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News from the week of March 2, 2005

Requiem for a son, husband & soldier

Lt. Jason Timmerman is home.

The Tracy man was laid to rest with full military honors Tuesday, eight days after he was killed by a roadside bomb explosion in Baghdad, Iraq.

“Others may live a longer life, but few will live a better life,” Father Paul Hadusek told the family members, friends and well-wishers who packed Holy Redeemer Catholic in Marshall Tuesday afternoon.

The 1998 graduate of Lakeview High School, and the husband of Tracy math teacher Teresa Timmerman, was described as a young man who did “ordinary things with extraordinary passion.” His strong Christian faith, he said, was evident through his “hard work, integrity, and service to others.”

Jason, the priest said, had touched countless people during a life guided by “faith, family, friendship, and fun.”

Bishop John C. Nienstedt said that Timmerman’s death is a reminder that the Christian life is often not an easy one. Like Jesus, the Bishop said, Christians many times suffer tribulation during their life’s journey.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty was among those in attendance at the funeral. National Guard representatives presented the Timmerman family with Jason’s Bronze Star and the Purple Heart awards. Interment was at St. Clotilde Catholic Cemetery in Green Valley.

• • •

The Tuesday services were a culmination of eight days of mourning in the Tracy area. Flags had flown at half-staff in Tracy and other area communities since Wednesday as a tribute to the fallen soldier. Tracy City Hall, the Senior Center, Library, and Municipal Liquor store closed at noon on Tuesday because of the Timmerman funeral. Tracy Public School dismissed school at 1 p.m. Tuesday, to allow staff and students to attend the funeral.

The Tracy City Council meeting Monday night opened with a moment of silence for Timmerman. The council adjourned at 7:15 p.m. in deference to a 7:30 prayer service for Timmerman. At Mayor Steve Ferrazzano’s suggestion, a committee was formed to look into the possibility of renaming the Tracy Prairie Pavilion in honor of Timmerman and other local military veterans who have died in foreign conflicts.

A Portraits in Melody Concert scheduled for Monday night at the high school was postponed until Thursday night because of the prayer service at Tracy Lutheran. The turnout for the prayer service was so large, that even extra seating in the church’s narthex wasn’t enough to accommodate all people.

All week in Tracy schools, school staff and students wore commemorative green ribbons as a tribute to Timmerman. Peer Helpers at the high school tied green ribbons to all vehicles in the school parking lot Tuesday. Green was said to be Jason Timmerman’s favorite color.

• • •

Timmerman, who earned a Master’s Degree in Computer Education Technology at Dakota State University, taught in Lake Benton during the 2003-04 school year. He was employed by the North Star Insurance Company of Cottonwood when his National Guard unit was activated last fall. He left for Iraq on Jan. 1. Jason and Teresa Timmerman, who were married on Dec. 20, 2003, made their home in Tracy.

Besides his wife, Jason Gary Timmerman is survived by his parents, Gary and Pat Timmerman of Cottonwood; brothers Eric, Craig and Travis, grandparents Andrew and Mary Timmerman, and Anna Verly, and in-laws Wes, Carol and Karen Hildbrand. A complete obituary is on page 10.

Last hope sinks for 2005 pool season

It’s official: The Tracy Aquatic Center will be closed for the second consecutive summer.

Hopes for an abbreviated 2005 swim season ended Monday, with the announcement of a new timeline for proposed aquatic center repairs. The city’s consulting engineers now peg Nov. 1, 2005, as the target for “substantial completion” of pool repairs. August 1, 2005, had been the completion goal.

With three months added onto the pool-repair timeline, council members pulled the plug on the 2005 swim season. On a 5-1 vote, council members rescinded a Jan. 24 motion to hire an aquatic center staff for the summer.

“We can’t go ahead with this now,” said Councilman Bill Chukuske, citing the plan’s estimated cost of $30,000. City of Tracy leaders have been pushing for months to get the pool back in operation next summer. In September, a timetable was established to award contracts in October of 2004, and begin construction before the end of 2004. But the process was postponed when a manufacturer wouldn’t guarantee a key material in the aquatic center renovations. Engineers were then forced to scrap the original repair plans, and develop new recommendations.

In January, council members chose a plan using steel-reinforced PVC liners, at an estimated cost of $1,158,000. A timeline, presented on Jan. 20 by the Minneapolis engineering firm of Wiss Janney, Elstner Associates, listed Feb. 21 for the completion of design work. Advertising for bids was to begin Feb. 24, with a March 17 bid opening. Contracts were to be awarded March 21. Construction was to begin by April 4, with substantial completion targeted for August 1, and “final completion” by August 15.

Jim Kerr, city legal counsel who has been working with the engineers on the project, told council members Monday that the engineers had been too optimistic about the time needed to complete design work.

The new schedule seeks bids beginning March 24, with an April 14 bid opening, and contracts awarded April 18. Construction is to begin within a 90-day period beginning May 2. Nov. 1 is the substantial completion date, with final completion date projected in the spring of 2006.

