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News from the week of August 3, 2006


Soaking showers boost thirsty crops

By Kyle Lessman

Major drought concerns have been washed away by soaking rains early this week.

“(Precipitation) reports range from trace amounts to over 2 inches,” said Jodi DeJong-Hughes, crops specialist with the Minnesota Extension Services, Tuesday morning.

“It was desperate,” said Doug Schmitz, with Schmitz Grain in Currie. “We needed (the rain) bad.”

“The rain really saved things,” agreed Amiret area farmer Greg Lanoue.

Showers rolled into Southwest Minnesota early Monday evening and continued Tuesday. The possibility of more rain was forecast for Tuesday night and early Wednesday. Precipitation reports readings through Tuesday noon were 1.5 inches in Tracy, .75 inches in Currie, .70 inches in Lamberton, 2.7 inches in Milroy and nearly 3 inches in Amiret. Additional rain was forecast for Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.

The precipitation was an abrupt switch from hot and dry weather patterns that persisted through most of July.

Bruce Potter with the Southwest Research and Outreach Center in Lamberton feels that the early week rainfall will pull the crops out of drought stress and aid in ear and pod growth for corn and soybeans.

“If we would have stayed under drought we would have seen significant kernel loss in corn and some seed loss in beans,” said Potter.

DeJong-Hughes felt that even though this week’s moisture will help significantly, it doesn’t erase the effects of earlier dry weather.

“ There are some areas where the corn is beyond recovery,” explained DeJong-Hueghs

“Some of the corn on the hills in the area are really burnt up,” agreed Lanoue.

But generally, Potter said, area crops actually look pretty good now, especially when compared to other areas of the state.

“Considering what we have gone through for weather we aren’t looking too bad. We are definitely doing better than northwest and central Minnesota.”

According to the Tracy Weather Center website, the immediate Tracy area’s last significant rainfall occurred July 19 when .33” fell.

Insect control is another issue for farmers, DeJong-Hughes. Said.

“The farmers need to be spraying for aphids and scouting for spider-mites.”

Crop stress and insects aside, farmers are staying positive about a fruitful harvest.

“This rain really saved things,” said Lanoue.

“I think that we still have the potential for a good yield,” agreed Potter.


IHM celebrating fruition of Irishman's dream

By Seth Schmidt

What would John Sweetman think if he were to walk into the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church Sunday?

Sweetman, a wealthy landowner in Ireland, planted the seeds for the congregation 13 decades ago. Concerned about the plight of poor Irish laborers and peasants in the 1870s, Sweetman bought 10,000 acres of land near Currie and encouraged poor Irish Catholics to emigrate to Murray County. In 1881, Sweetman provided money to build a new church called the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Sunday, IHM parishioners will celebrate the congregation’s 125th anniversary. Bishop Bernard Harrington will celebrate a special 11:30 a.m. Mass with Father Robert Horihan and Father Dick Pommier. Father Horihan is the 32nd priest to serve the parish. Father Pommier, in his 40th year as a priest, is one of ten IHM sons to enter the priesthood.

A meal in the church fellowship hall is scheduled from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Invitations have been sent to former teachers, clergymen and religious instructors. Special historical displays are planned.

Church leaders invite all interested people. Advance reservations for the meal are appreciated. People can call 763-3114.

The IHM church, which today serves about 200 family units, is in a parish cluster with St. Gabrielle’s Church in Fulda, and St. Anthony’s Church in Westbrook. During the summer months, when church attendance is swelled by Lake Shetek area vacationers, IHM has two weekend Masses: 5 p.m. on Saturday, and 11:30 a.m. on Sunday.


First Mass in 1881

Historical accounts credit a Dominican Priest named Father Daily with saying the first Mass in Currie on July 24, 1881. Mass was initially celebrated in the Currie town hall, but thanks to the donation of 10 acres from the Neil Currie family, and financing from Sweetman, construction began in December of 1881 on a new church. The 44x 92-foot structure was completed a year later. The 75-foot high belfry, was said to be visible from Avoca, Hadley, Iona, and Fulda.

Bishop John Ireland appointed Father William Keul as IHM’s first resident pastor. At Sweetman’s request, the new parish was named the Immaculate Heart of Mary, in honor of a divine favor that Sweetman felt had been granted his mother through the intercession of Mary.

The church served the congregation for nearly a half century until being destroyed by fire on April 27, 1930.

Plans were quickly made for the construction of a new church. In three weeks, parishioners had pledged $37,000 for a new church and an architect hired. A month after the fire, church members began digging the foundation. On Dec. 14, 1930, Mass was celebrated in the church basement for the first time, with the remainder of the church completed by summer of 1931. The IHM church was remodeled recently to improve accessibility, but otherwise remains much as it was when it was built.


IHM School

IHM operated a parochial school in Currie for 65 years. A three-story school building, which included an attached living quarters for the nuns who taught at the school, opened in 1907 with 100 students in grades 1-8. One grade was added each subsequent year, and the first senior graduated from IHM in 1912.

