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News from the week of November 9, 2005


Hook, Benson & Schons top school vote

Levy questions are approved

District 417 voters approved two school levy questions and elected Tom Hook, Rod Benson, and Chris Schons to the school board Tuesday.

The levy questions passed by overwhelming margins. The first question, approved by a 596 to 113 margin, allows the school board to meet requirements of a new state law and use about $70,000 to make a scheduled bond payment. The second question revokes the final year of an existing $425 per pupil unit operating levy and replaces it with an identical operating levy that will be in force for the next five years.

Hook topped the school board race with 480 votes, followed by Rod Benson with 352 and Chris Schons with 277. Other major vote getters were Mike Coyle, 269 votes; April Lichty, 168; Keith Lubben, 126; Diane Ferrazzano, 46; Kim Pedersen, 27.

All school board candidates were write-ins, since no one filed for school board during a July filing period.

Incumbents with terms expiring at the end of 2005, who did not file for re-election, are Garry Hippe, Eric Nelson, and Ed Carter. Hippe received 20 write-in votes, Nelson nine, and Carter six.

Twenty-eight other people received four or fewer write-in votes.

• • •

Hook, Benson, and Schons were elected to five-year terms that will begin in January.

The five-year operating levy will raise about $350,000 a year for Tracy Public School operations. Of that amount, about two-thirds will come from State of Minnesota coffers and about one-third from District 417 property taxes.

The operating levy questions received majorities in all four school district precincts. The first question was favored by a 461 to 60 margin in Tracy, 32 to 12 in Currie, 49 to 22 in Amiret, and 54 to 19 in Garvin. Replacing the final year of the current levy with a new five-year operating levy was favored by a 401 to 124 margin in Tracy, 23 to 21 in Currie, 42 to 29 in Amiret, and 40 to 33 in Garvin.


Tholen is Wendy's Heisman finalist

It’s been a memorable week for Jillian Tholen.

Saturday, the Tracy Area High School senior placed seventh in the Minnesota Class A cross-country meet.

Monday, the teen was honored as a Wendy’s High School Heisman finalist. Tholen was one of nine senior girls in Minnesota so honored. Kylla Bargfrede of Jackson County Central is Minnesota’s Wendy’s High School Heisman female winner.

The Wendy’s Heisman Award recognizes high school seniors who excel in athletics, academics and community service.

“Jillian is a top-notch kid,” said TAHS Activities Director Bill Tauer. “She’s dedicated in whatever she does. She’s a top student, had great success in athletics, and is just a good person.”

Ranked No. 1 in her class academically, Tholen has advanced to state competition in both cross-country and track. She is also a three-year letter winner in basketball.

School activities include National Honor Society and Spanish Club. During her junior year, Tholen devoted 69 hours to community service to organizations that included St. Mary’s Church, Victory Christian Church, and the National Honor Society.

Jillian is the daughter of Randy and Elaine Tholen of rural Tracy.

• • •

Minnesota’s other female Wendy’s Heisman finalists are: Michelle Kosmerl, Wrenshall; Lauren Henke, Detroit Lakes; Kalli Vaughan, Braham; Jessica Fark, St. Cloud; Rebecca Eyerly, White Bear Lake; Vanessa Grams, Little Falls; Michele Peterson, Plymouth; and Brianna Radtke, Winsted.

Rein Velo of Nashwauk was the male Wendy’s High School Heisman winner in Minnesota.

Male Wendy’s Heisman finalists in Minnesota were: Zachary Landecker, Clearwater; Jesse Van Sickle, Garden City; John Schantzen, Lake Elmo; Jared Freudenberg, Foley; Lucas Nelson, Caledonia; Henry Weiner, St. Paul; Zach Robert, Janesville; Eric Bell, Little Falls; Ted Rud, New York Mills.

A total of 1,020 Wendy’s Heisman finalists were honored nationwide (20 in each state plus the District of Columbia). The finalists were selected from a field of 14,020 nominees. Twelve national finalists will be selected from the state winners, with a male and female national winner due to be announced on national television Dec. 11.


Schiller leaves for China Friday

By Valerie Scherbart Quist

David Schiller says he isn’t nervous. “Anxious,” he said, is a more accurate word to describe how he’s feeling this week.

The Tracy Area High School senior has good reason. On Friday, he will be among the Minnesota delegates who accompany Gov. Tim Pawlenty on a trade mission to China.

