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News from the week of March 29, 2006


School banquet honors achievement

Dennis Morgan, Ron McDaniel, Jim Keul are Wall of Fame inductees

The Tracy Area Public Schools’ American Education Banquet is planned Thursday, March 30.

The event, being held at Shetek Bend Banquet Bar & Grill, begins at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $8 and are available at the Tracy Area High School and Tracy Elementary School offices, and the Tracy Chamber office.

The American Education Banquet recognizes the achievements of students, teachers, and alumni. Highlights will be the announcement of high school and elementary “teachers of the year” the induction of three former students into District 417’s “Wall of Fame.”

Jim Keul, Ron McDaniel, and Dennis Morgan are this year’s Wall of Fame inductees.


Registration underway for eight periods

By Valerie Scherbart Quist

The final pieces are coming together for the new eight-period day to be implemented at Tracy Area High School.

Principal Chad Anderson reported to the District 417 board of education on the registration process. As of last week, most students had registered via JMC Online. Anderson gave a run-down of the changes so far to the schedule.

In many cases, adding an eighth period has allowed for more electives to be offered, in addition to Advanced Placement (AP) courses, lower level courses, and smaller class sizes.

For example, in senior chemistry, there will be three sections of regular chemistry, a more basic chemistry concepts course, and an AP chemistry class.

Anderson said there are some areas where adjustments may have to be made because of high registration numbers, including foods and ag mechanics.

Choir is another class with very high numbers. There are 92 students signed up for 9-12 choir at this time. Superintendent David Marlette credited instructor Shirlee Gilmore with building an excellent program during her years at TAHS, but added that with high numbers will come increased costs. He anticipates that additional choir robes and risers may be needed to accommodate the additional students.

The transition to an eight-period day is expected to bring other costs as well. Marlette estimated that around $25,000 will need to be spent on additional books, equipment, and other supplies.

“We need to realize that this will bring costs,” Marlette said.

Board member Tom Hook questioned where the district will find the money.

“I think it has to be a priority,” Marlette said. “We have to find it, and we will find it.”

One area that it is anticipated will not have to change is staffing. Anderson said that at this time, it appears there are enough staff members to cover the new schedule. Several teachers have offered to teach AP-level courses.

Anderson said the eighth graders from Milroy and Balaton would be brought in this week to register, and that next year’s seventh graders had yet to register. He told the board he hopes to have a more definite schedule at the April board meeting.

• • •

Another major factor that still needs to be considered along with the eight-period day is how many credits will be required for students to graduate. At this time, students are required to have 24 credits to graduate under the seven-period schedule.

Anderson said he surveyed teachers on the issue, and the majority recommended requiring students have 27 credits to graduate. The maximum number of credits that could be required would be 28, with students taking seven classes and one study hall every year.

Requiring students to take 27 credits would maintain high expectations for students, yet provide a one-credit leeway.

Anderson said a plan will need to be drafted on how to implement the new credit requirements for graduation.


Garbage proposals offer savings to consumers & businesses

Garbage disposal costs for Tracy households and businesses will likely decline after July 1.

Five businesses seeking a garbage disposal contract with the City of Tracy have offered lower rates than are currently being charged. Representatives for Waste Management of Minnesota, Inc., Shetek Services, Velde Sanitation, Ritter’s Sanitary Service, Inc. and Southwest Sanitation Inc. presented their proposals to Tracy City Council members Monday.

Consideration of the garbage proposals has been placed on the council’s April 10 agenda. Mayor Steve Ferrazzano would like a hauler(s) chosen at the time.

“We should make a decision then. We shouldn’t have to think about this for more than two weeks,” he told council members.

Ritter’s Sanitary Service, based out of Marshall, now has an exclusive contract for all waste disposal services within Tracy. The contract expires June 30.

Tracy leaders have the choice of granting an exclusive contract to one hauler or giving the residential contract to one hauler and the commercial contract to another. The possibility of allowing businesses to choose among multiple disposal companies has also been discussed.


Residential rates

Tracy households now pay $12.30 a month for weekly 35-gallon curbside garbage collection, $15.63 for a 65-gallon container, and $20.94 for a 95-gallon container. Alley pickup is $1 a month more. A 9.75% state tax and a 10 cent city billing charge is added to each monthly residential bill.

The new garbage proposals for curbside pickup service range from $6.98 to $9.80 a month for weekly curbside service on a 15 to 35-gallon container. Proposals range from $10.50 to $12.75 a month for 60 or 65-gallon service, and $12.50 to $17.10 for a 90 or 95 gallon container curbside pickup. Alley collection proposals ranged from $6.98 to $10.80 a month for a 15 or 35 gallon container, $10.50 to $13.75 for 60 or 65 gallon containers, and $12.50 to $17.75 for a 90 to 95 gallon container service.

