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News from the week of June 28, 2006


Hail damage assessed

Some replant, others wait & see

By Kyle Lessman

Farmers continue to access hail damage left in the wake of Friday and Saturday thunderstorms.

“We started getting reports of hail damage Friday night and they are still coming in,” said Roger Trulock with Minnwest Insurance early this week.

Hail battered crops along two bands near Tracy. One strip of hail damage is about five miles south of Tracy. A second stretches from south of Marshall to eight miles north of Tracy and to Milroy. A third band of hail-damage is between Marshall and Dawson.

Each swath of hail damage is similar in that the hail path is narrow, about three miles wide, with a one-mile-wide band getting hit the hardest.

“The bands were narrow but very long,” said Bruce Potter with the Southwest Research and Outreach Center in Lamberton.

Time will tell how much the hail will cut yields, but damaged soybean fields are expected to have a tougher time rebounding than the corn.

“No matter how awful the corn looks now it shouldn’t be too bad off,” said Jodi Dejong-Hughes, with the regional extension services in Marshall. “They are looking at a 11 to 16 percent yield loss though. (The farmers) will just have to look to see if the stalks are broke.”

“It depends on how big the hail was and if it fell any way other than straight down,” said Potter. “If it did fall at an angle there could be bruising of the stalk.”

Some soybean fields sustained severe damage.

“We have gotten reports of bean fields north of Tracy that are totaled,” said Trulock. Insurance will cover some of the losses.

Trulock said that most area farmers have federal insurance and some also have hail insurance. Right now, he said, farmers have two options: they can wait and collect their insurance premiums or they can replant their soybeans.

“If the field is black or just sticks, its a pretty easy decision to make, but if they still have some leaves the farmers have some thinking to do,” said Dejong-Hughes. She went on to explain, “Even if they can get the shorter season varieties out there now they will still only get about 55 percent of the yield.”

Amiret area Greg Tanghe started planting his soybeans Monday.

“They are saying to plant diagonally because then when the damaged plants grow up the new plants can support them.”

Dejong-Hughes said that it is difficult to determine the overall impact on area crops. For unlucky producers with fields hit by hail, the Friday-Saturday storms were obviously bad.

“This hail is really unfortunate because the crops were looking really good,” she said.

On the other hand, she noted, the hail damage is relatively spotty and areas not struck by hail will benefit from the moisture brought by the thunderstorms.


City garbage changes begin

By Seth Schmidt

A transition period for residential garbage service in Tracy is underway.

Ritter’s Sanitary Service, the city’s current hauler, is picking up Tracy’s household garbage for the last time this week.

Southwest Sanitation Service, which recently obtained a three-year contract to pickup Tracy’s residential garbage beginning July 1, is distributing its containers to households. Tracy’s familiar blue residential garbage containers will be taken away after this week’s refuse is picked up.

“We will have a truck coming behind the garbage truck to pick up the containers,” said Carrie Shofner, of the Ritter’s Sanitary Service office.

Tracy’s new household garbage containers are gray. Southwest Sanitation began distributing the containers on Monday, and planned to have all containers in place by Tuesday..

“We will be putting our containers where our records show the people want their service (curbside or alley),” said Dan Ritter of Southwest Sanitation. The Southwest Sanitation containers are available in three sizes: 35-gallon, 65-gallon, and 95-gallon. The City of Tracy recently mailed a survey to all residential utility customers, asking what container size they wanted and whether they desired curbside or alley service. Responses from the city survey were used by Southwest Sanitation in distributing their containers.


New pick-up day

Wednesday will become the new pickup day for Tracy household waste

“We are going to do it all in one day,” said Ritter. The Southwest Sanitation truck will begin making rounds at 2:30 a.m. Wednesday, and continue until the job is complete.

Because garbage pickup will begin early in the morning, Ritter suggests that containers be set out Tuesday evening.

Southwest Sanitation will have one truck—a 33 yard-capacity Labrie sideloader—handling the Tracy collections. Brad Herigon, who worked for Ritter from 1992-99, will be the driver. As is the case now, containers will be picked up and dumped using automatic hydraulic equipment. Ritter said that it has not yet been determined what areas of Tracy will be picked up first.

“It’s going to take us awhile to figure out what routes work best,” he said. Ritter expects that residential garbage pickups will take 10-11 hours in Tracy.

Household recycling materials, which are picked up by Waste Management of Minnesota, will continue to be done on Wednesdays in Tracy.


