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News from the week of September 28, 2005


Tracy Kid's World seeks corporate donations

Construction hoped for in '06

A campaign has been launched to raise $350,000 for Tracy Kid’s World, the 11,500 square foot daycare center planned near Tracy Elementary School.

The money would be coupled with $1,360,000 in federal loans and loan guarantees.

Louise Noomen, who has been spearheading the Tracy Kid’s World application with the federal government’s Rural Development agency, is upbeat about the fund-raising.

“Yes, I’m optimistic that we’ll reach the goal,” she said.

For example, Noomen said that chances look good for a $100,000 Head Start grant.

Mark Priegnitz, Tracy Kid’s World chairman, said that the campaign is targeting large corporate donors. He said local businesses and individuals were not being solicited during this phase of the drive, because they are routinely asked to support many other local causes.

Priegnitz said he has been pleased with the initial response to the campaign, although some businesses have had to defer action until the 2006 budget year.

Non-grant financing consists of an $860,000, 4% Rural Development loan amortized over 40 years, and a $500,000 bank loan guaranteed by the federal government.

Both Priegnitz and Noomen said that they remain hopeful that construction can begin in 2006.

Final plans for Tracy Kid’s World were recently submitted to Rural Development for approval.

“We’ve done everything they’ve asked us to do,” said Priegnitz.

• • •

Tracy Kid’s World would be licensed to provide services for up to 104 children. Seventy-four spots are envisioned for daycare children, infant through age 12. Before and after-school programs would serve up to 30 more children. Planned hours are Monday through Friday, from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Up to 15 to 17 people would be employed.

The proposed daycare would be located on four acres of land east of Tracy Elementary School. The Tracy Board of Education has offered to donate the land.

Capital expenditure needs identified for Tracy Public Schools

Nearly $1.3 million in capital expenditure needs have been identified by District 417 administrators and supervisors.

Board members were given a list of needed capital projects and purchases at their Sept. 12 meeting. The projects and purchases were divided into six categories: grounds department, maintenance department, athletic department, high school building, elementary building, and district-wide improvements.

The costs listed were arrived at through conversations with vendors and contractors. Sealed bids were not received for the improvements.

It is estimated that $43,000 worth of improvements are needed in the grounds department. The majority of this money would be dedicated to a new rider mower and attachments, at $25,000. Also included are bus garage repairs at $12,500, installation of a flag pole and name plate at the elementary school at $2,500, and leveling and seeding the elementary school playground at $3,000.

A total of $26,000 of needed items have been estimated for the maintenance department. This includes vacuum cleaners, hall machines, scrubbers, and buffer machines.

In the athletic department, $283,500 worth of improvements have been identified. The majority of that money would go toward replacement of the track at the high school’s track/football complex. This project is estimated at $195,000. Replacement of the track field lighting system is also on the improvement list, at an estimated cost of $85,000. An additional $3,500 would be dedicated toward elementary soccer fields.

Over half a million dollars’ worth of work has been identified at the high school and elementary school buildings—$332,500 at the high school and $197,500 at the elementary school.

The largest of these projects is replacement of 25 percent of the high school roof, which is expected to cost around $135,000. Around $55,000 would be spent on floor covering replacement at the high school, and another $45,000 at the elementary school.

“Our buildings are 35 years old,” said Supt. David Marlette.

External door replacement is also on the improvement list at both school buildings. These projects are expected to cost $60,000 at the high school and $50,000 at Tracy Elementary. Parking lot refinishing at a total of $59,500 is also being considered. Replacement of wiring to the parking lot lights at the high school is estimated at $15,000.

Miscellaneous district-wide improvements total $410,000. This includes $125,000 for an external tile and drainage project, which the school board has been considering. Other improvements and purchases include security camera systems for both buildings, chairs and desks, lunchroom tables, white boards, plumbing work, and a clock/intercom system.

The total of all of the identified improvements and purchases is estimated to be $1,292,500.

With all of these projects under consideration, the board has decided to ask voters to pass a five-year levy that will generate about $350,000 ($425 per student) annually. State education aid would contribute about two-thirds of that amount, with the remaining dollars coming from district taxpayers. The current levy, which would expire next year, would be revoked and the new referendum put into place.

Voters will also be asked to grant the district authority to use $69,326 that has been set aside for a bond payment in 2008. The district has been saving approximately $69,000 each year to use as the final $280,000 payment on the $1.3 million bond for a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning project. If the question is not approved, the money would have to be returned to the state, because the state no longer allows money to be put aside from an excess levy unless approved by voters.

School board candidates are sought

Wanted: Someone who cares about kids and wants to do what’s best for them.

If District 417 Superintendent David Marlette could advertise for three willing school board candidates, it might say something along those lines.

“We need some good people,” he said.

