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News from the week of June 21, 2006


Wellness center lease accord 'close'

No one has broken out the shovels, but signs still point to the imminent construction of a new wellness center in Tracy.

The project’s developer and a Sioux Valley Tracy Medical Center representative both said Tuesday that the parties are close to an agreement on a long-term lease. Once the lease is finalized, construction will begin.

“We are close,” said Rick Nordahl, SVTMC chief executive officer. “Fundamentally, we are in agreement, but we need to go over it again.” Nordahl said that he remains optimistic that construction on the wellness center will begin soon.

“That pretty well hits the nail on the head,” agreed Developer Ron Gramstad, a partner in RWS Joint Ventures, the company that plans to build and own the wellness center.

Gramstad said that he felt that a meeting Monday to discuss the wellness center lease went well. He said that the discussions may resume this week.

Finalizing the lease, Gramstad said, is the only task left to accomplish before construction can begin. Early July, he said, is a realistic goal for breaking ground on the project.

• • •

The proposed $560,000 wellness center is to be built near Tracy hospital, south of the Prairie View Healthcare Center. The one-story frame building will have at least 6,200 square feet.

The community wellness center will be equipped with a variety of modern exercise equipment, space for classes. Members will have 24-hour access to the facility with an electronic card.

The SVTMC therapy department would also be located in the center. Space that the therapy department now uses in the hospital would be converted for other medical outreach services.

The Tracy City Council last week approved a 10-year tax abatement agreement with the RWS Joint Ventures. The developer has an agreement to buy the wellness center land from the Tracy Economic Development Authority.


Shirlee Gilmore to sing at tribute

Tracy music instructor Shirlee Gilmore will be a featured vocalist in a musical tribute to composer Harold Arlen next week at Southwest Minnesota State University.

The Monday, June 26 event will feature the music of Arlen, who composed over 400 songs. Arlen is especially remember for composing the songs for the film, “The Wizard of Oz.” The song “Over the Rainbow” from that movie was recently honored at America’s “No. 1 Song of the Century.” Other well know Arlen hits include: It’s Only a Paper Moon, I’ve Got the World on a String, Blues in the Night, Let’s Fall in Love, Get Happy, Storm Weather and Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea.

Arlen’s music will be performed by Gilmore and Russell Svenningsen of Marshall on vocals, and Tony Caramia on the piano. A Power Point show, looking at Arlen’s life in pictures and film clips, will be a part of the June 26 tribute.

The concert will be held in the SMSU Fine Arts Theater. SMSU and the Southwest Minnesota Music Teachers’ Association are sponsoring the event. Tickets are available at HyVee, County Fair, Music Street, the Marshall Area Fine Arts Council office, and area piano teachers. Tracy area piano teachers are Shannon Benson, Marilyn Donner, and Anna Jeanne Flesner.

Gilmore is an SMSU graduate, with degrees in vocal and classroom music education.. She was named SMSU Choir Vocalist of the year in 2001 under the direction of Dr. Michael Suzuki. Shirlee has performed as a soloist for several SMSU and area events, including the 20-year anniversary performance of Handel’s “Messiah” and the 2005 SMSU Writer’s Festival. She is the vocal music director at Tracy Area High School., where she conducts the junior and senior choirs, as well as, a Chamber Choir and Women’s Show Choir. Shirley and her husband, Roger, live on a rural Tracy farmstead with their three children.

Caramia is Professor of Piano at the Eastman School of Music, where he is director of piano pedagogy studies and coordinator of the class piano program. He has been featured at many Ragtime Festivals throughout the country, including the famed Scott Joplin Ragtime Festival in Sedalia, MO, where he was also the 2002 and 1996 Artist-in-Residence.

Svenningsen holds a Master’s degree in choral conducting from the University of Cincinnati, Conservatory of Music, and has a Bachelor’s degree from Concordia College, Moorhead. Prior to becoming Director of Choral Music at Southwest Minnesota State University. Svenningsen taught at the College of Mount St. Joseph, Ohio as well as high schools in both Ohio and Minnesota.


Library technology opens new chapter for readers


The Tracy Public Library isn’t what it used to be…it’s better.

New technology now makes it possible for library patrons to search for, reserve, and renew books online from the comfort of their homes, or from any on-line computer station.

Librarian Jamie Verdeck likes the convenience and speed of the new technology.

“This is a lot easier,” says Verdeck. “You can search the directory for books, videos, and you can even renew books.”

