot worse…a lot worse.”

Business operations at the Tracy supermarket were normal on Tuesday. But on Monday, Food Pride endured a 10-hour power outage. The outage shut down all of the store’s refrigeration and freezing equipment, forcing the emergency transfer of tens of thousands of dollars worth of perishable food. With flashlights illuminating the store and a generator powering two cash registers and price scanners, Food Pride stayed open until power was restored at about 5:30 p.m. Monday. Dairy products, produce, meat, and frozen foods were transferred back to coolers and freezers Tuesday.

Schelhaas said all of the store’s perishables were saved. The perishable food items, she said, had a value of $100,000 to $150,000.

• • •

Food Pride’s electric power went out at about 7:30 a.m. when lighting struck an electric transformer behind the store. Xcel Energy crews were called out for repairs. Not knowing whether they would be without electricity for hours or days, work began at 10:30 a.m., to transfer the store’s perishable dairy, produce, and deli products into two small ice trucks. Then frozen items were moved into a Land-O-Lakes freezer trailer.

About 30 Food Pride employees, including about a dozen teenage employees, helped with the transfer.

“I called the high school and asked them if our students could be let out of school to help us, and they were very cooperative,” Dawn Schelhaas said. “The kids were here helping us almost right away. We couldn’t have done it without them.”

She also thanked Donna and Robert Caron, owners of the Red Rooster, for bringing over a portable generator, and providing lunches for about 30 workers while the transfer of perishables to cold storage continued.

“We had a lot of help throughout the day,” Schelhaas said. “We had offers from people in Tracy all day. People were really good to us.”

• • •

The assistance, and the ability of Xcel Energy to repair the transformer, Schelhaas said, saved the store from a potential loss of tens of thousands of dollars that wouldn’t have been covered by insurance. To the best of her knowledge, she said, this is the first time the supermarket had suffered a total outage in the 17 years since its construction.

“Usually, if you have an equipment failure, it’s one freezer or a section of one.” The lightning strike and outage, she said, was a freak occurrence no one could have prevented. The lightning strike was part of a strong thunderstorm cell that was passing over the Tracy area Monday morning.

Subway remains closed

The Tracy Subway remains closed. But owners Tom and Sue Morin say that they are exploring possibilities for selling their franchise to another person who would re-open the Tracy Subway at a different location.

Subway, located in the former Mediterranean Restaurant on Hwy. 14, has been closed since Sept. 6.

“We kept going further in the hole each month,” said Tom Morin, about their decision to close Subway. He said that the Subway was doing an excellent volume of business. But the overhead operating expenses of being in the Mediterranean building—utilities, taxes, and insurance—were too high to overcome, he said.

The Mediterranean Club has been closed since February. The Morins have been trying to sell the former Mediterranean complex, with hopes that a new owner could utilize the Med’s banquet room, restaurant and bar. If that would have happened, they might have been able to continue their Subway operation at its present location, Tom Morin said.

“It is what it is. It is time for us to stop beating our heads against a wall and to try something new,” Morin said. He said options for selling their Subway to someone who would re-open the restaurant at a new location are being explored. The Mediterranean property also remains for sale.

The Morins opened Subway in 1997. The restaurant employed about eight full and part-time people.

• • •

Robert Gervais, Tracy Community Development director, told Tracy City Council members Monday that he is working with two parties interested in operating a Subway restaurant in Tracy.

Cyclists honor Jason Timmerman

Tears trickled down many faces at the Veterans’ Memorial Center in Tracy Saturday afternoon.

“Thank you,” said Pat Timmerman, after a group of motorcycle riders presented her with a framed portrait of her son, Jason, who died Feb. 21 in Iraq.

With her husband, Gary, at her side, Mrs. Timmerman asked people to pray for the American troops still in Iraq. America’s servicemen, she said, were striving to ensure that her son and other Americans “did not die in vain” in Iraq.

Tracy was included in one of three motorcycle rides across Minnesota conducted by the “Wounded Warriors” organization. Twenty motorcycles and their riders pulled into Tracy at 1:30 p.m. for a program at the Veterans’ Center.

“Home,” a DVD tribute to Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin soldiers who have lost their lives in Iraq, was shown over a large-screen television. A Department of Defense framed photo of Jason Timmerman was presented to his parents, along with an American flag that was carried on the ride.

In addition to the 30 “Tribute to the Troops” motorcycle riders, the Tracy program was attended by four members of the Timmerman family, State Senator Jim Vickerman, State Rep. Marty Seifert, Mayor Steve Ferrazzano, and about a half-dozen Tracy citizens.

The cyclists made several other stops during their southern Minnesota tour. Like two other Tribute to the Troops rides in Minnesota Saturday, the cyclists converged at the Medina Ballroom in Hamel late Saturday for a benefit concert. On Sunday, the riders held a memorial service at Fort Snelling National Cemetery in St. Paul.

Money raised by the organization is designated for college funds for surviving children of the fallen soldiers. More information is available at the web site www. tributetothetroops.

First Lt. Jason Timmerman, 24, died in a bomb blast in Baghdad. The 1998 graduate of Lakeview High School was the husband of Teresa Timmerman of Tracy.