Schiller is one of seven student ambassadors who are traveling with the Minnesota-China Partnership. Their job on the trip is to document information on different research areas. The information will be published on a website specially created for the trip. A documentary will also be made, and will be available for use in curriculums throughout the state.

Schiller has already contributed some information on his research topic—the environment—for the website. On the site, Schiller and the other six student ambassadors have their own area where their information will be published. A video the students created will also be on the site.

The student ambassadors will each have a unique challenge on the trip. Their job will be to observe and record what they see and learn on the trip, and apply it to their specific research area. The challenge then is to make it interesting for their audience, which will be other students.

The students will be journaling their experiences every day. This information and pictures should be put online on a daily basis, Schiller said. Because of the time difference, information on what the students did that day could be up by afternoon. He added that the video documentation might not be put online right away.

“I know it’s going to be awesome when it’s done,” he said.

The website is intended as an educational tool, and includes information for parents and teachers. The information is broken up into different study areas and includes a variety of learning activities.

Schiller said he knows of at least three Tracy classes that plan to follow his progress. He’ll do presentations with two before he leaves, and will do additional presentations when he returns.

Each day, there will be a poll question on the site. Whatever is decided by the poll, will determine something the student ambassadors will do. For example, a question on the site this week asks whether the students should bring a gift for one of the important dignitaries they’ll meet.

Schiller said he is most looking forward to meeting and getting to know the others on the delegation.

• • •

Schiller and the others leave Friday, and return to Minnesota on Nov. 19. While there, they’ll visit three cities—Beijing, Hong Kong, and Shanghai.

Schiller said he is open to people’s thoughts and suggestions, and has set up an e-mail address,, for people to e-mail him during the trip. To follow his progress during the trip, visit


Public invited to Veterans' Day program

A Vietnam War era U.S. Navy veteran is the keynote speaker for a Veterans’ Day program at Tracy High School Thursday.

Raymond M. Pederson, a 1963 graduate of Belview High School, will speak at the 10:15 a.m. program in the high school gym. The public is invited.

Pederson was on activity duty from 1965-67. He served on the assault boat USS Floyd County based out of San Diego. The ship saw action in the Mekong Delta region of Vietnam in 1966.

Pederson earned a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration at Mankato State University in 1969 and was a State Farm insurance adjuster from 1970-2003. He lives in Cottonwood.

The Tracy American Legion and VFW color guard will participate in the program. Pastor Homer Dobson will deliver the invocation and benediction. Past-Legion Commander Bernie Holm will be the master of ceremonies. The TAHS band, under the direction of Chris Miller, will perform.

Veterans’ Day is actually Friday, Nov. 11. The program is scheduled Thursday because Friday is a holiday for Tracy Public Schools.


Part-time economic development post proposed for elimination

By Seth Schmidt

Elimination of a part-time economic development position is among the money-saving ideas under consideration by Tracy City Council members.

The council discussed options for trimming the city’s 2006 general fund budget and property tax levy at a special meeting Thursday. Cutting the part-time economic development administrative assistant’s job, with an estimated annual savings of $14,730, was the largest money-saving measure proposed.

The city’s preliminary 2006 levy, which was certified in September, would increase the City of Tracy’s property tax levy next year by 6.5%. Last week, the council reviewed recommendations from City Administrator Audrey Koopman that would reduce the proposed increase to under 3%. Council members added several money-saving ideas of their own.

The budget and property tax levy will be finalized before the end of the year. The preliminary levy can be reduced, but not increased.


Job cut proposed

The part-time administrative assistant position was created in 2002 to assist Community Development Director Robert Gervais, who then divided his time as the city’s economic development director and the Tracy Chamber of Commerce manager. Louise Noomen has held the administrative assistant post since its inception.

Koopman, in a memo to city council members, said that the city has less need for the administrative assistant today because the city expanded the economic development post held by Gervais into a full-time job in January of 2005.

Koopman wrote that Noomen “has done a fantastic job,” especially in coordinating planning for the proposed Tracy Kid’s World daycare center. However, the administrator wrote, most Kid’s World planning has been completed, and that Gervais would be able to handle remaining Kid’s World work.

The council took no position on the proposed job cut, but did ask the Tracy Economic Development Authority to discuss the issue and make a recommendation.

Councilman Bill Chukuske, who also serves on the EDA board, indicated that he wants to be certain that eliminating Noomen’s position doesn’t jeopardize the Kid’s World project.

