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News from the week of October 11, 2006



Big Foot Legend has Tracy connection

History Channel tapes Reinert for 'Science Meets Legend'

By Valerie Scherbart Quist

It’s been 31 years since Charles Reinert took a plaster cast of a mysterious footprint in the Long Plains Reserve in Manitoba. Upon returning to Minnesota with his find, the print was packed away, with little thought being given to it since. That is, until recently.

Reinert, who operates Helping to Heal in downtown Tracy, subscribes to a number of medical journals. One of them recently contained an article by Jeff Meldruth on the study of Bigfoot tracks. Reinert said the article reminded him of the cast he’d taken while on vacation years ago, and decided to contact Meldruth about it.

Meldruth asked Reinert to send the cast to him, and also spoke to connections he had at the History Channel about the find. Last week, a crew from the History Channel came to Tracy to interview Reinert.

Reinert said the interview, if used, would be part of an upcoming series called “Science Meets Legend.” The series is set to begin in January.

Reinert said he was surprised when the History Channel wanted to send a camera crew to Tracy to interview him.

“I didn’t really understand why they would want to come all this way,” he said.

The crew spent the good part of a day filming. In addition to the interview, Reinert was filmed walking in downtown Tracy. The crew also wanted shots of Reinert doing his work, so they filmed him working with one of the crew members on his fear of heights, and also demonstrating energy healing techniques. “It was a good experience,” Reinert said.

Reinert enjoyed lunch with the crew, and learned that filming had been done in China, Germany, and Malaysia for the Sasquatch program. He said they found that the mysterious creatures tended to stick close to waterways in a wilderness area. In Malaysia, they saw an area where there were many prints.

Does he believe they are real? Reinert takes a logical approach. It’s only been a few hundred years since gorillas were thought to be mysterious creatures, he said, and only in the past hundred years or so have we learned more about them.

“Maybe we’re kind of in that early stage,” he said.

• • •

How Reinert came to make a plaster cast of a purported Sasquatch footprint is a story of coincidence. Reinert, his wife Judy, and their son, Peter, were in Manitoba on vacation in July of 1975. They had camped in Riding Mountain National Park and were on their way home.

They decided to stop at a small town—Brandon or Portage la Prairie, Reinert recalled—so he could get a haircut. It was here that he picked up a copy of a local newspaper and read a story about the sighting of a large, hairy, ape-like creature by two young boys on a local Indian reservation.

The boys—David Peters and his cousin Joseph Mousseau—were staying at the home of David’s grandfather, Dan Peters. The two boys had been up late watching a movie. After it ended, they walked outside onto the deck and, according to their account, saw a creature about eight feet tall staring at them. Frightened by what they had seen, the boys went back inside.

Reinert said he wasn’t searching for this type of experience, but having read the article, his curiosity was piqued.

“I had an idle curiosity like most people do,” he said.

The Reinerts drove to the Long Plains Reserve where they met the chief of the tribe, Angus Merrick. Merrick took them to the site of the sighting.

Reinert said there were several prints in the general area, and there were spots where the grass had been pressed down by the creature. The tracks indicated that it had stood on bare ground and then walked across a ditch and down the gravel road. The large footprints were about 20 inches long and eight feet wide at the widest point. The base of the heel, arch, ball of the foot, and five toes were visible. There were no other prints or tracks in the area to indicate that it was faked, Reinert said.

Reinert wanted to copy one of the foot imprints, but wasn’t sure how to go about doing so. He talked to members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, who advised him to use plaster of paris and chicken wire. He did just that and the result is the print he still has today. Reinert said the footprint he took a cast of was destroyed in the process, so he made only one.

It is interesting to try to estimate the size and weight of the creature, Reinert said. He estimates that it could have weighed around 800 pounds, about the same as a small grizzly bear.

Following his interview last week, Reinert wrote an account of the incident and the interview.

“On reflecting on this experience,” he wrote, “I recall being absolutely amazed at the size of the print, and had to rethink my skepticism about the existence of such creatures as I looked at it.”

Museum wants St. Mark's

By Seth Schmidt

Plans are being made to move the former St. Mark’s Episcopal Church to the Wheels Across the Prairie Museum.

Board members for the Wheels museum are attempting to buy the century-old stucco church from the City of Tracy. St. Mark’s would then be moved to the Wheels museum, where it would be maintained as a church museum.

“We think that moving St. Mark’s will add to the Wheels museum, and also make St. Mark’s more accessible to the public,” said Janet Randall, Wheels museum treasurer.

