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News from the week of December 28, 2005

Chamber job won't have Walnut Grove link

The Tracy Chamber of Commerce’s search for a new manager has taken an unexpected turn.

The Chamber position will not be combined with a part-time Walnut Grove economic development job, as previously planned.

Lori Hebig, Tracy Chamber board president, said Monday that the Walnut Grove Economic Development Authority has withdrawn from the joint-job proposal.

“The funding that they had planned on was cut,” Hebig said.

The Tracy Chamber and the Walnut Grove EDA had advertised a full-time job opportunity, with 30 hours allocated to Tracy and 10 hours set for Walnut Grove. Five “well qualified” people were interviewed for the position, Hebig said.

Each candidate has been told of the changed in job description and reduced hours, and asked whether they still wish to be considered for the job. Tuesday was the deadline for candidates to indicate whether they are interested in the part-time job. As of Monday noon, Hebig said that two candidates had withdrawn.

The Chamber of Commerce’s executive director’s job has been vacant since October, when Jason Swanson resigned to accept a job with Country View Estates in Walnut Grove. He succeeded JoAnn Biren of rural Iona, who was hired as the Chamber manager in January of 2005.

Biren succeeded Robert Gervais, who served in the combined capacity of Tracy Economic Development Director and Tracy Chamber manager. The Chamber job became a separate, part-time position after Gervais became the city’s full-time economic development director.

ExCEL nominees are multiple talents

By Valerie Scherbart Quist

Celia Brockway and Dan Dieter are Tracy Area High School’s nominees for the 2006 ExCEL (Excellence in Community, Education and Leadership) award. The two juniors will be considered for 25 statewide awards.

Brockway, the daughter of Bill and Kathy Brockway, is active in cross country and track. Her involvement in music extends to both school and the community. In school, she is in both band and choir, and has received both “excellent” and “superior” ratings at music contests. Brockway has also been involved in school and community musicals, the Minnesota state 4-H Arts-In program, state FFA choir, and National Catholic Youth Choir. Her fine arts activities also include piano lessons and speech.

An academic letter-winner for two straight years, Brockway is a member of the National Honor Society. Other activities include FFA, knowledge bowl, peer helpers, and student council. This summer, she was selected to represent the state of Minnesota at the Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership World Leadership Conference.

Community activities are also important to Brockway, who is active in 4-H, the Big Buddies program, and church. She volunteers her time to the food shelf, meals on wheels, International Human Rights Initiative, and at local nursing homes. Over the summer, she was the music instructor for her church’s vacation Bible school program.

In her application essay, Brockway wrote about her Bible school experience.

“Vacation Bible School reminded me that attitude is contagious,” she wrote. “In life it is important that you always maintain the right attitude because your attitude will be caught by others and it will help make their experience extraordinary.”

Marie Clauson, Tracy Area High School English instructor and cross country and track coach, wrote Brockway’s letter of recommendation.

“What makes her so remarkable is her amazing ability to make everything positive,” Clauson wrote. “Whether it is in the classroom or on the cross country course, Celia positively influences those around her. Celia’s future hods nothing but promise, and with her attitude she will succeed.”

Dan Dieter is the son of David and Lisa Dieter. Dieter plays football and wrestles for Panther athletic teams.

Fine arts activities are a major area of concentration for him. He is active in the high school band and choir programs, and has received several “superior” ratings in music contests. He is also active in speech and knowledge bowl, and had a role in the recent school musical.

A “B” honor roll student, Dieter was a class officer during his sophomore year. His interest in music carries over into the community, where he is active in the church choir and is a cantor. Along with Brockway, he participated in the National Catholic Youth Choir over the summer.

In his application essay, Dieter wrote about being a church cantor.

“Cantoring for my church has been a great experience for me. It has brought me closer to my faith, as well as improved my musical ability and it has also improved my personal ability to socialize with people of all ages,” he wrote. “I also feel my cantoring has brought others in my church closer to their faith.”

His letter of recommendation comes from Shirlee Gilmore, vocal music instructor at Tracy Area High School, who wrote:

“Dan is a great role model for his peers, and he has earned their respect as he conduct sectional rehearsals, in which he not only plays the piano parts for his sections to learn, but leads them in the rehearsals as well. His quick wit and easy-going manner make him fun to work with, so that rehearsals are productive and enjoyable for everyone involved….I feel Dan is a well-rounded individual, with much talent, intelligence, and potential, and his nomination for the ExCEL award is very fitting.”

