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News from the week of July 26, 2006



Wants or needs? School list to be pared

By Valerie Scherbart Quist

They’ve made their ultimate wish lists. Now it’s time to whittle those wants down to a more realistic list of needs.

That was the consensus Monday night at a joint meeting of the Tracy Area Public Schools board of education and the facilities steering committee that has been looking into options for a proposed arts and athletics building project.

The question on everyone’s minds was: How do we do that?

Activities Director Bill Tauer said he felt compromises could be made on both the arts and athletics side.

“We have come up with our dreams,” he said. “I think both sides can cut to get the price down to a reasonable range.”

For example, he said, maybe a new game gymnasium isn’t needed and two practice gyms could suffice. The biggest needs from the athletics side, he said, are practice gyms, a wrestling room, and locker rooms.

Deb Miller, who has served on the arts subcommittee, said they may also be able to make some cuts by not going top-of-the-line on everything.

Sue Kluge, who directs theater productions at Tracy Area High School, said it would be difficult for the subcommittees to narrow the list down and get firmer costs because they don’t know how much needs to be cut and how much everything costs.

Board chairman Dan Zimansky explained that according to the consultants from Kraus Anderson that they have been talking to, it would cost about $60,000 to get the more refined details of what everything would cost, including a survey, architectural fees, and consulting fees. Board member Al Landa agreed.

“What you seem to be asking for is hard numbers, but we need to spend some money to get them,” he said.

Superintendent David Marlette said the district can either pay to get those hard numbers, or set a price limit and design the project around that budget.

Board member Tom Hook brought up surveying the public, something the board learned about at their last meeting.

“We may need to see what the tax impact is on the district. There is a point where they’ll carry it or not,” he said. “My hope is that if we do this we do the research so we know what the tax base will bear.”

“We have to be realistic in what we expect from the taxpayers,” added board member Peg Zwach.

At their last meeting, the board discussed the survey process. If they use the company recommended by Kraus Anderson, the survey would cost between $10,000-$13,000. The survey would include approximately 28 questions, and around 300 homes would be surveyed. Questions would center around what the taxpayers would be willing to support financially. Supt. Marlette said he felt it was important to conduct a survey before hiring an architect and project manager.

Committee member Garry Hippe questioned how much the board was comfortable spending on research when the district is spending at a deficit.

Hook said that while the board has not made a decision for or against the project, there are many factors such as deficit spending and declining enrollment to consider. He said it is possible that the district will need to go back to the taxpayers to ask for additional funding just to keep its current programs in place. While they’d all like to see this project move forward, he said, it is important to look at the big picture as well. He also encouraged the committee members to be willing to compromise.

“You need to compromise or you won’t get anything,” he said. “We have to work with what the tax base can handle. Everybody’s going to have to give a little.”

Following the discussion, chairman Zimansky asked the board whether they would like to move forward on the survey, seek bids from other surveying companies, or drop the discussion altogether. The board approved a motion to seek bids from multiple companies to conduct a survey of taxpayers within the school district.

Supt. Marlette said he would try to have some other surveying companies attend the board’s August meeting to give presentations. The meeting is scheduled for Monday, Aug. 14 at the Tracy Area High School choir room.

• • •

The group also discussed the agreement with the city to use the Veterans’ Memorial Center. The current agreement recently expired, and the city is requesting double the previous price to lease the facility. The district was paying $6,000 a year, and the city wants to raise the price to $12,000.

Supt. Marlette said the district has been negotiating with the city and looking at the options. He said the city is not interested in lowering the requested lease rate, citing high utility costs for the facility.

Marlette said one option that has been considered is buying the Veterans’ Memorial Center from the city. The district would essentially own the gymnasium and locker room facilities. He said the district would then be responsible for maintenance and janitorial costs, but would also have the option to improve the facility. Current problems have included a leaky roof, scoreboards that do not work, and inadequate locker room facilities. It was also noted that the facility does not work well for the wrestling program.

The consensus of the group was that the district should not buy the Veterans’ Memorial Center, but that the lease would have to be renewed for at least the next two to three years. That is the estimated time that it would take for the building project to be completed at the high school.


EDA considers offers for Eastview property

The Tracy Economic Development Authority is weighing two offers for the sale of Eastview Addition lots south of O’Brien Court.

Last week, the EDA received a verbal offer of $30,000 from Dan Anderson of North Star Building Systems of Tracy and Marshall to purchase three 100-foot improved lots on Union Street. A $24,000 written offer from Drake Snell of rural Amiret was received for the same land. The EDA has scheduled a special meeting Friday, July 28, 7 a.m., to consider the offers.

Snell, an authorized distributor for Knauf Weblock insulating concrete forms, wants to build two, three-unit townhouse buildings on the lots. Snell’s $24,000 offer was contingent upon his pre-selling four of the six-townhouse units. At a meeting Friday, EDA members passed a motion indicating that they would not accept the pre-sale contingency clause.