Attendance peaked in the early 1950s, when over 200 students were enrolled in the school in grades 9-12. In the fall of 1955, a new high school was completed at a cost of $179,000.

But in the spring of 1969, after the graduation of 17 seniors, the IHM High School closed. Grades 1-6 were moved from the 1907 building to the former high school. But in 1972, the grade school also closed.

The vacant IHM grade school was demolished in 1980. The former high school building was sold by the parish in the 1980s and has been utilized by a series of businesses.

The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, St. Paul, staffed the IHM school from 1907-1919. The Franciscan Sisters of Rochester carried the torch for IHM from 1919 to 1972.


Parish councils

Volunteer church members continue the work of the church.

A pastoral council has three committees. Liturgy: Becky Ruppert, Jackie Ruppert, Mary Sweetman; Education: Linnea Surprenant, Kim Olafson, Mary Ellen Moline; Parish life: Chris Kuehl, Elaine Schlichte, Marianne Ankrum.

The IHM Finance Council is comprised of Don Hansen, Dorothy Jensen, and Jim Hansen.

Larry Laleman and Francis Gervais serve as the IHM trustees. Romane Dold is the parish administrator.

IHM school stressed religion, rules

By Bekah Zens

Sharon (Luft) Bassett of Currie, a 1968 graduate of Immaculate Heart of Mary High School, reminisces about her childhood days and how school at IHM was different back then.

“There are some similarities to St. Mary’s school in Tracy,” said Bassett. “But most of it was different.” Sharon and Randy Bassett’s children attended St. Mary’s school in Tracy.

The IHM grade school had three floors plus a basement. The basement included a small gym and the first grade room, the first floor had two classrooms which held second, third, fourth, and fifth grade together; plus a convent where the nuns stayed and a chapel. The second floor had two classrooms that held sixth, seventh, and eighth grades. A library was also located on the second floor.

The third floor included the home-economics room and a storage area for the school plays.

The IHM high school building housed grades 9-12. Besides individual classrooms, the building had a library and a large gym with a stage.

The grade school was torn down in 1980. The high school building is now used by Scotting Sanitation and for storage.

• • •

Bassett has fond memories of the IHM school.

She remembers “the tunnel” that students used to get to the church where they ate lunch.

“It held lots of surprises,” said Bassett with a grin. The tunnel was blocked off when the grade school was demolished.

She remembers being a cheerleader for IHM basketball. “That was the only sport we had in Currie,” said Bassett. “There wasn’t any interest in anything else.” Bassett thought that the most exciting day at school was the “May Crowning” ceremony. Grade school and high school students carried flowers and sang “Ave Maria” while walking to a statue of Mary located between the parish center and the church. The statue was crowned with a ring of flowers as students sang praises.

“I remember when someone tried to throw me in the pond that circled the statue. I didn’t think it was very funny then, but now I do.”

Bassett remembers that the nuns were in control at the school. They taught and disciplined with full power. “Even though this was true,” said Bassett, “…most of the kids were disobedient and a pain in the butt.” She explained how some kids would take those white stickers that hold your papers in the binders and they’d stick them on the bottom of the nuns’ habits.

Students never wore uniforms, which Bassett liked, but the system was still very focused and formal. “There were lots of rules,” said Bassett. “The school was very church oriented, the religion was all recited, and we learned from the Baltimore Catechism.”

Sharon ended by saying, “Now when your parents tell you they had to walk five miles in the snow to get to school and that it was really much different, believe them.”

Longtime IHM members cherish their church

By Bekah Zens

Kayo and Kathleen Silvernale will be among the faithful observing the 125th anniversary of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church Sunday.

The church has been important to the longtime IHM members.

“It was important to the community because it kept most of us focused on the considered right path of life,” said Kayo. Mass, he said, seems to be more important to the older generation now than it seems to be for many younger people.

“There’s a lot more things kids have to do for school and sports on Sundays that it interferes with church,” said Kathleen.

The couple remembers how IHM members once fasted ceremonially the midnight before Sunday Mass to prepare for communion.

“If you ate or drank anything at all you weren’t allowed to receive communion the next day,” said Kayo.

Reforms bought about by “Vatican II” included the removal of the communion rail from the front of the church, the priest facing the congregation instead of the altar, and participation by the congregation. Formerly, church liturgy was recited in Latin and only the choir sang the songs.

The IHM church has persevered through much.

“Even though it burned down in 1930, the new one has been established and standing ever since and it’s a great landmark for the town,” said Kayo.

Costs escalate for Highline bike lanes

Two planned bike lanes on a reconstructed Highline Road will likely be more expensive than originally expected.

City of Tracy leaders have learned that the city’s estimated share for the Highline Road bike lanes has increased from $50,000 to $85,250. The six-foot wide paved bike lanes would be built on each side of the Highline Road, when the one-mile segment is rebuilt between Pine Street and Hwy. 14 in 2007.

Since the Highline Road is a county road (County Road 57), the Lyon County Public Works Dept. is coordinating the project. County tax dollars will pay for most of the reconstructed road, but city leaders have been given the option of adding the paved bike lanes at the city’s own expense.