Both students said they were honored to be selected as ExCEL award nominees from TAHS.

“It’s kind of cool that we both got nominated since we spent two weeks at choir camp together this summer,” Dieter said.

“It was pretty awesome,” Brockway added.

Both students say their participation in school athletics and activities, and in community activities have been both fun and rewarding experiences for them.

• • •

Twenty-five state ExCEL award winners will be selected by the Minnesota State High School league. The winners will be notified in January and recognized during the 2006 winter tournaments.

City property tax levy to increase 2.6%

The City of Tracy’s property tax levy will increase 2.6% next year.

The 2006 levy, okayed Dec. 12 by the city council, calls for a $$412,813 general fund levy, $331,500 for debt service levy, and a $15,000 “permanent improvement” levy.

In September, the council adopted a preliminary budget that called for a 6.5% increase in the levy. Subsequent budget adjustments reduced the levy increase to 2.6%.

A year ago, the council approved a 6.4% property tax levy increase for 2005.

Tracy’s general fund spending next year, according to the recently approved 2006 city budget, will total $1,783,983, a 9.4% increase from the 2005 general fund budget. The 2006 general fund budget is comprised of $557,641 for general government, $434,090 for public safety, $580,530 for public works, $59,000 for recreation, and $152,722 for “other.”

The City of Tracy operates ten public enterprise funds totaling $3,090,682 that do not impact the property tax levy. Those budgets are: O’Brien Court, $158,000; Eastview Apartments, $52,460; Fifth St. Apartments, $49,660; Municipal Liquor Store, $714,925; Utility, $487,437; Utility Surcharge, $145,000; Refuse Collection, $170,500; Licensing, $1,053,000; Medical Center Improvement, $139,000; Aquatic Center Operations, $120,700.

The two other categories in the City of Tracy’s 2006 budget are debt service and bond funds, $672,492; and “other,” $302,105. All categories add up to a 2006 city budget of $5,849,262.



The 2006 budget includes:

• $59,000 to cover a budgeted operating deficit at the Tracy Aquatic Center.

• $20,00 for “code enforcement” and the demolition of old buildings.

• A 3% increase in wages for city employees.

• $5,500 for a new city phone system that will have voice mail.

• $25,000 for a new bathroom facility at Sebastian Park.

• $5,000 for new park equipment.

• $4,000 for new picnic tables and trees.

• $4,000 to study improved acoustics in the Veterans’ Memorial Center


State aid helps

The 2006 general fund budget is being helped by an expected 10% increase in Local Government Aid revenue from the State of Minnesota. Local Government Aid is expected to increase from $829,779 in 2005 to $916, 830 in 2006.

In part because of state aid, revenue from local property taxes will account for only about 25% of the city’s general fund revenues. Another factor in reducing the city’s general fund property tax levy a $30,000 transfer from liquor store profits and $32,000 from the city’s deputy registrar operation.

AFS students adjust to new ways

By Valerie Scherbart Quist

Tracy’s AFS students are settling into life in Minnesota. January will mark the five-month point since the two girls arrived in the United States.

Geovanna Moreno Loza of Ecuador is staying with the Tim and Mary Byrne family. When she arrived in Tracy, Loza knew very little English. While here, she has been learning English through the school’s ESL program, and picking up some of the language in daily life.

“It’s difficult,” she said.

Loza said she is enjoying staying with the Byrnes, and also has enjoyed making new friends at school. School itself is quite different from what she is accustomed to at home. In Ecuador, students attend high school for seven years instead of six.

Perhaps the biggest adjustment for Loza to make has been to the chilly Minnesota climate this winter. Before arriving in Tracy, Loza had never seen snow. The adjustment has been somewhat difficult for Loza, who comes from Riobamba, in Ecuador’s Chimborazo province. She has been known to wear mittens in the house on occasion.

While still not too fond of the cold, Loza said she does like the snow, and has tried some outdoor winter activities, such as skiing.

She may miss the warmer temperatures of home, but Loza says she misses her friends and family most.