The vast majority of Tracy residences now receive curbside, 65-gallon service If the apparent low bid of $10.50 a month is accepted for a curbside 65-gallon container, the saving per household would be just over $5 a month from current rates, or about $60 a year.

• • •

Ritter’s Sanitary Service offered the lowest price for curbside 65-gallon curbside pickup. Ritter’s offered a price of $10.50 a month if the firm receives exclusive contracts for both resident and commercial business, or $10.80 a month if the firm does not also get the commercial contract. Waste Management offered a $10.97 price for 60-gallon curbside pickup, and Southwest Sanitation proposed a $10.97 price for a 65-gallon container. Velde Sanitation offered a 60-gallon curbside price of $12.50 and Shetek Services $12.75.

Waste Management submitted the lowest price for 15-gallon service; $6.98 for both curbside and alley service. Southwest Sanitation proposed a 35-gallon curbside pickup for $8.96 a month.


Commercial rates

Southwest Sanitation offered a price of $41 a month for the weekly disposal of a one-yard commercial container, compared with $42 Waste Management offered. Ritter’s Sanitation proposed $46 a month for the one-yard weekly pickup with an exclusive residential/commercial contract or $54 with just a commercial contract. Shetek Services offered a $12 weekly rate for the one-yard container. Velde Sanitation did not list specific commercial rates, offering instead to set its commercial rates 10 to 20% less expensive than what is now being charged.

Currently, there are no established volume rates for Tracy business. Rates are negotiated individually between the hauler and business.


Extras offered

Representatives of each business outlined extra services that their company was prepared to offer.

Steve Larson of Shetek Services said that he would pick up garbage from all city buildings and parks at no charge (Veterans’ Memorial Center, liquor store, library, aquatic center, street and fire departments, softball fields, Swift Lake Park, and downtown trash containers.) He estimated that the savings to city taxpayers for this service at $5,168. He also offered to pick up trash from Box Car Days, the sportsmen’s show, and all Tracy churches at no charge.

Grant Velde of Velde Sanitation offered to take care of all “normal refuse” collections from city facilities and all Tracy churches at no charge. Rates for appliance disposals were set at $12, and $2 for a tire off the rim.

Dan Ritter of Southwest Sanitation said his company would collect, free of charge, refuse from all city facilities. Extra yard waste would be hauled for $2 per tagged bag. Appliance removal would cost $30 per unit.

Rick Roemer, district manager for waste management, said that his company is a national leader in recycling. 30-gallon bags of yard waste would be picked up for $1.50 a bag. Waste Management would participate in a city-wide clean-up campaign for a cost of $90 per truck plus disposal costs.

Shane Leftridge of Ritter’s Sanitary Service said that Ritter’s would also offer 1) 15% senior citizens discount, 2) Free disposal of two “bulky” items per household annually at no charge, free commercial cardboard collection, and commercial single-stream recycling collection at $40 a month. He estimated the free pickup of the residential items as an annual savings of $24,000, based upon a regular disposal cost of $15 an item.


Support ‘local?’

References were made several times in the council presentations about the merits of Tracy being served by either a large or small waste company.

Ritter’s Sanitary Service, though based in Marshall, is a part of Waste Connections, a solid waste disposal firm with business across the country. In addition to Tracy, Ritter’s has municipal contracts in Cottonwood, Lake Benton, Walnut Grove, Garvin, Russell, Ivanhoe, Taunton, Ghent, Arco and Boyd. Ritter’s also has hauling licenses in Redwood, Lyon, and Lincoln counties, and Marshall, Redwood Falls, and Cottonwood.

Waste Management of Minnesota Inc., with offices in Mankato, is also a national company. Waste Management is licensed to haul refuse in Redwood Falls, Morgan, Wabasso, Lamberton, Revere, Wanda, Sanborn, Clements, Belview, Milroy, Lucan, Vesta, Seaforth, Comfrey, Marshall, Lynd, Hendricks, Alpha, Bingham Lake, Jeffers, Mt. Lake, Storden, St. James, Butterfield, Ormsby, LaSalle, Darfur and Odin.

Larson, who lives in Tracy, is the former owner of Steve Larson Services, which offered garbage and refuse disposal services in Tracy until the company was sold to Ritter’s Sanitary Service. Shetek Services would be a newly-established business.

Dan and Scott Ritter of Marshall own Southwest Sanitation Inc. The Ritters owned Ritter’s Sanitary Service until selling the business to Waste Connections. Southwest Sanitation has hauling licenses in Lyon and Lincoln counties, and Marshall and Cottonwood.

Grant and Becky Velde of rural Hanley Falls own Velde Sanitation. The firm provides solid waste disposal service in Wood Lake, Echo, Granite Falls, Hanley Falls, Hazel Run, Clarkfield, Cottonwood, the Upper Sioux Community and rural farmsteads.