The library’s membership in the Plum Creek Library system gives local users access to thousands of more books than are on the shelves in Tracy. Library patrons can place a book on hold anywhere in the Plum Creek system, and have it sent to the library that is nearest them.

Not everyone applauds the library’s shift to computers, Verdeck acknowledges. Some longtime library patrons say they would prefer the discontinued card catalog. But Verdeck says that she and other staff members are there to help those who need help.

Verdeck explains how people can access the card catalog from any computer.

“Just bring up your Internet browser and type in the correct URL, which is: From this point, a patron can choose the library you want to search from and then look up the author or the book itself.

The system itself is a growing project.

“It’s almost there,” states Verdeck. “They find out more every time they use it.”

• • •

More than books can be checked out. The Plum Creek system has 879 movies available for checkout at the Tracy library, in both VHS and DVD formats.

“The kids really like having the chance to come and get a movie,” says Verdeck. “They may not be the most recent, but they’re good entertainment.”


But books remain by far the most popular item at the Tracy library.

“Even though we have the videos, books are still at a high number, 90% of the time the books are checked out rather than movies.”

Verdeck says that many kids come into the library during the day for something to do. Now they have the opportunity to read magazines, take videos to watch, and read. The computers used for the card catalog systems are also an option to use.

“We time the kids when they are on the computer,” states Verdeck. “They get a certain amount of time and then the next one may use it.”

Older people Verdeck says, have a more difficult time getting used to the new technology.

“Yes, it’s faster, but a lot of people are computer illiterate,” says Verdeck. “They would much rather stick with the old ways.”

For more information on the card catalog, obtaining a library card, or using a computer, Verdeck says people are free to stop downtown to the public library. It’s open Monday-Friday from 12:30 to 5:30p.m. and on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon.


School talk gets specific

Consultants present ideas about addition

By Valerie Scherbart Quist


A new athletics and arts facility at Tracy Area High School came one step closer to reality Tuesday.

The District 417 board of education heard from consultants Dale Birkeland and Gary Benson, consultants with Krause/Anderson and architect Mike DeVetter. Darrold Williams was also scheduled to be there, but was unable to attend.

Birkeland said Williams and DeVetter, who both have ties to Tracy, would be working closely on the Tracy project if the district chooses to use their firm’s services. Williams is a former administrator in the Tracy District, and DeVetter is a Tracy graduate.

The bulk of the meeting was spent discussing the district’s needs and desires for the facility. Preliminary talks have included an 800-seat auditorium, 1,800-seat gymnasium, wrestling room, locker rooms, lobby, and district offices.

If the district chooses to use Krause/Anderson’s services, the next step is to redefine what those needs are, DeVetter said. The consultants would work to guide the steering committee toward specific plans.

DeVetter said there are multiple ways to go when it comes to an auditorium, ranging from general use auditoriums to highly specific-use theaters. He said he would try to drive the steering committee toward an auditorium geared toward one use, yet flexible for use in other areas. For example, the auditorium could be designed as a perfect facility for band performances, but still be used for choir, theater, and other purposes.

“Sometimes flexibility is a good thing and sometimes it’s not,” he said.

There are many other areas that the district will want to consider as well, including backstage and wing space, seating arrangement and number of seats, and a stagecraft area.

DeVetter said gymnasium planning doesn’t bring as many questions as auditoriums. He said it’s always easiest to add on, but it’s also important to look at the most efficient way to use existing space. Space vacated in the existing building because of the new gymnasium space can often be reworked for other uses. The stage in the current gymnasium, for example, could possibly be remodeled for the danceline or cheerleading programs.

DeVetter said there are two ways to build addition plans. The district can either set a dollar amount and work within those perimeters, or build the design around specific needs.

“It’s like a jigsaw puzzle; you just have to keep working at it,” DeVetter said. “This facility really has to come from you. It has to be about your community and your issues.”

Birkeland said if the board is serious about moving forward with this project and committing itself to the Krause/Anderson group, the next step is for them to begin working with the steering committee. He said the group would be flexible to meeting as often as the steering committee likes.

“We will be at your disposal,” he said.

Generally, he recommends meeting every other week. During those meetings, the committee will discuss a different topic. Following the meeting, the results would be written and formalized in document form. When that process is completed, the committee will make recommendations to the board. It will then be the board’s decision whether to move forward with architectural plans.