Holiday week exception

Because of the Fourth of July holiday next week, Southwest Sanitation’s first garbage pickup day will actually take place on Thursday, July 8.

“It’s unfortunate that the Fourth of July falls on our first week,” Ritter said. Because of work that would normally be done one Tuesday, July 4, garbage service in Tracy will occur one day later than usual next week, on Thursday morning.

If some households are not able to fit all of their garbage into their container for the July 8 pickup, Ritter said, because of the extra 1-2 days between garbage disposal service, excess items can be put into boxes or bags and left by the container.

“We will see that everything gets picked up,” Ritter said. He hoped that the initial Thursday holiday week pickup would not cause confusion for Tracy customers. The regular Wednesday morning garbage schedule will begin Wednesday, July 12 in Tracy.


Long track record

Dan Ritter, 49, who lives in Marshall, said he has been in the solid waste disposal business since 1967, when his parents, Bill and Elaine Ritter, established a disposal hauling business in Marshall. His parents also established the landfill near Lynd that is now owned and operated by Lyon County.

“The business has changed a lot. When I was a kid, you backed up the truck, dumped your load, and lit a match,” Ritter remembered.

Changes in solid waste disposal laws, which among other things shut down the small municipal garbage dumps that dotted the region, have been good, Ritter said, because they help safeguard the environment from hazardous materials. But new laws have made solid waste disposal a more complicated business. Sometimes, he said, it’s been a long process to educate the public about changes. For example, Ritter said, it took some time for people to get used to the fact that lawn and garden materials are banned from the county landfill. A new law that takes effect July 1, banning household computer monitors and televisions from the trash, will be another adjustment for people, he said.

Dan and his brother, Steve, bought the family disposal business in 1983. In 1999, the Ritters sold their disposal business, Ritter’s Sanitary Service, to Waste Connections, a national solid waste disposal company based in Fulson, California.

“I was burned out,” said Ritter of his decision to sell.

But Ritter said that he missed the day-to-day involvement in the business. In 2004, he and his son, Scott, who has a college degree in economics, started Southwest Sanitation. Today, Southwest Sanitation operates in a four-county area with three garbage trucks, a pumper truck, and portable rental toilets. Municipalities where Southwest Sanitation offers residential garbage service—in addition to Tracy—include Marshall, Green Valley, Cottonwood, Ivanhoe, Lake Benton, Ghent, Garvin, and Vesta.

Ritter said that besides residential garbage service, Southwest Sanitation will also pursue commercial garbage accounts in Tracy, and offer other disposal services, such as dumpsters and roll-off containers.


Disposal rates

Southwest Sanitation’s monthly residential disposal rates will be: $8.95, 35-gallon container; $10.97, 65-gallon container; $17.10, 95-gallon container, not including taxes. Households choosing alley service will pay $2 more a month.

The business is picking up trash from all city-owned facilities at no charge. Ritter said that he will be contacting local churches, and offering to pick up their garbage at either no charge or at a reduced cost.


Continued commercial service

Tracy’s present hauler, Ritter’s Sanitary Service, will continue to serve commercial solid waste accounts, said Shofner.

“We will still serve our business accounts and people can still call us for roll-offs and dumpsters,” she said.


Work continues on Shetek sewer system

By Valerie Scherbart Quist

Work is underway on the $16.5 million Lake Shetek-area sewer project. The companies putting in the sewer system began work at the beginning of June.

One company has started work on the collection ponds at Currie, and another company has begun work on the main lines, said Murray County Water Resources Director Chris Hansen. Most of the work to date has taken place on the line between Lake Shetek and Lake Sarah, and on the south side of Lake Shetek. Some boring has also begun for lateral lines.

“Everything has been moving along pretty smoothly,” Hansen said. While there have been a few minor problems—to be expected with a project of this magnitude—progress has been moving along fairly quickly, he said.

Hansen said the goal is to finish the ponds and the main lines this year. The main lines include the line between Shetek and Sarah, and the lines that run along the roads, which will later be connected to houses. If all continues to move along quickly, he said, some work could begin on the grinder stations. However, most of that work is expected to be completed next year.

The fall of 2007 is the targeted completion date.

Hansen said the disruption at the lake has been minimal so far. The main lines are plowed in and then driven over to fill them in. The amount of open cutting should be kept to a minimum throughout the project, since many of the lines can be bored. The largest amount of open cutting will take place when the connection lines are put in from the main lines to each house.

School cooperation touted

By Valerie Scherbart Quist

It’s a cooperation that has worked to the advantage of both schools. That was the consensus of members of the Tracy and Milroy school boards last week. The two boards met for a special joint meeting last Tuesday evening.