• • •

Eline Pauwels of Belgium is staying with the Brian and Sue Johnson family of Walnut Grove. At home, Pauwels has just one older sister. With the Johnsons, she still has an older sister, but also has two younger siblings.

“Staying with the Johnsons is really fun,” she said. “They have helped me get through homesickness at times. They are a really nice family.”

Pauwels has gotten involved in school activities through danceline and the school play. In the November production of “Grease,” she played Cha Cha DiGregorio, the saucy dancer from St. Bernadette’s school. While rehearsals got long, Pauwels said she enjoyed the experience.

“When you’re on the stage, it’s so fun,” she said.

School is less strict in America than it is at home, Pauwels said.

“High school life is really different,” she said. “In Belgium, it’s all about getting good grades. Here, the teachers like to have fun, too.”

Before making the trip to America, Pauwels’ biggest concern was how she would handle the harsh Minnesota winter. At home in Belgium, it is snowy and cold in the winter, but not as cold. She has been pleasantly surprised to find that the cold hasn’t been as bad as she thought, because people don’t spend much time outdoors when it’s too cold, and know how to bundle up when they do have to go out.

Pauwels, who is from the large city of Bornam, Belgium, misses the opportunities that living in a big city provides.

“Belgium is a tiny country and you can go anywhere. Here, you need to drive for hours,” she said.

At home, it is easy to go out and go shopping and do other activities. At the Johnsons’ rural Walnut Grove home, those opportunities are not just around the corner.

“What I miss the most is my freedom,” she said.

Overall, Pauwels has been surprised at the differences between life here and at home.

“I always thought European and American life was about the same, but it’s different,” she said. “I didn’t expect things to be so different.”

During her stay, Pauwels says she has improved her English, but has learned the most about herself.

“In five months I’ve learned so much about myself and other people.”

Kid's World gets 6-month financial boost

Tracy City Council members have given their blessings to a six-month assistance program for Tracy Kid’s World.

Acting at their Dec. 12 meeting, council members okayed an $8,000 “grant” to cover Tracy Kid’s World expenses for a six-month period. The appropriation includes $6,240 for a 20-hour, 24-week Kid’s World director’s position, $832 for training and travel expenses, $400 for supplies, and $528 for telephone, Internet and postage supplies. The city is also donating office space on the second-floor of City Hall, and the use of some office equipment.

The money is coming from the Tracy Economic Development Authority’s revolving loan fund. EDA members recommended the Kid’s World funding at a November meeting.

Louise Noomen—now a half-time administrative assistant in the Tracy Economic Development office—will be the half-time Kid’s World director. Noomen’s administrative assistant position was eliminated by the city council effective Dec. 31. EDA members proposed the grant funding as a way to continue Kid’s World planning.

The council’s motion stipulated that if Kid’s World lines up other financial support in a shorter period of time than six months, the entire $8,000 would not have to be spent.

Tracy Kid’s World is a non-profit organization that hopes to build an 11,500 square foot daycare center east of Tracy Elementary School.

Warm temps melt Garvin tubing hopes

A December thaw has put a freeze on plans to open the Garvin Park tubing hill.

“We’ll have to wait and see what happens with the weather,” commented Park Manager Rick Anderson, after 40-degree temperatures last week foiled plans to open the tubing hill.

Above freezing temperatures, Anderson explained, melted much of the hill’s snow cover.

“There’s only an inch of compacted snow on some parts of that hill, and I’m not going to open the hill unless it is safe.”

Melt-freeze cycles on the hill have created icy conditions on the steep hill. Ironically, Anderson said, Garvin Park’s tubes don’t slide very well on ice.

Three inches of fresh snow and colder temperatures, would make it possible for the tubing hill to open, Anderson said. If temperatures stay colder than 20 degrees for an extended period of time, the manager said it would be feasible to supplement the natural snow base with man-made snow.

Warm winter weather and a lack of snow has bedeviled the Garvin Park tubing hill over the past decade. If the tubing hill had opened last weekend as scheduled, it would have been its first opening in four winters.

• • •

An accident occurred at the tubing hill Sunday evening. A small group of people were sliding down the hill when a girl crashed into a pole. An ambulance responded to the scene, and the individual was later transferred to Sioux Falls.

Anderson said that he had heard that the injured person was much improved on Tuesday.

“People should stay off the hill until it is ready,” Anderson said.