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News from the week of December 21, 2005

Soccer could become high school sport

By Valerie Scherbart Quist

Soccer could be offered as a Minnesota State High School League sport as soon as the fall of 2006 at Tracy Area High School.

Activities Director Bill Tauer gave the District 417 school board a proposal for the soccer program last week. Tauer said the goal is to create a team of TMB and Westbrook-Walnut Grove players.

It is estimated that there would be just a varsity team at first, with around 14 Tracy players and an additional six Westbrook-Walnut Grove players. If there are enough participants, a B-squad team would be added.

“They would really like to start next fall,” Tauer said. The thought, he added, is that many of the kids who played on the club team this year were sophomores. As juniors, it is believed that they would be competitive and successful, drawing interest to the program.

The team’s home field would be the Tracy Area High School soccer field. Using the Tracy field would ensure that the soccer program does not interfere with other sports or fields. The Westbrook-Walnut Grove field is currently used for other activities.

There are 13 teams involved in the section, including Albert Lea, Central Minnesota Christian, Lakeville South, Mankato Loyola, Mankato East, Mankato West, Northfield, St. Peter, Southwest Minnesota Christian, Waconia, Willmar, Worthington, and New Ulm. Marshall is also considering adding a program.

The Minnesota State High School League allows up to 18 scheduled games. Tauer said the Tracy and Westbrook-Walnut Grove team would likely have 12, with six at home and six away. Matches with club teams are also allowed.

There are several options for uniforms. New uniforms would cost $15 apiece, and at 20 players would cost the district a total of $300. That would be doubled if the team were to purchase both home and away jerseys. Tauer said a third option would be to use the club team uniforms for the time being.

There would also be costs for transportation, referees, coaches, and equipment. Tauer said most of the equipment needed has already been purchased for the club team.

The two schools will need to decide on a fee for soccer participation, and would likely come up with a neutral place name rather than combining TMB and WWG. Another issue to consider is eligibility and academic rules. This will be a change for student athletes who have participated in the club team.

The biggest issue with adding soccer is the Title IX gender equality standards schools must abide by. If soccer is added for boys, another sport may have to be offered for girls.

“We don’t want to add another sport if it’s going to take away from something else,” said Tauer.

Unfortunately, he added, cheerleading is not included in the Title IX activities. If it were, Tauer said, it would give a boost to the girls’ activities numbers.

Board chairman Dan Zimansky asked whether soccer could be offered as a co-ed sport. Tauer said he would need to clarify that with the state. Currently, football is not offered as a girls’ sport, but there have been girls on the team.

Tauer will report back to the board with further information.

Subway could re-open as early as Tuesday

Subway will be re-opening soon in Tracy.

Owners Sue and Tom Morin are targeting Tuesday, Dec. 27, as the date for re-opening their Tracy Subway restaurant. The Hwy. 14 restaurant has been closed since September.

Sue Morin reported that work is underway to get the Subway kitchen operational. If improvements can not be completed prior to Dec. 27, the opening date will be moved back to Jan. 2.

“This is going to be fun,” Morin said. “We’re looking forward to opening.”

Tracy Subway hours will be from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week. In addition to the Morins, the restaurant will employ about six people.

Subway could re-open as early as Tuesday

Subway will be re-opening soon in Tracy.

Owners Sue and Tom Morin are targeting Tuesday, Dec. 27, as the date for re-opening their Tracy Subway restaurant. The Hwy. 14 restaurant has been closed since September.

Sue Morin reported that work is underway to get the Subway kitchen operational. If improvements can not be completed prior to Dec. 27, the opening date will be moved back to Jan. 2.

“This is going to be fun,” Morin said. “We’re looking forward to opening.”

Tracy Subway hours will be from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week. In addition to the Morins, the restaurant will employ about six people.

Firm invites EDA to North Carolina

A growing information technology company has invited the Tracy Economic Development Authority to tour its facilities in North Carolina. Tracy economic development leaders have been talking with the company for more than a year, in hopes that the firm would expand its operations in Tracy.