Larson told council members that offering a contract to Shetek Services would be a chance to promote local economic development. He said that his business would purchase most of their supplies and materials in Tracy, create local jobs, and support local organizations.

Velde asserted that his company would spend money in Tracy for fuel, tires, meals, banking services, repairs and supplies. Velde Sanitation would hire a local person, and obtain a building in Tracy for its truck. Velde said that he started his own business, after working for two independently owned refuse companies that were later sold to national companies. “Some of these companies are more interested in profits than people,” he said.

Roemer said that Waste Management “treated its employees right” and “spends a lot of money” in the communities it serves. Being a part of a national business “provides the tools” for an efficient, service-oriented business on the local level.

Southwest Sanitation’s Dan Ritter said that he had “been around the garbage business for a long time” and knew what it took to provide good customer service.

Leftridge, speaking for Ritter’s Sanitary Service, said that he can understand “the spirit of the thoughts about locally-owned.” However, he said, the “dynamics” of a large waste disposal company “is of direct benefit to the consumer in every case.” Leftridge said that the rates being offered for both residential and commercial use, were “extremely competitive.” An example of the advantages offered by a larger disposal company, he said, is the fact the “four of the gentlemen sitting here have had a privately-owned company and they sold to a (large) public company.”


Cost of living

Waste Management asked for a cost-of-living increase, based upon area inflation rates, for the second and third years of the contract. The firm also offered an optional clause that would have increased rates if fuel costs exceed $3 a gallon, or decrease rates if fuel falls below $2 a gallon.

The other four bidders guaranteed their rates for three years.


Length of contract

Shetek Services requested a 10-year contract. The other four proposals were for three years as requested by the city. Larson told the council that he was willing to “negotiate” the ten-year contract request. Ritter said that he would like the chance to submit a new proposal, if the city was willing to consider a 10-year contract.

Councilman Bill Chukuske indicated that as far as he was concerned, the council couldn’t consider the Shetek Services offer, because the city had requested proposals for a three-year contract.

Shetek sewer hearing set for April 8

Assessments to be discussed

An assessment hearing for the proposed Lake Shetek-area sewer project is planned Saturday, April 8 at 12:30 p.m. at the Shetek Lutheran Ministries activity center.

Proposed assessments will be available for review prior to the hearing, from 9 a.m. to noon.

Project bids were opened Feb. 23. Bids were received for two separate aspects of the project. The first is the completion of the wastewater collection system, and the second is the construction of the stabilization ponds.

The low bid for the collection system was received from Duninck Bros., Inc., which submitted bids for $5,930,394 on Alternate A, and $5,523,853.44 for Alternate B. Additional bids were received from Rice Lake Construction, and GM Contracting.

The low bid for construction of the stabilization ponds was received from Mathiowetz Construction at $1,643,286. Additional bids were received from R&G Construction, Park Construction, and Hydro Engineering.

The proposal calls for the construction of a centralized pressurized sewer collection system in the Shetek Area Water and Sewer District, which includes parts of Lake Shetek, Lake Sarah, and Bloody Lake. Bolton & Menk are the engineers for the project, which is expected to cost around $16.5 million.

Peer tutoring considered at high school

By Valerie Scherbart Quist

An aggressive peer tutoring program is being considered at Tracy Area High School.

TAHS Principal Chad Anderson told the District 417 school board last week that he and school guidance counselor Chris Kamrud have been considering options to help students who are continually failing multiple classes.

At this time, there has not been a system of intervention that consistently addresses problems, school board members were told. As a result, Anderson and Kamrud are proposing a new peer tutoring program.

Under the plan, senior high students (grades 10-12) who rank in the top one-half of their class would be eligible for consideration as peer tutors. The guidance counselor or principal, based on the students’ interests and abilities, would pair them with a student or students needing help.

The student tutor would receive credit for their contributions much like they would receive credit for taking a class. They would receive half a credit per class per semester or a full credit for a class period all year.

Students would be limited to one tutoring session for credit per day. They would have a classroom available for tutoring under the direction of a teacher. Each student tutor would be graded on a pass-fail basis.

Expectations of the tutor would include being available to help every day for the entire period unless other arrangements were approved ahead of time. Termination of the tutoring agreement would require approval by either the principal or guidance counselor.

Anderson asked the board to consider the peer tutoring program, and discuss the idea further at a future meeting.


Test motivation

Anderson also addressed the issue of motivating students to do well on their Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment tests. The district works hard to prepare the students for the tests, Anderson said, but needs to consider ways to motivate them to do well. For the students, the MCAs are just another test—and a test that they do not get credit for. For the school district, however, the tests are of great importance.

Some options included carrying over a tests score as a test grade the following school year, games, and prizes. Anderson said the plan is to feed all students breakfast the day of the test. Students will also be provided highlighters to use during the test.

