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News from the week of July 19, 2006


School board considers next step for facilities

Special meeting set Monday

By Valerie Scherbart Quist

The Tracy Area Public Schools Board of Education is planning a special meeting next week. The purpose of the meeting is for the board to meet with the facilities steering committee and discuss what the next step will be on the proposed arts and athletics facility addition to Tracy Area High School.

The meeting will begin at 8 p.m. on Monday, July 24 in the high school choir room.

Last week, the board heard from consultants Dale Birkeland and Darrold Williams. Birkeland and Williams told the board that if they want to move forward, one of the next steps is to survey public opinion. Birkeland said questions for a telephone interview would be compiled with input from the board. The standard for these types of interviews is 28 questions.

Birkeland said that for a town of Tracy’s size, about 300 interviews should be conducted. He estimated that the cost would be $10,000-$12,000.

Following the survey, a report would be compiled that takes into consideration the demographics of the community and what type of facility it can support financially. Birkeland said it generally takes 90 to 120 days from approval to when the board receives the report.

Williams said the strength in this type of survey is that the board receives a truly random sample.

Prior to conducting the survey, the consultants would need to work with the steering committee to more specifically identify the district’s needs. Birkeland also advised that the board employ an architect and construction manager in tandem with the survey process. With these fees added in, total planning costs could be $50,000-$60,000.

“All of these expenses can be put into the bond question and deferred until that time,” Birkeland said.

Birkeland and Williams told the board that auditorium and gymnasium questions are traditionally difficult to pass on a ballot, and for that reason the process needs to be well-planned. The board also needs to be prepared to answer questions from the public.

Board member Chris Schons asked whether organizations in the community could help raise money for the facility and apply for grants. Williams cautioned that grants are difficult to get, but if a group does raise money through grants or fund-raising, it is best to specify that the money be used toward something to be used in the facility. One example he gave was that a group could donate money toward the facility to be used toward a piano.

Board member Rod Benson had concerns about surveying the public before all the specifics of the facility are known. Birkeland said it is the consultants’ job to help them narrow down their needs and get a feel for what the public wants.

“We’re in the business of helping you get there and try to cover all the loopholes,” he said.

The board made no further decisions on whether to move forward with the surveying process. Discussion will resume at the July 24 special meeting.


Men still hospitalized following cycle crash

Two 21-year-old Tracy men remain hospitalized in Sioux Falls, after sustaining injuries in a motorcycle accident early Saturday morning.

Ryan Grunden is in critical condition in an intensive care unit at Sioux Valley Hospital. Jake Swenhaugen is in an intensive care unit at Avera McKennan Hospital. The men were cycling together just west of Currie on Hwy. 30 when their Harley Davidson motorcycles crashed.

Grunden sustained head injuries. According to his brother, Michael, he remained in a drug-induced coma Tuesday as physicians tried to control brain swelling.

Swenhaugen suffered a broken leg, broken finger and head injuries. According to information posted on a web site by his family members, he was in good spirits Tuesday and receiving physical therapy.

Michael Grunden said that family members deeply appreciate the outpouring of prayers and expressions of support that have been received since the accident.

Ryan is the son of Al and Mary Grunden of Tracy. Jake is the son of Dave and Cindy Swenhaugen, rural Tracy.

In a web posting Tuesday, Mary Grunden wrote that “we are standing on the promises of God…We will not give up, and continue to trust in our Lord. Thank you to all.”

A web posting from the Swenhaugen family Monday said, “(Jake) is thankful for all the prayers for him and Ryan. It’s helping these boys so much.”

Cards to the Grunden family can be sent to Sioux Valley Hospital, Room 2312, 1305 W. 18th St., Sioux Falls, SD. 57117. Mail to Swenhaugen family can be sent to Avera McKennan, Sioux Falls, SD., 57117.

Updates on the men can be obtained on the Internet at

• • •

According to the Minnesota State Highway Patrol, the accident occurred at about 2 a.m. Saturday. Neither cyclist was wearing a helmet. Swenhaugen was taken by ambulance to the Sioux Valley Tracy Medical Center before being airlifted to Avera McKennan. Grunden was taken initially to the Murray County Memorial Hospital in Slayton, before being airlifted to Sioux Valley.

Railroad land to be used for welcome sign

A site has been finalized for a “welcome to Tracy” billboard on the west edge of Tracy.

The sign is on the edge of a Dakota Minnesota & Eastern Railroad spur near the Wheels Across the Prairie Museum. The railroad has agreed to lease a 20x20-foot parcel of land to the City of Tracy for $1 a year.

“We’re very pleased with the site,” said Eugene Hook, who has been spearheading the sign project for the Tracy Revitalization Committee. He said that the sign construction will likely begin next spring.

The welcome sign will be similar to the one built several years ago on the east edge of Tracy near the North Star Homes plant. Two pillars made out of fieldstone will anchor the 16-foot wide sign. A train engine emblem will grace the top center of the sign. Bushes will be planted between the pillars underneath a “Welcome to Tracy” greeting.

The Tracy Revitalization committee will pay for the sign’s construction. The group has raised money by selling food concessions at the Tracy Spring Sportsmen’s Show.


Friends, neighbors rally around Kathman family

By Seth Schmidt

Bill Kathman says that he is still amazed at the outpouring of kindness and community support that sprang up in his backyard Saturday and Sunday.

“It just blew us away,” Kathman said. “People kept coming. It gave me goosebumps.”

An army of friends and neighbors descended on Bill and Jayne Kathmans’10th Street Tracy home to work on a new two-stall garage for the Kathmans. Saturday morning, the garage was only a cement slab and 2x4 shell. By Sunday night, volunteer workers had transformed the garage with sheeting, siding, shingles, windows and walk-in doors. Only the wiring, overhead doors and interior insulation and sheet rocking remained.