City Administrator Audrey Koopman asked last week if, in view of the increased cost estimates, whether the council continues to support the bike lanes. She said the county would be willing to let Tracy pay for the Highline improvements over a two-year period. If the bike lanes did end up costing $85,250, the city will need to levy an additional $42,625 for both 2007 and 2008.

Council members answered with a qualified “yes.”

“I think it is important that we do this,” said Bill Chukuske.

But council members also agreed with a Russ Stobb comment, that if Tracy’s costs increase beyond $85,250, they’d like the option of reviewing their decision before the county awards construction bids.

“It’s a lot of money,” said Sandi Rettmer.

• • •

The City of Tracy already has designated bike lanes painted onto Pine and South streets. Bike lanes on a widened Highline Road would link Pine and South streets.

Stobb said that he felt that walkers and bikers along Highline Road are at risk at its present width.

“I am surprised that there hasn’t been an accident,” Stobb said.

Chukuske asked whether a bike lane on just one side of the road would be adequate. He also questioned whether a two-way bike path could be built off-road, instead of extending both the shoulders on both sides.

Koopman said that an off-road path had been checked into, but the costs were “astronomical.” Having single bike path lane, several council members felt, would not be safe for bikers and walkers going against traffic.

“It’s a huge safety issue,” said Jan Arvizu, expressing support for designated lanes on both sides of Highline Road. The council member felt that the cost of the Highline Road bike lanes could be considered like an investment in the city’s parks. Because of recently completed projects, Arvizu said that she didn’t see the need for much other money needing to be spent in coming years for other city park improvements.

Bids sought for Union St. land

The Tracy Economic Development Authority is seeking sealed bids on three Union Street lots south of O’Brien Court. Bids will be accepted through August 16.

Last month, the EDA received offers from two developers interested in building owner-occupied townhouses on the property.

Drake Snell of rural Amiret submitted a written offer of $18,000. Snell’s proposal was contingent upon his being able to pre-sell at least four of the six townhouse units he wants to build on the site.

Dan Anderson, president of North Star Building Systems of Tracy and Marshall, presented a $30,000 verbal offer. The North Star offer would have designated about $13,000 of the $30,000 to pay off deferred street and utility assessments on the property.

EDA members, meeting in a special meeting Friday, felt that seeking sealed bids would “level the playing field” for interested parties. EDA board members—Dennis Fultz, Claire Hannasch, Dick Boerboom, Bill Chukuske, and Sandi Rettmer—made it clear that they wish to encourage the sale and development of the property. A motion recommending that the city council and planning commission “cooperate in any way possible” with the sale and development of the property passed unanimously.

“We don’t want to be putting up barriers,” said Bill Chukuske, as he offered the motion

The three, 100x128-foot lots are now zoned for single-family housing. A special-use permit is needed for the construction of multi-family housing on the site. The Tracy Planning Commission is scheduled to discuss the special-use permit issue on August 7.

The Eastview Addition has a restrictive covenant that prohibits the construction of multi-family dwellings on the property. The restriction could be voided if other Eastview property owners agree to the proposed townhouse development.

The Sioux Valley Tracy Medical Center has had an option that gives it the right to match other offers on the property. Hospital and clinic leaders took out an option on the Union St. lots several years ago in case the property was needed for hospital-related expansions. However, Rick Nordahl, chief executive officer for SVTMC, wrote a letter to the EDA stating that the land option was no longer needed, and that the hospital would welcome the development of the land into townhouses.

Costs increase for hospital improvements

Planned heating, ventilation, air conditioning and surgical improvements at Tracy Hospital are moving ahead. But the work will cost more than expected.

The improvements originally had an estimated price tag of $180,000. But the lower of two bids recently received totaled $207,000. The Tracy City Council, which had authorized $180,000 in hospital reserve funds for the project, raised the spending limit to $207,000 last week.

The project will refurbish the hospital’s surgical suite and install a new heating, ventilation and air conditioning system for that part of the hospital. All work will be done within existing hospital space.

The Sioux Valley Tracy Medical Center community advisory board is expected to review the project at its August meeting.

City taxpayers to pay 5% for airport project

Thanks to Uncle Sam’s generosity, a $72,673 airport project will cost City of Tracy taxpayers only $3,633.

“Any time you can get something for 5%, you take it,” commented Tim Byrne, as the Tracy City Council approved a $72,673 contract to MoorSeal, Inc. of Marshall last week.

Tracy will be reimbursed for 95% of project costs from federal aviation funds.

The installation of 3,500 feet of chain link to cordon off Swift Lake Park from the airport represents the bulk of the contract. City leaders regard the fence as a safety measure. On past occassions, objects have been placed on the airport’s main paved runway. Once, a picnic table was dragged from the park and set on the runway.

The six-foot high fence will extend along the north side of the Swift Lake campground. The cost for erecting the more than half-mile fence and a gate totals $43,200.

The MoorSeal contract also calls for bituminous seal coating on 32,250 square feet of pavement, crack sealing, and painting white and yellow markings.