The St. Mark’s church building was erected in 1901 on the corner of Rowland and Fourth streets, across the street from the present day First United Presbyterian Church. In 1937, St. Mark’s was moved to its present location, a triangular lot at the intersection of Second, Center, and North streets. After the St. Mark’s congregation disbanded in the late 1960s, the building was sold to LeRoy Marcotte, a Tracy High School art teacher. After Marcotte died, his family gave the church building to the City of Tracy. The city has subsequently maintained St. Mark’s as a museum, but hours have been limited. Over at least the past 15 years, access has been limited to a few hours on Labor Day weekend and by special appointment.

If moved to the west Hwy. 14 Wheels site, St. Mark’s would be open when ever the Wheels museum is open from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day.

Plans are to place the St. Mark’s building east of the Wheels museum’s 19th century log cabin. The structure would be placed on a block foundation without a basement.


One dollar purchase

The Wheels organization has made both a written and verbal request of the Tracy City Council to buy St. Mark’s for $1. Randall told council members Monday that the museum will raise the money to move the building. It is likely, she said, that the museum will not be ready to move St. Mark’s until next spring. Randall said that the museum would also like to continue receiving the $1,000 that the City of Tracy has paid to the Wheels organization annually for caring for St. Mark’s.

The council set a Monday, Oct 23, 6:35 p.m. hearing to consider the proposed sale.

Council members expressed support for the proposed sale. Councilman Bill Chukuske said he thought the relocation to the Wheels site was an improvement because of the increased accessibility for visitors.

But several council members also wondered whether the city was under any legal restrictions regarding the proposed sale. A question was also raised as to whether donors of some St. Mark’s artifacts specified that they could be exhibited only at St. Mark’s, or whether it will be permissible to exhibit St. Mark’s items elsewhere on the Wheels site. Council member Jan Arvizu asked whether the city can continue to appropriate money for St. Mark’s if the building is moved outside of city limits.

City staff was instructed to research those questions and present their findings at the Oct. 23 hearing.

• • •

The Wheels Across the Prairie Museum’s Board of Directors voted at their September meeting to try to buy and move St. Mark’s. Officers are President Jon Wendorff, Vice President Anna Gene Burke, Secretary Bettie Johnston, and Treasurer Janet Randall. Other board members are Art Peterson, Dorthey Pamp, LaVern Holm, Mary Lou Ludeman.


School technology is looking up!

By Seth Schmidt

Tracy Area High School students and staff might have had a renewed appreciation for the “Jack and the Beanstalk” fairy tale when they arrived at school Monday morning.

Over the weekend, a 100-foot microwave tower sprouted on the school’s front lawn. But the newly-constructed tower didn’t have anything to do with magic beans.

Actually, a Texas company called Trillon erected the tower over the weekend. The bottom segment of the tower was already in place by Friday afternoon.

The new pencil-shaped transmission tower will allow the high school to receive wireless Internet signals. The school district now receives its Internet service via underground cables.

Supt. David Marlette says that the new tower will allow the school to increase its bandwidth ten to 20 times, which will greatly increase speed. Other advantages include lower operating costs, greater system reliability, and enhanced distance learning opportunities.

The Southwest Educational Cooperative Service Unit, which District belongs to, owns the new Tracy wireless tower. Similar towers are being erected at the home schools of other co-op members, including Milroy and Balaton.

The base of the tower is anchored in a 27-foot deep hole. The base of the tower, stuck into the hole, was then packed with pea rock. Supt. Marlette said Trillon told him that similar towers in the Gulf Coast states survived hurricane-force winds last year.

Tracy’s new wireless tower is expected to be operation within 30 to 60 days, Marlette indicated.


South Street buildings close to tax forfeiture


By Seth Schmidt

Should the City of Tracy acquire the former Ohman Furniture buildings on South Street?

Robert Gervais, Tracy community development director, raised that question to Tracy City Council members Monday. He said that he has been notified by county officials that the property will become tax forfeit in 45 days, if real estate taxes are not brought up to date by the current owner of record.

“The building is in poor shape. It’s a concern of mine that someone will buy it and not do anything with it.” He suggested that city building inspector Gary Garrels inspect the property as a possible hazardous building.

He said that the building was not secured. City Administrator Audrey Koopman said that the city had boarded up a door, but apparently someone had reentered the structure.

Council members agreed to have the building inspected.

Councilman Russ Stobb was wary about the city getting directly involved in ownership of the property. If the city did acquire the property, he said, it could be very expensive to demolish because of possible asbestos/hazardous materials issues.

It would be less expensive for a private party to acquire the property and raze the buildings, and then sell the cleared site to the city, than it would be for the city to do the acquisition and demolition. Demolition rules for the city, Stobb indicated, are more stringent than what are required for a private party.