“The guys were just awesome. I can’t begin to say how much I appreciate it,” the 51-year-old truck driver said.

Kathman, 51, was diagnosed with cancer just before the Fourth of July holiday weekend.

“I’d been pushing myself pretty hard, trying to get a lot of things done,” he remembered. “Finally, my body just gave out. I was expecting a diagnosis of pneumonia or bronchitis.”

He was hospitalized for 10 days at Sioux Valley Hospital, Sioux Falls, S.D., before coming home on Friday.

“I’m going to beat this,” Kathman said. “I’ve got a team of great doctors.” After a series of medical tests, Kathman expects to begin a newly developed method of cancer treatment in early August.

“I’m hoping to get a second chance at life.”

Many of the weekend volunteers were affiliated with the Tracy Fire Department, which Kathman belonged to for nine years.

“You never think that you will be the one who needs help. But it’s wonderful to live in a community life this. I still can’t believe what everyone did for us. I don’t know how to thank all these people.”

He’s looking forward to the day when he can return to go back to work, and also pitch in as a volunteer helping someone else.

“I’ll need to live to be 150 in order to be able to pay everyone back.”

Bill and Jayne Kathman are the parents of two Tracy Area High School graduates: Erik (Class of ‘02), and Jerae (‘04).

• • •

People who assisted with the garage construction included:

Tony Rolling, Dennis Schroeder, Dale Johnson III, Dan Rolling, Mike Coyle, Scott Hoffman, Dave Hoffman, Brent Larson, Dru Larson, Keith Peterson, Erik Kathman, Terry Strand, Darin Pederson, Dave Vogel, Jerry Lonneman,

Mike Bullerman, Tom Bullerman, Trent Bullerman, Dallas Bullerman, Randy Bullerman, Randy Jensen, Dave Peterson, Jason Deming, Bob Bruder, Adam Bruder, Dale Danielson, Darin Danielson, Lonnie Cochran, Dennis Vandeputte, Bob Anderson, Fran Carlson, Roy Radke, Travis Radke, Jason Lichty, Lanny Iversen, Kevin Nordsiden, LaWayne Kopplow, Marty Weise, Shane Freiborg, Boysie Bullerman, Jimmy Williamsen, John Stoffel, Kim Daniels, Josh Coyle.

Joe Beierman Construction donated the use of construction equipment.

Beverages and ice were contributed by Midwest Supply, Swen’s Fuel, and the DM&E Railroad. Those who provided food and snacks for workers included Carol Whaley, Bernice Edwards, April Lichty, Lisa Brummer, Gretch Danielson, Tonia Nordsiden, Ronda Radke, Amy Coyle, Dawn Anderson, Sandy Carlson, Tammy and Jessie halter, Tom and Ernie Surprenant, John Schleppenbach, and Marlene Bullerman, Toni Bullerman, and Trish Bullerman. Dairy Queen and Red Rooster Restaurant supported the effort with “generous offers.”

Fields for thought

U’ research center offers latest scoops on farming

About 125 people attended the Southwest Research and Outreach Center’s annual crop production field day last week.

The field day focused on crop and soil research in Southwest Minnesota and highlighted current University of Minnesota research, as well as practical crop production applications.

“Producers could come and in a fairly short time see the facilities and learn about the issues that we have been researching, “ said Bob Koehler, Co-Manager of the field day.

Several field tours were offered. The tours included weed management and the timing of Glyphosate applications, herbicide efficiency and economics, herbicide and insecticide interaction, varieties of hybrid soybeans, soils and fertility, turkey ash as a fertilizer source, soybean defoliation, corn production, and disease and insect control.

A crop disease clinic, a sprayer technology demonstration and an energy cost display were also offered.

“I think the day went really well,” said Koehler.

More ethanol growth seen

High oil prices seen as boon to industry

By Kyle Lessman

The ethanol industry has a bright future in the U.S., a Minnesota Dept. of Agriculture expert told a gathering in Walnut Grove last week.

“Over the past four years we have doubled our national capacity” said Ralph Groschen, Agriculture Marketing Specialist with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and guest speaker at the Southwest Regional Development Commission’s annual meeting.

In 1986, 700 million gallons of ethanol were produced in the United States with one million of that coming from Minnesota, Groschen said. Today the U.S. has the capability to produce nearly 3.7 billion gallons of ethanol annually from 85 plants. Sixteen plants in Minnesota produce about 550 million gallons of ethanol annually.

“Back when I first started in this position ethanol was known as the ‘risky business’, “ said Groschen. “No large corporations would touch it, so it was really the farmers that took the risk and made this happen.”

As of June 2006, Minnesota was ranked fifth in ethanol production capacity in the U.S., but Minnesota’s ethanol business almost never got going. “

Legislation has been proposed in Minnesota to require regular unleaded gasoline sold in the state to contain 20% ethanol. A 10% mixture is now required. This bill, as proposed by Gov. Tim Pawlenty, would have Minnesota reach this 20 percent blend by 2012. To meet this requirement Minnesota ethanol production would have to reach 572 million gallons of ethanol per year, a 36 percent increase from 2006 levels, explained Groschen.

In 2005, Minnesota processed 148 million bushels of corn into ethanol, 12% of the total annual corn crop. A 20% blend would require 213 million bushels to be processed, 17 percent of the projected annual crop of 1.25 billion bushels.

Minnesota’s ethanol industry and its 6,400 jobs now has an estimated $1.27 billion impact on the economy, Groschen said. An additional 152 million gallon increase Minnesota’s ethanol industry would generate a total of $1.84 billion in economic impacts.

“If some one asked me what the ethanol industry was going to do tomorrow I couldn’t tell you,” said Groschen. “But as long as oil prices stay high we are going to look pretty good.”