Anderson, North Star president, told EDA members that he would build housing units similar to what Snell has proposed. The $30,000 North Star offer would pay off approximately $13,000 in deferred assessment that are levied against the three lots. Snell’s $24,000 offer did not include anything for the assessments.

Snell is scheduled to meet with the Tracy Planning Commission August 7 to discuss his proposal.


Empty hardware building will be renovated

Plans are being made to renovate the former Coast-to-Coast building in Downtown Tracy.

Jay Fultz intends to operate a therapeutic massage business in the refurbished building. The remodeled building will also have space for retail and office tenants.

“I plan to hit the remodeling hard beginning in September,” said Fultz, a 1992 Tracy Area High School graduate. He and his wife, Sheila, and two children plan to move to Tracy from Minneapolis.

Fultz bought the vacant retail building from Lyon County as a tax-forfeited real estate. He indicated that the building, although structurally sound, will need extensive repairs, including a new roof. So far, his work on the building has been confined to cleaning out debris.

Fultz said that no date has been set for completing the renovations or opening the business. Once October rolls around, he’ll be helping with the harvest at Fultz Farms, and the building renovations will be put temporarily on hold, he said.

The former hardware store has been vacant since the mid-1990s. The late Joe Smarzik, who used the building for storage, was the property’s last owner of record.


Tracy Ambulance, paramedic honored

A Tracy paramedic and the Tracy Ambulance Service have been honored by the Sioux Valley Health System.

Charlie Snyder was one of six individuals nominated for Sioux Valley’s individual “Excellence in EMS” award. The Tracy Ambulance Service was one of three groups nominated for Sioux Valley’s “Agency in Excellence” award.

“This is a reflection of the entire crew,” said Charlie DeSchepper, Tracy Ambulance Service president. “It takes a team effort, and that is what we’ve got.” He said that he is very proud of the on-going dedication exhibited by Snyder and all other members of the Tracy Ambulance Service.

Twenty-six emergency medical technicians (EMTs) staff the Tracy Ambulance Service. The ambulance service responds to an average of 330 to 340 calls annually and has personnel on call 24 hours a day.

Snyder has been a member of the Tracy Ambulance Service since 1992. A 1987 Tracy Area High School graduate, he earned his paramedic certification in 2004. He is certified in advanced cardiac life support, advanced pediatric life support, and has completed a trauma nursing class. He is a certified CPR instructor and a state EMT examiner.

“It was nice to be nominated,” Snyder said. But he added that public recognition isn’t why he and other EMTs have chosen to be ambulance volunteers. “We want to be able to help people who need help.”

A radiology technician at Sioux Valley Tracy Medical Center, Snyder averages about 200 hours of on-call time for the ambulance each month. Combined with additional on-call hours from his hospital job, Snyder admits, “I’m not home much.” He is in the second year of a four-year term on the Tracy City Council.

Snyder and his wife, Tammy, have four children: Tim, Alicia, Nicole, and Nicholas. He is the son of Gerald and Ruth Snyder of rural Tracy.

Snyder is one of three paramedics on the Tracy Ambulance Service. The others are Mark McClenahan and Rene Emond.

• • •

Larry Olsen, who has served on the Jackson Ambulance Service for 34 years, was selected for the Excellence in EMS individual award. Other nominees were: Jim Skarphol, Windom Ambulance; Cathy Childress, RRMS, Sioux Falls, S.D., Mark Law, Deuel County Ambulance, Clear Lake, S.D.; Trina Burghardt, Miner County Ambulance, Howard, S.D.

The Deuel County Ambulance, which has 29 EMTs serving a county population of 4,000, received the group excellence award. The Sioux Falls Fire & Rescue Dept. was also nominated.

• • •

A program note for the July 20 banquet stressed the importance of Sioux Valley’s tri-state emergency services network.

“Providing emergency services to our communities is a vital role. Serving as a link in the chain of survival can sometimes be a thankless responsibility and one that keeps us from our families more than we would like. However, the responsibility is one that we have chosen, and together, members and family alike, we take on the challenges every day and make our communities better places to live.

“Team members with Intensive Air Trauma 5 at Sioux Valley Hospital would like to say thank you. Your partnership and commitment to public health and safety is respected and greatly appreciated.

“We have all heard that there is power in numbers. We believe that this is evident by the impact our cohesiveness has on those we serve. Our power comes from the effectiveness and efficiency that only teamwork can provide and by our assurance to the community that we will be there in time of need.”

Field of dreams

Yesteryear grain shocking is fun...for an afternoon

By Seth Schmidt

Motorists driving along Hwy. 14 near Tracy Sunday afternoon might have thought they’d entered a time warp.

In a golden oat field just west of the Wheels Museum, a 1952 Minneapolis Moline tractor pulled a 60-year-old binder. As the machinery cut and tied the stalks of oats, farm hands in wide-brimmed hats gathered up the bundles and placed them into shocks.