“They want us to come and see what their business is all about,” Tracy Community Development Director Robert Gervais told EDA members last week. The company, which typically has 25 to 30 “mid-level” information technology employees at its sites, would be an ideal business for Tracy, Gervais said.

Gervais developed a contact with the company’s president last year, and a trip was planned to visit her in Arkansas last January. But the trip was cancelled after the company indicated that expansion plans had been delayed 12-18 months. Gervais contacted the company president again in November, and she responded by inviting Tracy representatives to tour its North Carolina center.

The company bills itself as offering “high quality information technology services” at significant savings to customers. Its centers are located in rural areas.

“They’ve got a rural development focus and they like the Midwest,” Gervais said.

Tracy’s location midway between colleges in Madison, SD. and Mankato, which both have information technology programs, would be a plus for the company, Gervais feels. Tracy’s tax-free Job Opportunity Business Development Zones would be another attraction for the company.

When the company first emerged as a prospect last year, the former Tracy Minntronix building was presented as a possible location.

That building is no longer available, since it will re-open soon as the Shetek Bend sports bar and banquet facility. Possible sites for the new company, suggested by EDA members Friday, included the Mediterranean ballroom, JNB Originals, Tracy Technology, and the Coast-to-Coast buildings. EDA members expressed a strong interest in traveling to North Carolina for the company visits. Expense estimates will be presented at the EDA’s Jan. 6 meeting.

In other EDA business Friday:


Prison still explored

The effort to attract some type of corrections facility to Tracy continues to be a “chicken and egg” dilemma, according to Gervais. A private prison company has indicated that they would build a facility in Tracy, but only if advance contracts guarantee an adequate number of inmates, he said. State and federal officials have indicated that if a Tracy prison were built, they would consider using it, but they don’t want to make any advance commitments.

The Minnesota Dept. of Corrections, U.S. Marshall’s office, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, and the U.S. Immigration Customs Enforcement Service, and Senator Norm Coleman’s office are among the contacts Gervais has made on the corrections facility quest.

“We’re going to keep working on it,” Gervais said.


Accounts sent to collection

The EDA board passed a motion to turn two past-due loans over to a collection agency.

One loan, owed by Ray and Robin Hay, stands at about $4,168. The Hays obtained the loan in 2000 as part of their purchase of Tracy Bakery. Gervais told EDA members that a payment on the loan since October of 2004. The EDA had voted on Nov. 18 to send the Hays a “final notice” on the past due loan. Gervais said he hadn’t gotten a response.

The other delinquent loan was taken out by Jon and Pa Nhia Her in 1999 to help open up the P-Plus Asian Grocery Store. The EDA voted last month to write-off the principal and interest still owed on the P Plus loan. Last week, the EDA voted to continue efforts to collect on the loan by submitting it to the collection agency. Principal and interest owed on the P-Plus loan stands at $15,445.

EDA members were also informed that a Tracy business hadn’t made their $105 monthly payment for five months on a third Tracy EDA loan. Gervais was instructed to continue to contact the business owner about the past due loan, and notify a loan co-signer about the situation.

Eight-period day expected to expand high school electives

By Valerie Scherbart Quist

Plans for an eight-period day at Tracy Area High School are beginning to take shape.

TAHS Principal Chad Anderson told the District 417 school board last week that a schedule committee, made up of teachers, Supt. David Marlette, school counselor Chris Kamrud, and guidance secretary Deb Ludeman, has been formed.

The committee is working on a vision for the eight-period day schedule.

It is hoped, Anderson said, that the eight—period schedule will increase the number of student electives and choices offered to TAHS students.

“This eight-period day will give our students more elective opportunities,” he said. The new schedule will also open the door to more college level and advanced courses, and provide additional time for enrichment courses.

Currently, said Anderson, some students are having to choose between band and choir and other elective opportunities. It is hoped that an additional class period will help to prevent this from happening.

While there are many obvious advantages to the eight-period day, Anderson added, there are also some challenges involved. For example, the committee will have to consider study hall and credit requirements.