The reason? The district has a bit of a conundrum this fall. A July deadline for candidates to file for a Nov. 8 school board election has come and gone without any applicants. Incumbents Garry Hippe, Ed Carter, and Eric Nelson, have chosen not to run for re-election.

“We are losing some really good board members,” Marlette said of the departing board members. “I hate to see them leave.”

So what happens on election day?

Since no one has filed for any of the board seats, the election will likely be determined by write-in candidates, said Marlette. He encourages anyone who is interested in running as a write-in to announce his or her intentions very soon.

Voters may write in anyone they choose on Nov. 8. Interested people announcing write-in candidacies would, of course, make the choice easier for voters.

The positions will be offered to the three write-ins receiving the most votes. Write-ins have the option to not accept the position when it is offered to them.

Write-in candidates who do accept the position will serve five-year terms. The reason for the lengthened term is that the board recently decided to change the district’s election year to coincide with city, state, and federal general elections.

If there are any board seats left over after the write-ins are offered the positions, the board will appoint new members. These appointments would last until the next school board election, in two years.

It is possible, under this scenario, that all seven board positions could be up at the same time. Marlette said this would be the worst-case scenario, and hopes write-in candidates will step forward to this situation can be avoided.

Garvin sewer, street work almost done

Motorists in Garvin could soon be driving on paved streets.

“If weather permits, they are talking about paving either this week or next week,” said Garvin Mayor Jim Julien Monday. Final grading work on the streets was underway on Monday and Tuesday.

The paving is the final piece of a $1.6 million project to build a new sewer collection and treatment system in Garvin. Garvin residents have endured two years of construction.

The project has built three new sewage treatment ponds on the northwest edge of Garvin. New sanitary sewer pipe was laid throughout Garvin, with individual service lines dug to individual homes and businesses. Old sewer systems were disconnected. The city purchased seven acres of land for the new sewage treatment ponds.

The underground pipes that comprised Garvin’s old sanitary sewer collection system will now serve as a storm sewer.

Julien said that the old sewer collection system did not meet state standards. Garvin’s sewage, under the old system, simply flowed out of town and eventually emptied into a drainage ditch.

Besides protecting the environment, Julien hopes that the new sewer system will spark new development. In the past, not having a functioning sanitary sewer collection and treatment center, meant that anyone building a new house in Garvin, had to install their own septic drainage fields.

• • •

Garvin is receiving a $1.3 million grant from the United State Dept. of Agriculture to help finance the project. The grant does not have to be re-paid. A $280,000 low-interest, long-term loan will be re-paid by users. Julien estimated that the average sewer bill, which will have a base rate and a volume-based rate, will be $25 to $30 a month. The sewer bill will be included on the City of Garvin’s monthly utility bill, which now includes just Red Rock Rural Water and garbage disposal. Garvin has about 80 utility users.

Construction of the sewage lagoons and about 75% of the main sewer lines was completed last year. Digging for the individual service lines and continued throughout the summer.

The project included accessibility improvements to Garvin City Hall.

Most Garvin streets will be paved without curb and gutter. An exception will be the west side of Main Street, where new curbing and a sidewalk have been installed.

Historic homecoming

Chia Thao is first Hmong student chosen as homecoming king

No one was smiling more broadly in the Tracy Area High School gym than Chia Thao Monday night.

The Tracy teen had just been crowned as his school’s homecoming king.

“This is the most exciting feeling,” he said. “This is the greatest night.”

Chia is the first Hmong student ever chosen as a Tracy High School homecoming candidate. Simply being selected as a candidate, he indicated, was an honor. Being chosen as the homecoming king, he said, was an overwhelming feeling. He expressed gratefulness that fellow students had chosen him.

“He’s a great kid,” said Principal Chad Anderson. “Everyone likes him. He has a big smile for everybody.”

Chia’s family emigrated from Laos to the United States in 1990. After living in California for five years, the family came to Tracy in 1995. Tong and Mor Thao have a home in the Greenwood Addition. Chia is the third oldest of eight Thao children.

Both parents were present to see their son’s selection as homecoming kind.

“Tracy is good place,” said Tong, who is employed by the Schwan Food Company in Marshall. A big city like St. Paul, where he knows a number of Hmong families, he said, has many people and many problems. Tracy has few people and few problems, he said, as well as opportunities for youth and families.

Chia also says that he enjoys living and going to school in Tracy.

“It is quiet and peaceful.”

His favorite school subject is math. Chia plans to attend college next year, and possibly study in a math-related field. Wrestling, he said, is his favorite school activity.

Tracy Public Schools had almost no minority students prior to 1990. That changed in 1991, when the first Hmong families moved into the community. Almost 25% of the District 417 student population is of Hmong descent today.

The homecoming king and queen were selected by a vote of all students in grades 7-12. A vote by the seniors selected the 12 king and queen candidates.

