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News from the week of February 22, 2006


If outage strikes Tracy, generators would keep water flowing

By Seth Schmidt

Thanks to a recently completed generator project, the City of Tracy’s water supplies would keep flowing in the event of an extended electrical power outage.

Two 100 kilowatt diesel generators were put on-line by the city. One generator is wired to Tracy’s water treatment plant. The other is hooked up to the city’s water wells.

“They are nice to have,” said Public Works Director Rick Robinson. “Very few towns have this kind of protection.”

If Xcel Energy was unable to provide electric power to city wells and the water plant, an automatic alarm system would alert city employees, who would then manually start the generators. The diesel powered generators would allow the city wells and water plant to keep supplying water to the city.

In January of 2005, a power outage did shutdown the wells and water treatment plant. After about six hours, water levels in the city’s water tower had fallen to less than 100,000 gallons. Not only were city taps in danger of running dry, but the Tracy Fire Department would not have had enough water to fight a major fire in the city.

Fire Chief Keith Engesser feels that the new generators are a huge benefit for the city.

“It means that we have water running at the hydrants. We can be up and running even if the power goes out,” he said. Until the generators were put on line, the fire department’s only option if the water tower was drained during an outage was to pump water from Swift Lake and call for help from neighboring fire departments.

The generators were obtained and installed at a nominal cost to city taxpayers.

The two 100 KW generators, plus a smaller 30 KW generator, came from a Minnesota Department of Natural Resources equipment depot at Willow River. The city’s only initial expense in obtaining the generators, was a $1,100 fee and the cost of sending a truck and man to the site in northeast Minnesota.

None of the three generators, which were surplus U.S. military equipment, were in working condition when they were obtained by the City and the Tracy Fire Department. Public Works Dept. mechanic Paul DeSmith was able to repair all three units.

“Paul is a pretty skilled guy,” said Robinson. “His ability to work on these generators saved the city a lot of money.”

One of the 100 KW generators had only about 8 hours of usage on it when DeSmith picked it up. The unit was in good shape, except that it was missing several parts. The other 100 KW generator, with 720 hours of usage, was damaged, possibly from being tipped over, but was repairable. The 30 KW generator needed only a fuel pump.

Other public works employees—including Dennis Schroeder, Tom Greenfield, Randy Hohler, and Al Schulz—also contributed to the generator project. The city workers remodeled a storage building on the north side of the water plant to accommodate the 100 KW generator that was wired to the treatment plant. The public works department employees also built new shelters for the 100 KW generator installed at the well site, and the 30 KW generator put on line at a sewer lift station near the Sioux Valley Tracy Medical Center.

By utilizing city employees, project expenses were minimized.

“Our guys did a great job. They can do a lot of things,” said Robinson.

Total expenses getting the three generators on-line, which included Hebig Electric providing the electrical connections and controls, was about $13,000.

Each of Tracy’s 100 KW generators cost the federal government about $35,000 new. Similar generators, purchased new today, would cost about $70,000 each, Robinson said.

• • •

The generators were obtained through the Tracy Fire Department.

Government regulations stipulate that the surplus generators must be used for enhanced fire protection and public safety. The improved fire protection is provided by ensuring that Tracy has adequate supplies of water to fight fires. The 30 KW generator qualified for use at the lift station, because the fire department would normally be called to assist with an emergency situation involving a sewer back up.

The generators continue to be U.S. government property. Should the fire department and city ever decide that they no longer can use the generators, they would be obligated to return them to Willow River.

The 100 KW generators have been fully tested. Robinson said that the 100 KW generator, powered by a 235 hp engine, was able to operate the entire water plant while running at only 30% capacity.

• • •

The impetus for the generators came from Tracy City Council members in the aftermath of the Jan. 23, 2005 ice storm. Realizing that the city water tower was nearly drained by the outage, council members asked Robinson to research the cost of obtaining back-up generators for the treatment plant and water wells.

Schroeder is credited the idea of checking the Willow River depot for surplus government generators. Schroeder, who is a member of the Tracy Fire Dept., had earlier been involved in obtaining a surplus Dodge truck for the department from Willow River. Firemen converted the surplus truck into grass-fire fighting rig.

• • •

Tracy Public Works Dept. obtained a fourth generator recently when it purchased a utility trailer from Dick Kelley. A 10 KW gas generator that been inoperable for many years was mounted on the trailer. The city was originally interested only in the trailer. But DeSmith fixed the generator and the public works department now intends to use the trailer/generator as a portable power source for the sewer lift station on Circle Drive.

The City of Tracy also has three other small generators.

A 15KW natural gas generator is available to provide electricity to the Veterans’ Memorial Center, Tracy Police Dept. and City Hall.

A 30 KW diesel generator is located at the Tracy Fire Hall.