ESL and special education students may need additional study hall time, Anderson said. Junior high students who are in band and choir may also need a study hall, he said. Additionally, junior high students who are not in band or choir may need an additional class so they do not have two study halls.

TAHS currently requires 24 credits to graduate, under a seven-period day. To require students to take seven classes for four years would amount to 28 credits. A middle ground of 26 credits has been discussed, Anderson said, asking the board to begin thinking about credit requirements and what would be appropriate.

“These are some things we just need to start thinking about,” he said. “There will be some transition during the next four years in terms of requirements.”

Anderson said it is hoped that class offerings will be narrowed down in January. Students will likely be surveyed about class offerings and registered in February.

“We need to sit down and talk to students about all these things,” Anderson said.

A schedule should be created in March and completed by the end of April.

12-consecutive years to be new council limit

By Seth Schmidt

Term limits have been established for Tracy City Council members. But the impact on city government won’t be felt for at least 12 years.

An amendment to the city’s charter—okayed by the council last week—prohibits citizens from serving more than three-consecutive, four-year council terms. The term limit applies to both the mayor and city council positions. However, current city council members are not immediately affected by the term limits because the change is not retroactive. Existing council members could each be re-elected three times before being prohibited from serving another term by the ordinance.

The ordinance does allow people who have served three, consecutive terms on the council to seek election again after they have been out-of-office.


Opinions differ

The city’s charter commission, chaired by Eugene Hook, recommended the term limits amendment. Council members accepted the commission’s recommendation on a 5-2 vote Dec. 12.

Jan Arvizu and Tim Byrne voted against the amendment.

Arvizu, who has served on the council for 23 years, felt that term limits take choices away from voters. If citizens don’t like the performance of someone on the council, she said, it is always the perogotive of voters not to re-elect the official.

“I know the public can speak at the ballot box, and they have done that on occasion by not re-electing incumbents,” Arvizu said. Encouraging diversity and attracting new members on the council is important, she said. But retaining experience on the council, Arvizu added, is also a valuable resource for the city.

Byrne said that he, personally, would not want to serve more than 12 years on the council. But he felt that voters should have the choice of electing council members for more than three terms.

Mayor Steve Ferrazzano and Sandi Rettmer spoke in favor of term limits. Both felt that long-term incumbents discouraged newcomers from filing for office.

“You can’t get new blood onto the council if you have people on the council for a long period of time,” Rettmer said. “I’m totally in favor of term limits.” While experience can be an asset, Rettmer said, the 12 years on the council allowed by the new charter still allows for a considerable amount of continuity on the council. Minutes and many other records can help new council members to make good decisions, she said.

“Twelve years is long enough,” said Ferrazzano.

The council, which includes the mayor, has seven members. Ferrazzano, Stobb, Arvizu and Byrne have terms that expire in 2006. Council members Rettmer, Bill Chukuske, and Charles Snyder are in the middle of their first term, having been elected in November of 2004.

• • •

A second ordinance amendment approved Dec. 12 gives city leaders flexibility in determining when to require a performance bond on a city contract. The old language required performance bonds on all city contracts. Amendments give the council discretion in whether to require a bond for small contracts.

Tubing hill expected to open Friday

Weather permitting, the Garvin Park tubing hill will open Friday for the first time in four years.

Tubing dates are Friday, Dec. 23, Tuesday, Dec. 27; Wednesday, Dec. 28; Thursday, Dec. 29; Friday, Dec. 30, and Saturday, Dec. 31. Tubing hours will be from 1 to 4 p.m. each afternoon.

No tubing is scheduled on Dec. 24- 26, and Jan. 1-2.

If snow and weather conditions permit, the tubing hill will be open this winter Saturday and Sunday afternoons from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. The hill and warming house will be available for private parties by appointment Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday evenings. Appointments can be made by calling 629-4081.

Warm weather and a lack of snow have kept the tubing hill closed for the past four winters.

Additional announcements on Garvin Park will be made over KMHL radio. People can also call 629-4081 and listen to a recorded message about the status of the tubing hill.

The main entrance to Garvin Park is located 1 1/4 miles north of the intersection of Hwys. 59 and 14.