Anderson said it is important to stay positive with the students when dealing with these tests. He feels it is important to reward all students for improving their test scores, even if those scores are still low.


Ag instructor hired

The board approved the teaching contract for John Lanoue as TAHS ag instructor. Lanoue, a 1999 Tracy graduate, was teaching in Springfield. The board also approved a contract with Lanoue as FFA advisor.


Timmerman resigns

The board approved, with thanks for her service to the district, the resignation of Teresa Timmerman as TAHS math instructor effective at the end of the school year.

“We’re very sad to see her leave,” said Superintendent David Marlette. “She’s an excellent teacher. We’re going to miss her.”


Coaching assignments

The board approved hiring Amy Anderson as junior high softball coach for the 2006 season. The board also approved the hiring of Chase Hillesheim as C-squad baseball coach for the 2006 season.

The board also accepted the resignation of Dave Sogge as girls’ softball coach effective at the end of the 2006 season, and the resignation of Nat Boyer as junior high football coach effective at the end of the school year.


Elementary update

Principal Scott Loeslie reported that kindergarten round-up will be held May 5. Preliminary letters have been sent to parents.

Parent-teacher conferences attracted another good turn-out. Loeslie said he will have the numbers at the next board meeting.

The math curriculum committee has narrowed down to two possible curriculums, from Scott Foresman and Houghton-Mifflin. Loeslie said the committee is considering whether it would be better to buy the textbook version of the curriculum, or go with an online version. If the online version is chosen, projection panels would need to be bought, but money would be saved on textbooks. Forty-five textbooks per grade would cost about $13,000, and the online version would cost less than $6,000. The projection equipment would cost an estimated $600 per panel.


Activities update

Activities Director Bill Tauer reported on spring sports participation. There are 34 girls in softball, 34 boys and girls in golf, 36 boys and girls in track, and 70 boys in baseball. Tauer said the numbers are down somewhat from last year.


Superintendent update

Marlette reported that Monday, April 17 has been set as a make-up day for the March 13 snow day.

Twelve people have been appointed to a steering committee for a proposed arts and athletics facility addition to TAHS. Meetings will begin next month.

Marlette told the board that an extended school year is a big topic of discussion in the legislature this session. The proposal is to increase to 200 student days and 230 staff days. This would be done gradually. Marlette said he thinks the biggest hindrance will be the cost. Marlette also reported on the conference he recently attended in California.


SW/WC contracts

The board approved a five-year contract between the district and the Southwest/West Central Service Cooperative for the Trillion Technology Network. The board also approved the Southwest/West Central Service Cooperative special education contracts for the 2006-2007 school year.


Marx Brothers teach history? Yes, actors say

The Marshall Area Stage Company is presenting The Complete History of America on the Tracy Area High School gym stage Friday, March 31. The performance, sponsored by The Fine Arts Council of Tracy, begins at 7 p.m.

A three-member cast will present eight comedy sketches, loosely based on events in American History. Bob Schwoch, Marshall, is directing the traveling show, which has already been performed in New London, Granite Falls, and Windom. The comedy will be presented in Marshall April 28-30

Southwest Minnesota State University students James Fairbairn and Jim Radloff and Schwoch comprise the cast.

The 90-minute show—written by Adam Long, Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor—begins with the arrival of Columbus and ends with the George W. Bush administration. Schwoch describes The Complete History of America as a “madcap, slapstick and sometimes thought provoking show (that) can be described as U.S. History 101 taught by the Marx Brothers.”

Tickets are $5 at the door. Advance tickets are on sale at John’s Drug.

Gams & Hams, Tootsies wow crowd for pageant spoof

Who said Small Towns, USA, lack cultural fine-arts events?

Nine Miss Tootsie candidates did nothing to enhance Tracy’s hopes of attracting a Minnesota Orchestra concert Friday, but they did demonstrate that rural Minnesotans know how to have fun. A crowd of 625 people jammed the Tracy Area High School gym to laugh at notable local men who donned dresses and heels to ham it up for a Miss Tootsie pageant.

Ivanna Krasch (Mark Priegnitz) earned the dubious title of Miss Tootsie. Dani and Kiki Poundalotte (Kim Daniels and Keith Peterson) were the first runners-up, and Queen Antoinette (Derek Flann) was second runner-up. Curly Sue (Mike Carlson) was Miss Congeniality; Anita Pinn (Cole Cooreman) Miss Photogenitc; Bonita Radiolosky (Charlie Snyder) Best Personality; Red Baroness (Steve Schenkoske) Most Likely to Succeed; Shetiquia Bends (Drew Hebig) Best Legs. Ivanna won the physical fitness competition, while Queen Antoinette won the evening gown event.

The event was a fund-raiser for the Fine Arts Council of Tracy. Jesse James & Ade Miller directed.