• • •

Stacy LaVoy, the homecoming queen, is a native of Tracy. Her parents, Jan and Steve LaVoy, are Milroy High School graduates. An academic letter winner and National Honor Society member, her school activities include cross-country, softball, choir and band. She is considering a teaching career.

Her sister, Suzanne, was the TAHS homecoming queen in 1999.

Mysterious bones unearthed at Slaughter Slough

It was what should have been an ordinary dig to repair a broken tile line. Imagine John Malone’s surprise when it turned out to be anything but ordinary.

The Currie farmer was digging up a broken tile last fall when he came across what appeared to be a wooden corner.

“I was stumped. I didn’t have any idea what it could be,” he said.

The history of the land itself is extraordinary. Here, in August of 1862, 11 white settlers and an unknown number of Dakota died in what would become known as Slaughter Slough.

The exact site where the deaths occurred that day is unknown and disputed by some. Some accounts, said Malone, place the events of that fateful day right on his farmland.

At the beginning of the 20th century, Slaughter Slough was being farmed by John’s grandfather, Pat Malone. John Malone has farmed the land since 1976.

What could this wooden corner be? Family lore and historical facts provided two possible options.

Pat Malone’s children, Pat and James Malone (now deceased) and Kathleen Sweetman recalled being told by their father of a well in the lowlands at Slaughter Slough. Their father warned them to stay away from it, because it was surrounded by quicksand.

James Malone used to ask his son, John, if he ever came across a well while farming in Slaughter Slough.

Another possibility was that the corner belonged to a coffin holding the remains of three settlers killed there. After the events at Slaughter Slough, the bodies of the settlers who were killed were left there. In October of that year, soldiers came back to the site and buried the bodies.

About a year later, the military dug up the grave and moved the remains to a monument constructed at Lake Shetek. The soldiers’ report indicated that three bodies were not recovered. Could they finally have been found?

John Malone knew one thing for sure: if this was indeed a coffin, “I didn’t want to be the one to dig it up,” he said.

Though John says he didn’t think too much about his find, he told his brother, Neil, who was very interested.

In July, Neil planned a trip to Minnesota from his home in California. He wanted to show his 8-year-old daughter, Allison, the area where he grew up, and decided a dig of the site might be a good way to show her some of the area’s history. Another brother, Jim, joined John and Neil in the archaeological dig.

The family contacted the Murray County Sheriff’s Department, Minnesota Archeological Service, the state park, and others about the find. All were interested, but did not have the resources to conduct a dig themselves, Neil Malone said.

Neil wrote a report on the dig following its completion.

The dig was set to begin at 10 a.m. on July 8, according to Malone’s report. Help and observers, including some from the sheriff’s department, were ready to begin. Then, a storm moved through the area and one inch of rain fell.

Some believe, Neil said, that the children who died that August day in Slaughter Slough still haunt the site and were responsible for the storm.

The second day the would-be archaeologists had more success, and digging began in earnest. By the end of the day, three corners had been uncovered and it was determined that the wooden structure was four-feet by four-feet square.

It was discovered that the boards were made of overlapping ship lap, according to Neil’s report. Some nails were found, but it couldn’t be determined whether they were round or square because of corrosion.

On the third day, the diggers tried to remove dirt from the box area. They found that the back was one board higher than the front. A tile probe indicated that there was a bottom to the box. They also dug out the left corner of the box, which in turn began to fill with water.

Digging out the inside of the box continued on day four. Several pieces of wood were removed, and round nails identified. It was discovered that the box didn’t have a wooden bottom after all, but that there was wood debris that had sunk to the bottom.

“It was also noted that a spring in the left corner of the box would steadily fill the box unless it was drained away down the broken tile line,” Neil says in his report. This led everyone to believe that the well of family lore had been found.

Then, a shovel full of dirt from the bottom of the box revealed something else: bones. The dig was stopped and the bones brought to the Jim Malone farm.

A trip to the site the following day revealed that the spring had filled the box to over two feet deep. An attempt to drain the box by digging a trench around it was unsuccessful.

John said springs such as these are not unusual on this piece of land. He has hit at least three natural springs in that spot.

Neil took the bones that were found back to California with him. They were first taken to the San Roque grade school, where a Ph.D. in the science department examined the bones.

In September, the bones were taken to the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History. There, the larger of the bones were identified as those of an American Indian dog, between 150 and 500 years old. The age was determined by the color of the bones, Neil said.

It was also discovered that the dog was old, since it had worn-down teeth, and it had had a broken leg as a puppy. Smaller bones found at the site were identified as those of a cottontail rabbit. There were about 20 bones in all, including a small skull about five inches long.

Periodic checks will continue to be done on the well, to see if the water has cleared up and more bones can be found.

When excavation of the well is completed, it will be donated to the End-O-Line Railroad Park in Currie.