The new pool repair schedule was accepted with little discussion from council members, although Jan Arvizu wanted assurances that the pool would not be accepted until everything checked out the following spring.

The reversal of the Jan. 24 decision to hire a pool staff did spark discussion. Sandi Rettmer voted against the reversal, with Chukuske, Arvizu, Tim Byrne, Charles Snyder and Mayor Steve Ferrazzano voting in the majority.

The plan approved in January called for pool staff to be hired with the understanding that if the aquatic center didn’t open, pool employees would work at other city jobs under the supervision of Public Works Director Rick Robinson. If the pool opened July 1, the staff would have been paid for one month of non-pool work and two months at the pool. Pool employees who did not report for work would not be paid.

Rettmer felt that the city had made a commitment to pool staff and should stand by it. Other council members disagreed. Arvizu felt that the city shouldn’t be under any obligation, since pool staff members still had three months to find other jobs. She said that although applications were being taken, no one had actually been hired yet. It was also noted that the city had agreed to reimburse any pool staff members for the cost of re-certification training, if they don’t get hired at another swimming pool.

Troubled history

The $1.8 million Tracy Aquatic Center opened in July of 2002. During the summer of 2003—its first and only complete season of operations—significant water leakage was noted. An unusual amount of cracking was noticed both before and after the 2003 season. Beginning in the fall of 2003, Tracy City Council authorized a series of tests at the facility. As part of the testing process, the pool’s Diamondbrite surface coat was jackhammered off. Tests revealed a number of problems, including voids and foreign objects in pool walls. Testing continued through the spring and summer of 2004.

The City of Tracy is seeking to recover monetary damages for what it claims were deficiencies in the pool’s design and construction. A trial involving the City of Tracy, Olympic Pools, USAquatics, and Mid-State Surety is scheduled to begin in June.

City of Tracy leaders hope that a settlement from the lawsuit will pay for pool repairs. To temporarily finance the repairs, the city is moving ahead with a plan to borrow money through tax abatement bonds.

The council has already authorized a $30,800 expenditure for a downpayment on the pool liner.

Murray County delays sewer decision as new options sought

The Shetek centralized sewer issue will remain unsettled for at least another week.

Murray County Commissioners voted Tuesday to request a state extension on the Environmental Assessment Worksheet that is required for the proposed Shetek-area centralized sewer.

Commissioner Kevin Vickerman said he has spoken to Lynn Kolze of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) about the extension. He said the extension would allow the Shetek Area Water and Sewer (SAWS) Commission to review new options for the project.

“I’m not trying to run from the issue,” he said.

The SAWS Commission meets Monday, March 7. The commissioners will revisit the centralized sewer issue at their Tuesday, March 8 meeting.

Last week commissioners met with engineers on alternatives for a centralized system. Commissioners have been researching a vacuum-type system, which could potentially cut project costs. The current plan calls for a gravity system.

Costs for the project have been estimated at around $17 million.

A bonding bill in the state legislature was another reason for delaying a decision until next week, commissioners indicated. The county had asked for $16.2 million dollars in Wastewater Infrastructure Funding for the project, which is second in line on a state priority list. Priority is determined by a points system.

Vickerman said the Senate bonding bill includes $30 million for the Wastewater Infrastructure Funding Program.

Hearing set on possible sale of city softball field

A new funeral home built on one of the “Homera” softball fields moved one step closer to reality Monday.

Tracy City Council members set a March 14 public hearing on the possible softball field property sale. Tim Kulow, owner of the Tracy Area Funeral Home, has expressed an interest in purchasing a 1.84 acre lot in the Tracy Industrial Park east of North Star Modular Homes. The city-owned land is now used as a softball field. Kulow would like to build a 4,000 to 5,000 square foot funeral home on the land either this summer or next spring.

City council members did not voice any objections to the softball field sale. The Tracy Economic Development Authority has recommended that the council pursue the property sale for the funeral home.

Council members discussed what a fair selling price would be for the land. Kulow had previously asked the EDA for a price, but the EDA referred the question to the council, since the industrial park land is owned by the city.

Council member Sandi Rettmer took a dim view of a suggestion that professional appraisal be done on the property. Instead of spending tax dollars on the market appraisal, Rettmer felt that council members ought to be able set a fair asking price on their own. A place to start, she said, would be past sale prices of property, going back all the way to the first businesses in the park. Several other council members questioned how much relevance sale prices would have if they occurred too long ago.

Rettmer pointed to the most recent industrial park lot sale, when the city sold an improved 125x381-foot lot to LaVoy’s Repair for about $2,300 on a sealed bid process. Rettmer questioned why the council had agreed to a modest sale price, especially since nothing had subsequently been built on the property to boost the city’s tax base.

Mayor Steve Ferrazzano said that the sale did move the lot onto the tax rolls.

It was suggested that one criteria for setting a land value of the softball field could be a recent appraisal that was recently conducted for 62 acres of farmland on the west edge of Tracy. That parcel, which the EDA had looked at as a possible site for a new industrial park, was judged to have a market value of $4,000 an acre. Another factor, it was noted, could be the water, sanitary sewer and storm sewer improvements that are already extended to the softball property.