Attending the meeting from Milroy were board members Lon Walling, Dick Vroman, Sara Kemp, Denny DeRuyck, Greg Debbaut, and Jason LaVoy, as well as Superintendent Dan Deitte.

Deitte said the Milroy board had held a similar meeting with Marshall this year, and felt it had gone well. It prompted the Milroy board to request a joint meeting with the District 417 board. Deitte and several of the Milroy boards expressed their appreciation for the positive relationship the two districts have maintained.

“We’re very thankful for the cooperation between the two districts,” Deitte said.

Board member Lon Walling agreed. He said the board was grateful for the help the Tracy district had given Milroy on the tuitioning agreement a couple of years ago when Milroy was having financial difficulties.

“We feel the kids have done well here,” he said, adding that there were many “little things” the Tracy district has done that have been appreciated, such as allowing a Milroy board representative to hand out diplomas to Milroy students at graduation.

Milroy board member Dick Vroman echoed those sentiments, and said he felt the athletic pairing of the two districts has been beneficial to both.

“Tracy has been good to us,” he said.


Areas of growth

Milroy board members expressed interest in a proposed arts and athletics facility addition to Tracy Area High School. The Milroy board also shared some exciting developments in Milroy.

Deitte said Milroy will soon break ground on its first housing development addition in 20 years. The enrollment picture is also looking up in Milroy. Two years ago, the district had 77 students. This year, there were 81. Next year, they’re anticipating 88 students.

Deitte said he believes turning grades K-4 into a charter school has helped to boost enrollment. Charter schools receive grants during their first two years, and with that money they were able to bring in some programs the district could not have afforded otherwise.

Tracy Superintendent Dave Marlette said enrollment is a concern for Tracy, too. In the coming years, class sizes are expected to drop down into the 60s, instead of the 80s and 90s of recent years.

Tracy board members inquired about the new charter school structure. Deitte said the first year of the charter school had gone very well, and that a great deal of positive feedback had been received. Vroman said he was impressed at the charter school’s annual meeting to see such enthusiasm among the staff members.

Deitte said the challenge for the charter school will be when the grant money runs out, because charter schools cannot levy for money.

“The challenge is how to get these two schools to maintain themselves,” Deitte said. He added that the Milroy district hopes to get out of statutory operating debt this year.

Milroy representatives also asked about the eight-period day that will be implemented at Tracy Area High School this fall.

“We’re very excited about it. We’re excited about the opportunities it gives our kids,” said Supt. Marlette.

Vroman said he was amazed when he saw the schedule for next fall, and was impressed with the number of electives Tracy is offering for a school of its size.


Areas to improve

While both boards were pleased with how the relationship between the two districts has worked, board members felt some areas could use improvement. Communication was one area. Some Milroy board members had been surprised to learn that Tracy was adding a soccer program, for example. In recent months, Milroy representatives have attended Tracy school board meetings in order to keep better informed of what’s going on at the Tracy school.

Activities Director Bill Tauer said he’d like to see more inclusion of Milroy and Balaton students in non-athletic activities, such as speech and knowledge bowl. Sending the coaches to those schools could be one way to include more students, he said.

Vroman also asked about the TMB athletic committee, and why it hadn’t been meeting very often. Tauer said there haven’t been many issues to discuss with the TMB committee, and encouraged the Milroy board to contact him if there is an issue they feel needs to be brought to the committee. Meetings are scheduled on an as-needed basis, he said.

For the most part, both districts have been happy with the relationship between the two schools, and hope it will continue.

Tracy board member Tom Hook asked the Milroy representatives if there were any specific reasons why students from Milroy would choose Marshall instead of Tracy.

Milroy board members said the biggest reasons were geography and parents who work in Marshall.

“I think there are more reasons why kids come to Tracy,” Deitte said. Milroy students have more opportunity to become involved in athletics and other activities here, he said.

Walling said that for his family, it would have been more logical for his children to attend high school in Marshall. However, they toured both and ended up choosing Tracy.

“We felt more welcome here,” he said. “I think that’s a big positive for Tracy. You’ve always had your arms open to us.”


School reunion adds to Balaton festival

The city of Balaton is marking the 100th anniversary of its volunteer fire department and hosting an all-school reunion this weekend. Highlights of the three-day event include a fireworks show, ski show, grand parade, and street dance.