Krause/Anderson will also guide the board in planning a bond campaign and election. Bids for the project would not be called for until after the election, but the district would have a good idea of the project plans and cost estimates beforehand.

The consultants usually hold billing until the bond issue is completed, Birkeland said. If, for some reason the district decides not to move forward or the bond fails, payment would be determined at that time.

“The goal is to get the referendum passed,” Birkeland said. “We try to be careful about expenditures prior to the bond issue.”

He said the average timeline from the planning stages through bonding is eight to 12 months.

The consultants left the board with a letter of proposal for their services. The board will review the proposal, and decide if any revisions need to be made. The board did not make a decision Monday on whether they will move forward with the project and hire the consultants.


Auction find had family tie

By Seth Schmidt

The framed piece of yellowed newsprint attracted an eager bid from Harold “Spec” Shoeman.

“Five dollars,” the 1939 Tracy grad said.

“Sold,” the auctioneer quickly declared.

The paper, preserved in plastic, was a full-page farm sale advertisement published in the Walnut Grove Tribune nine decades ago. The Nov. 28, 1919 farm auction sold the livestock and farm machinery of a rural Walnut Grove farmer named W. H. Shoeman.

“That was my dad,” Shoeman said. “That sale was held before I was born.”

The newspaper farm ad was sold at an antique auction in Storden Sunday.

“Someone had seen it and called me to come over and take a look at it,” the Lake Shetek area resident said. “I’m glad I did. This is nice to have.”

Shoeman’s father, Walter, had his 1919 farm sale in order to go into the auction business with partner Walt Stearns. Shoeman later established a sales barn in Downtown Walnut Grove. In 1939, Shoeman built a sale barn at what later became Central Livestock. Walter sold the property to Central Livestock in 1942, his son said, after experiencing difficulty getting enough help to run the sale barn. The barn burned down shortly after it was sold.

The Shoeman auction business was especially busy during the hard times of the 1930s.

“One month in 1936, they had 30 sales,” Spec Shoeman said. “They (Stearns and Shoeman) would split up if they had more than one sale on the same day.”

Walter Shoeman died in 1967.

• • •

Spec Shoeman’s older brother, Leo, remembers the sale.

“I had to bring the horses out,” he said.

The sale bill listed eight draft horses. Leo Shoeman remembers the horses, purebred Percherons, brought between $400 and $500 each. The Shoemans also had a herd of newly-developed Polled Herefords. The hornless breed of whitefaced cattle were highly sought by farmers.

“We got as much as $800 a head for the young females,” Leo Shoeman said.

His father was a successful farmer, Leo said. In the year that Walter sold the farm, for example, Leo recalls that his father had 40 acres of prairie plowed up in order to plant flax. The crop, much to the surprise of skeptical neighbors, yielded 30 bushels an acre and brought $7 a bushel.

“That was good money at that time,” Leo Shoeman said.

His father decided to sell out his farming operation, Leo said, because he saw greater money-making opportunities as an auctioneer.

Leo Shoeman is looking forward to celebrating his 96th birthday on July 4.


'Beautiful weather' brings soaking rains, warm temps

Dry May weather is only a memory, thanks to a soggy week of weather in Southwest Minnesota.

Precipitation fell on five of the past seven days in Tracy, Wednesday through Tuesday. Measurements taken by Kevin Haney of the Tracy Weather Center showed a total of 2.75 inches of rain falling from June 14 through 8 a.m. Tuesday morning. The greatest precipitation fell on Friday, June 16, when 1.3” of rain was recorded.

“It’s just beautiful weather,” said Currie area farmer Mike Surprenant, who reported receiving 1.7” of rain from the early Tuesday morning thunderstorms that passed through the region. “The rain filled the void of the dry period we were having.”

Precipitation reports from the early Tuesday thunderstorms varied. An inch of rain was reported five miles north of Tracy. Observers near Amiret reported three-fourths to an inch of rain, with some hail.

The Southwest Research and Outreach Center near Lamberton has been logging 2006 precipitation that so far is above historic averages. Through June 19, SSROC had measured 16.79” of accumulated precipitation for 2006. This year’s precipitation is ahead of the pace in 2005 that brought 36.62” of rain to the University of Minnesota research center, well above the historic average of 26.23” for the Lamberton area.

Except for Saturday, when the weather was cooler, daily temperature highs for the past week have been in the high 70s to mid-80s.