The 1950s farm scene wasn’t illusion from the Twilight Zone… just a fun afternoon of farming by Ray Randall and friends.

“We had a good time,” said Randall, an antique farm machinery buff who appreciates the beauty of 30-horsepower orange tractors. Harold Drackley, Gordon Edwards, Larry Fischer, Bruce Drackley, Arnie McDaniels, Harold Drackley, and Curt Reinert turned out to stack the sheaves of grain into shocks.

The shocks will be used in a threshing demonstration planned for Tracy Box Car Days, Sept. 2-4. The threshing bee will be a part of the antique tractor show at the museum.


99th birthday has merry ring for Agnes Seykora

By Seth Schmidt


When Agnes (Peterson) Seykora was a little girl growing up in Tracy’s Greentown neighborhood, she helped tend her family’s milk cow.

“I shooed the flies away while she was milked,” she recalled. The cow was kept in a nearby community pasture, with a half-dozen other neighborhood bovines. In the winter, the Petersons kept their cow in a backyard barn.

“We kept a pig too. And my mother always raised a lot of geese.”

Saturday, the Tracy native celebrated her 99th birthday at the Tracy Nursing Home. An open house hosted by nieces and nephews attracted 50 well wishers. Some visitors came all the way from Lincoln, Nebraska.

Sunday, Adrian and Philomena Seykora took their aunt to Owatonna, where she lived from 1958-83. Thirty people turned out for a second party in Owatonna.

“This is wonderful,” she said.

• • •

The third of eight children born to Emil and Katherine Peterson, Agnes grew up in a house without indoor plumbing.

“We carried water from a well,” she remembered.

Her father was a boxcar inspector for the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad. If a derailment occurred in the area, Emil Peterson might also join a wrecking crew. Katherine Peterson, who had emigrated from Poland, managed the household and looked after the children.

“There was always a lot of work,” Agnes remembered, recalling the fruit and vegetables canned from their large garden, and the on-going laundry, meal preparation, dishes, and cleaning chores.

Most people living in the Greenwood area of Tracy (southwest edge) at that time were railroad families, she said.

“We were kind of the poorer class of people. But we always had such a good time. Everyone was so friendly.”

Free time was spent playing outdoors with other neighborhood children. Big families meant there were always enough kids for a ballgame, hide-n-seek romp or pomp-pomp pullaway. Sneaking into the icehouse near the railroad tracks was a kid’s delight on a muggy summer afternoon. On frosty winter days, there was skating on Buttermilk Creek.

“We always had something to do,” she remembered.

When she and other Catholic children walked to St. Mary’s Church, they’d cut north across a pasture and the railroad tracks. In the winter, she remembers stopping by the roundhouse to warm up.

School days also meant a long walk, even in the most frigid weather. Agnes and her peers would stop at the train depot to thaw out on their way to Tracy’s grade and high schools, two blocks apart on Rowland Street. The half-mile school trek was walked four times each day, since most children walked home for lunch during their hour-long lunch break.

“My mother would have buns and rolls on the table when we got home,” she remembered.

• • •

Agnes attended school until she was 16.

“I had gotten a full job at with the telephone company,” she said. “My dad was out on strike, so there wasn’t much money coming in. My mother told me that she would rather have me keep working. She said I could go back and finish school later.”

So Miss Peterson continued to her job with the phone company, located in a second-story room at 125 Third St. She worked as a telephone switchboard operator for 27 1/2 years, until she started to lose her voice. Most of her service was in Tracy, although she also worked 2 1/2 years in Rochester and five years in Pipestone.

She got married in 1958 at the age of 53 to Alphonse Seykora. Earlier boyfriends had simply not measured up.

“I was waiting for the right one,” she said. Once she met Alphonse, she smiled, “that was it.”

The couple made their home in Owatonna after their wedding. Agnes moved back to Tracy when Alphonse died in August of 1983.

An active member and supporter of St. Mary’s Church, she was a religion instruction for many years. She led the recitation of the Rosary at St. Mary’s until several years ago when the 5 p.m. Saturday Mass was discontinued. She and her sister, the late Violet Felix, were instrumental in the recent pipe organ restoration project at St. Mary’s contributing more than $50,000 to the organ project.

Active in the Tracy VFW Auxiliary and Tracy Senior Center for many years, Mrs. Seykora drove her own car until she was nearly 96. She moved from her Sixth Street home to the Tracy Nursing Home in October of 2004.

“I love it here,” she said. Playing pinochle and talking with friends on the telephone are two of her favorite activities. She has 25 nieces and nephews, 65 great-nieces and many great-great nieces and nephews.

Philomena Seykora marvels at her aunt’s memory and health.

“She is as sharp as a tack.” During this weekend’s trip to Owatonna, “Aggie” as she calls her aunt, was correctly identifying landmarks she hadn’t seen in years, and stating the names of the people who lived at various homes.

“She was remembering things that I’d already forgotten.”