On Friday, June 30, Lake Yankton will be at the eye of the action. A Whopper feed is planned from 5-7 p.m., and concessions and beer garden will be open from 6-10 p.m. The Aqua Addicts, a ski team from Aberdeen, S.D., will be putting on a show at 7:30 p.m., followed by a lighted boat parade at 9:30 and fireworks over Lake Yankton at 10 p.m.

Saturday kicks off with a prayer breakfast featuring former Minnesota Viking Jeff Siemon. The breakfast begins at 7:30 a.m. at Victory Christian Church. A fitness walk/run begins at 8 a.m., with registration at 7:30 at Lion’s Park.

From 8 a.m. to noon, there will be an open house at Balaton Public School, with tours and displays. A three-on-three basketball tournament begins at 8:30 a.m., as does the Women of Today-sponsored pet show on the east side of the school. A volleyball tournament gets underway at Lion’s Park at 9 a.m. Kids’ games and pony rides will be set up on the east side of the school from 9 a.m. to noon. There will also be a “My Stuffed Bear” clinic. The Balaton Community Band will perform on Main St. at 11 a.m.

The grand parade begins at 1 p.m., with line-up at the city softball field. Following the parade, there will be a fire truck display in the school yard from 3 to 5 p.m. The Su Fu Du drum line and the Firemen’s Bagpipe Band will perform beginning at 3:30 p.m. The school will also be the site for class reunions beginning at 3:30 p.m.

A beer garden will be open on main street from 3:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. Cow bingo begins at 4 p.m. at the school. An all-school reunion banquet at the Balaton Community Center and Balaton Seed Company will be held from 5:30-7 p.m. A class reunion program will begin at 7:15 p.m. on main street. The annual Fire Department dance featuring the music of “Bus Nine” will close out the evening at 9 p.m.

Events on Sunday include an ecumenical church service at the school gymnasium at 10 a.m., followed by a picnic dinner sponsored by Trinity Lutheran Church from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Balaton Community Center.

A bean bag tournament begins at noon at Knudson-Bosley Park (Lake Yankton). Concessions and beer garden will open at the lake at 1 p.m. A kiddie tractor pull gets underway at Colonial Manor Nursing Home at 1:30 p.m., and a kiddie parade will begin at 3 p.m. at Colonial Manor.

AFS students say farewell to Tracy

Shocked at first, Belgian grows to love rural Minnesota

By Seth Schmidt


Eline Pauwels had months to prepare for her year as an AFS student in Tracy, Minnesota. She knew that Tracy was a small town in a rural area.

But, the Belgian AFS exchange student says she was taken aback by Southwest Minnesota’s sweeping vistas when she arrived in Minnesota last August. To the teen who had grown up in densely populated western Europe, rural Minnesota seemed remote and empty.

“It was shocking,” Eline remembered. “My host family picked me up (in the Twin Cities) and we kept driving and driving. There were fewer and fewer houses the further we went. There were just cornfields, and cows and long roads that went forever. It was crazy. I’d never seen anything like it. I had no idea that people lived like this.”

Pauwels, who will turn 19 in September, unpacked her bags at the rural Walnut Grove farmstead of Brian and Sue Johnson. The countryside, and towns of Walnut Grove and Tracy, seemed beyond the pale of civilization.

“To me it was awful,” she said, remembering her first weeks in Minnesota.

Outwardly, Pauwels tried to keep a positive attitude, remembering the advice she had heard about adjusting to a new culture.

“It’s not bad, it’s just different,” Eline told herself. Everyone she met, she said, especially her host family— which included Kaylan, a college student, and grade schoolers Anna and Ben—were kind to her.

Still, Eline said that she felt isolated and alone.

“I missed my friends and family at home.” She missed simple conveniences in Belgium, such as walking down the street for shopping or catching a bus.

She thought about going home.

• • •

In time, the Belgian’s opinions about Minnesota changed.

“I had an awesome experience,” Eline said last week. “I wouldn’t give it up for anything. I love it here. This is an experience I will always take with me.”

Eline said she would especially miss the open friendliness of American people, and the close relationships of a small town and school.

“Here everyone knows each other. You walk down the street and everyone says, ‘Hi, Eline, How are you?’’ It is fun. Everyone here is family and takes care of one another. And here I am in the newspaper at least once a month.”

Pauwels said she will try to take the personal touch of Americans back to Belgium.

“In Belgium, we live in our own bubble. We care about each other, but when we walk down the street we don’t look at other people.”

Participating in school activities was one of Eline’s most enjoyable aspects of American life. Pauwels competed on the Twister dance line, portrayed “Cha-Cha” in the musical Grease, and went out for track. She took piano lessons from Anna Jean Flesner, and went to prom.