Rettmer said she would like to see the council set a price and handle the proposed land sale, rather than refer the matter back to the EDA. She said that, according to city charter, the council can sell the property without a sealed bid process.

• • •

The two softball fields were established in the 1970s when the industrial park was first developed. The understanding was that the softball fields would have to be moved, if and when opportunities surfaced for commercial development.

The softball fields are used for some Tracy Community Education summer ballgames, spring junior and senior high girls softball practices, and some summer adult softball games.

Dane Bloch honored as all-around student

Tracy Area High School senior Dane Bloch is a sub-section Triple “A” (Academics, Arts, and Athletics) award winner.

Bloch learned of his award last week.

“I think it’s a great achievement. It was a big surprise just to be selected by the teachers for it,” he said.

Students nominated for the award had to fill out an application detailing their participation in academic, artistic, and athletic activities, and write an essay on how those three areas are important.

Bloch said all three areas have been important to him during his years at TAHS. The arts, he said—particularly band and choir—have opened his mind to different types of cultures. He expects this to be a benefit when he travels to Spain with other TAHS students next month.

Athletics, he said, have taught him the value of sportsmanship and teamwork.

Bloch has participated in band, choir, baseball, speech, knowledge bowl, and many other school and community activities throughout his high school years.

Bloch plans to attend Augustana next fall and major in international relations. He is a candidate for Augustana’s Distinguished Scholarship Award.

Bloch said he appreciated being chosen as one of Tracy’s Triple “A” nominees.

“It was an honor being chosen for this,” he said.

Dane is the son of Eric and Tracy Bloch of Balaton.

Italian learns to shake hands

Italian foreign exchange student Valeria Sotte had to learn a new way of greeting people after arriving in Minnesota last August.

In Italy, friends and family members often greet one another with kisses.

“We give each other two kisses, one on each cheek,” she explained, in a talk with the Tracy Kiwanis Club Thursday. “Here, you might shakes hands.” During her first days in America, she admitted, it was hard not to pucker up when meeting someone.

“I had to stop, and think ‘no, they don’t do that here,’” she smiled.

The 17-year-old, spending the year with the Tom and Joan Gervais family at Bloody Lake, shared some of her experiences with Tracy Kiwanians last week.

She said she’s tried to immerse herself in American culture.

“To really get to know another country, you have to be willing to try everything.”

Valeria has felt right at home on Lake Shetek, perhaps in part because her home in Italy is located on the Adriatic Sea. Steeped in history, her hometown of Cizitanoza has buildings dating from the 16th century. Ancient stone walls and towers guard the “old town” which overlooks the seaside community of 50,000. She has a married 25-year-old sister, Ilaria, and a 21-year-old brother, Marco, who attends college.

Her father is a doctor who specializes in acupuncture treatments. Her mother is an English teacher. Her grandparents live near the town’s oceanfront beach.

• • •

As an adopted American teenager, Valeria has come to appreciate a hamburger and French-fries. But living near the ocean, she was used to a diet with much fresh fish. Cizitanoza fishermen head out each Monday in small boats, returning with their catches Thursday and Friday.

And yes, Italian do eat a lot of pasta.

“Every meal, we eat pasta,” Valeria explained. Italian pasta is never served as a leftover.

“We always make our pasta fresh. If there is any extra pasta at a meal, it would be thrown away or given to the dog.”

Mealtime, she said, is a special time for Italian families. Mothers, traditionally, are in charge of meal preparations. Serving delicious meals to their family, Valeria said, is a task that most Italian women take great pride in.

“A kitchen is a very important place in the Italian home.”

Italian food in America is good, the student said, but it is different than genuine Italian cuisine.

“In Italy, olive oil is what butter is in America.”

• • •

The wide-open vistas of rural Minnesota have been an eye-opener for the young Italian. In Italy, her home is only a few hours from the major cities of Italy. She and her family often go to Rome, which is only a two-hour drive from Cizitanoza. Like many Italians, she is proud of her country’s heritage, which dates from the Roman Empire more than 2,000 years ago.

“I love Rome. Our history is everywhere.”

Rome is Italy’s No. 1 tourist attraction. But her hometown attracts many visitors too, she said. Relatively few Americans visit Cizitanoza, she said, but it is a popular holiday destination for Italians, and people from other parts of Europe.

• • •

Now in her seventh month an AFS student, Sotte has observed a number of subtle cultural differences between Italians and Americans.

Drinking wine with a meal, is common in Italy. Young people start drinking wine, she said, by about the age of 14. Yet, drinking to excess and drunkenness occurs very infrequently in Italy.

Young Italians are not permitted to have jobs during the school year, on the grounds that such work would interfere with school and family life.

The relationship between mothers and sons is different in Italy compared with the United States. For example, Valeria said, in Italy, it is common for sons to spend the day shopping with their mothers.

In America, she said, she hasn’t seen a guy so much as buying a pair of socks with his mother.