“I don’t have a problem looking at this,” Chukuske said. “But I don’t want to jeopardize the progress that we’ve made with Kid’s World. That is too important of a project for our town.” (Tracy Kid’s World would be a 11,500 square foot day care center built east of Tracy Elementary School. The estimated $1.7 million facility would be licensed to serve up to 104 children. A non-profit organization has been formed to operate the day care, and seek federal financing for the project).

Koopman told council members that she had talked with Gervais about Kid’s World and the proposed elimination of Noomen’s position. Koopman said that Gervais felt he would be able to handle the remaining Kid’s World planning work.

Council member Sandi Rettmer said that she felt that cutting the administrative assistant position should not put day-care planning at risk.


Other recommendations

Council members gave their blessings to several other 2006 budget changes recommended by Koopman.

• Acoustics improvements—$7,000 was included in the preliminary budget for improving acoustics in the Veterans’ Memorial Center (formerly Prairie Pavilion). That spending is now reduced to $4,000.

Rettmer suggested that since the new Shetek Bend sports bar and banquet facility will open soon, perhaps the city doesn’t need to spend money improving the acoustic in the Veterans’ Center. But councilman Russ Stobb thought that the estimated $4,000 cost for having a consultant develop recommendations for improved acoustics would be money well spent. Other council members agreed.

• Elections equipment—A $6,000 budget for new elections equipment was reduced to $2,000. Koopman said that after talking with Lyon County Auditor Paula VanOverbeke, she felt that the new voting machines will cost no more than $2,000. The equipment—designed to be more user friendly for people with disabilities and will allow for automatic tabulation of votes—is required for the 2006 general election.

• Telephone system—A new telephone system for the city, earlier estimated at $14,000, now has a $5,500 projected cost. Spending of $4,500 for new Christmas decorations partially offsets the $9,500 less cost for the telephone system, leaving a net reduction of $4,000 in an administration budget.

• Legal services—$700 was taken from a proposed $37,980 legal services budget. Koopman said this change would increase the legal services budget 3%, rather than a requested 5% increase.

• Aquatic center operations—$60,000 to cover any operating loss in 2006 Tracy Aquatic Center operations in the community education budget was reduced to $59,000.

• Unallocated budget—A $181 reduction was made because of a salary variance.

• Transfer increase—An additional $1,000 was added to the projected amount transfer into the general fund from licensing revenues.

Koopman’s memo said that her recommended budget changes would result in savings of $28,611 in the general fund levy and require only a 2.8% increase in the general fund levy and a 2.6% overall levy increase for 2006.


Council ideas

The council discussed several other money saving options. They included:

• Not accepting a pay increase—Council members agreed with a suggestion by councilman Charles Snyder to delete a proposed $5 a meeting increase in council pay. The change would save an estimated $820 annually. Council consensus was to transfer the $820 into an “other financial use” fund for unexpected city expenses.

• Police fuel expenses—Rettmer wondered if anything could be done to limit a proposed increase in the police department’s motor fuels and lubricants budget, which increases from $7,000 in 2005 to $15,000 in 2006. Koopman said that she has already talked with Police Chief Bryan Hillger about the possibility of limiting the number of miles driven on a shift to about 50, as a way of coping with more expensive gasoline prices.

Rettmer, Stobb, Chukuske, Snyder and Mayor Steve Ferrazzano attended the Nov. 3 meeting.


Bids sought on downtown building

By Seth Schmidt

The Tracy Economic Development Authority (EDA) is seeking sealed bids on a vacant Downtown Tracy building.

Bids will be accepted until Wednesday, Nov. 30, on the two-story building at 130 Third St. which formerly housed Stassen Photography. The minimum bid that the EDA will accept is $3,000, with the buyer paying all closing costs.

EDA members decided to seek bids on the property last week, after Community Development Director Robert Gervais reported that at least two parties are interested in the building.

Bids are to be accompanied by a written plan describing how the buyer intends to use the property and any renovation and improvement plans.

In discussing the property Friday, EDA members agreed that helping a good business get established should be their priority in selling the building.

“We don’t want someone to just buy it, and then not doing anything with it,” said Tim Byrne.

EDA members felt that a prospective buyer’s business plan should be considered along with the money being offered. The greatest monetary offer, EDA members agreed, should not necessarily be considered the best offer.

Buyers will purchase the property on an “as is” basis, with 10% due with the submission of the bid. Bid opening is scheduled at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 30. The EDA would likely consider bids on Friday, Dec. 2.

A public notice of the EDA’s sealed bid request is on page 13.

The EDA acquired the Third St. property in September at a Lyon County auction of tax-forfeited real estate.