“It is so much fun having so many activities to choose from.” In Belgium, Eline’s school didn’t offer extra curricular activities.

For the most part, Pauwels said that Tracy Area High School schoolwork was not challenging. “To be honest, I didn’t study much this year.” She said most of her classes were easy for her.

Essay assignments for a college-level English course, she said, were an exception. English composition is difficult for her, she said.

Art classes taught by Randy McIntire were her favorite part of the school day.

“Having two hours of art every day was fun. I loved it. This was something I had never gotten to do.” Her art included drawing, painting, and photography.

Both educational systems—Belgian and American—have their strong points, she feels.

“What I like about America is the opportunity they give you to choose and be in activities. In my country, I like how they make us learn so much, but they don’t have any activities. A mixture would be perfect.”

She said that she admired how many of her classmates successfully handled both schoolwork and activities.

• • •

Eline’s school year had its ups and downs.

After her arrival in August, even with her initial shock at the Tracy’s remoteness, everything was new and exciting. She was busy practicing for dance line and for Grease.

Celebrating Thanksgiving and the Christmas holidays with her family were both “awesome.”

But winter weather, and especially January, February, and March, “was not fun.”

“It was really hard. I didn’t like the winter. The snow was pretty in the beginning, but by March, I had had enough.” She found Minnesota winter weather to be much colder than what she was used to in Belgium.

Minnesota winter days, she said, became depressing for her. She missed her old life in Belgium.

To ease her homesickness, Eline kept in close contact with home with e-mails and telephone calls.

Perhaps, she said, the communication with Belgium was too much of a good thing.

“My host parents thought that I e-mailed and called my parents too much,” Eline said.

But Eline said her perspective on school and Minnesota brightened once spring arrived, the weather improved, the school calendar got busier, and graduation approached.

“It’s weird. Now almost a year has gone by and now I am going home. I hear about the AFS students who are coming next year and I think, that was me not long ago. A year has gone by and it went by so fast.”

She said that she will miss her new friends and her host family, and especially her young American siblings, Ben and Anna. “I will miss them the most of all.”

Pauwels said that she is also ready to go home, and that she has accomplished her goals as an AFS student.

“When I came here, I wanted to improve my English, learn about the United States, have fun, and think about who I am and what I want to do in the future…I have accomplished that and so much more.”

Eline plans to study interior design when she returns to Belgium.

• • •

In coming months, Eline’s portrait will join a picture display in a high school hallway that features all of Tracy’s AFS students since 1962.

“It’s weird, you are here a year, and then you are just a memory on a wall,” Eline said.

How would Eline like to be remembered when people see her picture?

“As an optimistic, forward-looking girl, who was positive, and who laughed a lot,” she said.


Eline and her fellow Tracy AFS student Geovanna Moreno said goodbye to their host families Sunday. After a bus trip to Chicago, both flew back to their home countries.

Spanish-speaking friend boosts Geovanna's stay

By Bekah Zens

Geovanna Moreno said farewell to Tracy and the United States Sunday, June 25 and prepared to return to her hometown of Riobamba, Ecuador.

Moreno talked about the memories she will have of Tracy. “This town was really hard for me to get used to because it was so small,” says Moreno. “But, that gave me a chance to get to know more people.”

Her AFS experience wasn’t Geovanna’s first trip to the U.S. Geovanna said she once visited Disney World, near Orlando, Florida, with her sister and father.

After her arrival in Tracy last August, Geovanna originally stayed with the Dan and Pam Anderson family in Tracy. The Andersons looked forward to the experience, in part because Geovanna’s native language is Spanish, and Pam is the Spanish teacher at Tracy Area High School.

“I thought if she was having trouble with the language, then I could help her,” said Anderson. “She spoke no English when she came here, so it was a challenge.”

Geovanna said that she tried dance line for a while, but she found it too difficult, so she focused more on the school aspect of her stay. She moved in with the Tim and Mary Byrnes family in September.

Geovanna said she would get homesick, so she would hang out with the friends she made here to clear her mind. She became close friends with Crispina DelAngel. It helped greatly that Crispina spoke fluent Spanish.

“It was fun having someone around my age that spoke the same language,” said Moreno. “Because then I learned more of the English language everyday with her help.”

Geovanna plans to complete high school when she returns home. She hopes to someday be a tour guide.

“I want to travel and take people on tours of any country in the world,” said Moreno. “That would be my dream job.”