• • •

Other council business Monday included:

Veterans’ Center rental—An agreement was reached with a home-schooled education group for Veterans’ Memorial facilities. The group is to pay $35 for the use of the Vet Center’s gym and kitchen area. The rental fee is to be $25 if just the gym is used. Home-schooled students and parents use the facility an average of three days a month. Until this year, the rental fee had been $10 a day.

Leaking library—Librarian Jamie Verdeck reported that the north half of the library still has leakage problems. Garrels had been over to the library to try to determine the source of the problems.

Circulation for September totaled 1,230 books checked out, a small increase from last year.

Police vacancy—Police Chief Bryan Hillger said that the department still has a vacancy. One candidate has law enforcement certification in Florida, he reported, and efforts are being made to get certification in Minnesota.

Primary election—Koopman reported that the new electronic voting equipment used at City Hall for the Sept. 12 primary had worked well. She said that the new counting equipment would allow local vote totals to be known shortly after polls close. The primary, she said, had been “a good trial run” for the November general election.

Wellness Center update—Stobb asked Koopman what was happening on the proposed Wellness Center project near Tracy Hospital.

Koopman, who also serves on the hospital board, said that the last she’d heard, the developer and Sioux Valley were still working out the details on a wellness center lease. Koopman said that she hoped a definitive answer about the wellness center construction would be known by the hospital board’s October meeting.

Arvizu said that if the current plan fell through, she did not want the wellness center to become a dead issue.

“If we can help it, we will,” Stobb said. “It (a wellness center) is in Tracy’s best interests.”

In June, the City of Tracy approved a tax abatement plan for RWS Joint Ventures to build the wellness center. Sioux Valley Rural Health, which leases and manages the Tracy hospital and clinic, was to sign a long-term lease with RWS Joint Ventures to manage the wellness center.

Plans announced in June showed a 6,200 square foot structure built on land south of the Prairie View Healthcare Center. The Sioux Valley Tracy Medical Center 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.

Ron Gramstad, a partner in RWS Joint Ventures, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

EDA appointment—Councilman Charlie Snyder was appointed to the Tracy Economic Development Authority, filling a vacancy created by the resignation of Tim Byrne.

Councilman Bill Chukuske said he would like to have the council appoint someone to replace him on the EDA. He noted that when he began his council term in 2005, he’d offered to step down from the EDA if someone was found to take his place.

“Three council members on the EDA is too many,” Chukuske said. Council members on the EDA have been Chukuske, Sandi Rettmer, and Byrne. The other people on the seven-member EDA board are Dennis Fultz, Chad Buysse, Claire Hannasch, and Dick Boerboom.


Art Marben receives prestigious Lions award


Art Marben of the Tracy Lions Club has been awarded a Melvin Jones Fellowship by the Lions Club International Foundation (LCIF).

A Melvin Jones Fellowship is given in recognition of a commitment to humanitarian work. The Fellowship is the Foundation’s highest honor, and represents humanitarian qualities such as generosity, compassion, and concern for others. It is named after Melvin Jones, the founder of Lions Club International.

Ron Robbins, Tracy Lions Club treasurer, presented the award to Marben at a recent meeting. It is thought that this is only the second Melvin Jones Fellowship awarded in the Tracy area since the formation of the club in 1972.

Marben, who retired as Tracy Area High School’s principal in 1985, is a long-time Tracy Lions’ member. He is a past club president, and well-known in Tracy for his management of the Lions’ medical equipment library, which lends wheelchairs, crutches, hospital beds, and other items of medical equipment to persons in need.


Morgan St. house demolitions hit snag


The Tracy Economic Development Authority’s plans to clear a swath of Morgan Street have run into a road block.

No bids were received on an EDA advertisement to demolish two vacant houses on the 70 block of Morgan.

Robert Gervais, Tracy community development director, said that the lack of bidders is apparently due to questions being raised about asbestos and lead abatement from the structures. The EDA and the City of Tracy, he said, are held to higher standards in the disposal of potentially hazardous substances like asbestos insulation. If the EDA and city are required to remove asbestos and lead from the structures, demolition costs will be substantially more than budgeted, he said.

Gervais said that city staff is trying to determine whether “other options” exist for the city.

The houses are located at 62 and 58 Morgan. The city purchased 62 Morgan. The vacant house at 58 Morgan has been condemned as a hazardous building.

Earlier this year, the EDA demolished a vacant house it had acquired at 76 Morgan. The EDA is seeking to buy, and then demolish, two other small houses on the block. Hopes are that the cleared land could then be sold to a housing developer.