A portable 10 KW unit is available for civil defense emergencies at a variety of sites.

Speakers top 24 teams

Lanoue, Fischer rate all No. 1s

The Tracy Area High School speech team handily won the Minneota Speech Invitational Saturday.

Tracy tallied 78 team points followed by Springfield with 44, Adrian with 40, and Redwood Valley with 37. There were over 24 schools participating with a combination of 325 participants.

Four Tracy entries earned first-place medals.

Seniors Brad Lanoue in creative expression and Jenna Fischer in informative each earned straight No. 1s in each round. Also bringing home first place medals were freshman Melissa Noerenberg in serious poetry and eighth grade dramatic duo partners Dalton Kirk and Megan Gilmore.

Second-place medal winners were juniors Celia Brockway in storytelling and Jessica Mason in humorous. Jessica went straight No 1s in her rounds.

Third-place placers were junior Bekah Zens in great speeches, sophomores Jeremiah Martin in serious poetry and Jordan Christiansen in informative. Earning fourth-place awards were senior Danielle Thooft in serious poetry and junior Patrick VanNevel in creative expression. Seventh grader Tara Norstegard was fifth in storytelling.

Sixth place finishers were junior Emily Gilmore in serious drama, sophomore Brittnee Michael in storytelling, sophomore Spencer Zwaschka in great speeches, and dramatic duo partners Casie Miller and Carly Miller.

Receiving ribbons of excellence were storytellers senior Bobbi Buyck and sophomore Ben VanMoer, junior Rachel Stobb in serious drama, freshman Skylar Carlson in humorous, and senior Jacob Gilmore in creative expression.

The team travels to Luverne Saturday. The competition starts at 10 a.m.

New high school courses offered

By Valerie Scherbart Quist

An eight-period day schedule will provide Tracy Area High School students with several additional elective options beginning in the fall of 2006.

High School Principal Chad Anderson told District 417 board members last week that students in grades 9-11 had been surveyed to find their interest in different elective options. Some options included Challenge courses through Southwest Minnesota State University and advanced placement courses.

Students expressed the most interest in 14 additional electives, three college-level classes, and three advanced placement courses.

Additional electives offered will include psychology, sociology, probability & statistics, graphing calculators, journalism, forensics, lifetime fitness, CPR-body human, advanced physical education, electricity, hydraulics, guitar, home repair, and basic auto.

College-level classes will include government, pre-calculus, and algebra. Advanced Placement courses will include world history, English, and chemistry.

In grade 10, students will be required to take history, English, science, and math classes, with three elective credits available. In grade 11, students will be required to take American Lit./speaking/writing, geography, math, and science classes, with three electives available to them. As seniors, students are required to take English and social studies, and will have five elective choices available.

There are also several changes to the schedule for grades 7-9 with the switch to an eight-period day. In junior high, students will have one additional year of health and physical education, nine weeks of additional reading in seventh and eighth grades, nine weeks of additional math in seventh grade, one semester of additional computer/technology, and one additional section of pre-algebra in eighth grade. Students in junior high will also be able to choose a study hall.

Total start-up costs for the additional courses and changes in grades 7-12 will be around $22,000, Anderson estimates.

In order to graduate, under the new schedule, TAHS students will have to take four credits of English, four credits of social science, three credits of science, three credits of math, one credit of fine arts, .25 credit of physical education and health, and half a credit of computers.

The reasons for moving to an eight-period day at the high school center around the federal No Child Left Behind legislation, which mandates that students take an additional year of science on the high school level. School administrators felt that this would greatly limit the students’ elective opportunities.

The switch to an eight-period day was negotiated with teachers and written into their new contract, which was approved in November.

Plan presented for using $85,000 Microsoft settlement

The Tracy school district has more than $85,000 available to spend on computer hardware and software, thanks to a settlement with the Microsoft Corporation.

District technology coordinator Nan Ladehoff told the board of education last week that she learned of grants available from the settlement in October. Districts qualified based on the number of students who qualified for free and reduced price lunches. A budget was put together and submitted to the state, and the grant for $85,858 was awarded to the district.

Last week, Ladehoff presented the first half of the proposed spending of the grant money, which will be spent on computer hardware. There is $22,648 available for the high school, and $20,281 available to the elementary school. Some of the money can be spent on district-wide improvements.

Ladehoff said the technology committee had met and put together a list of needed items.

At the top of the list is upgrading the district’s Panther and Proxy servers. Ladehoff said these servers are several years old and are due for replacement.

In the elementary, other recommended purchases included a switch replacement, a new printer, replacement of 15 teacher desktop units, purchase of three scanners for the Accelerated Math program, and a new scanner.

In the high school, it was recommended that the PC business lab work stations be replaced. Ladehoff added that the grant would not cover the entire business lab replacement, and the rest would have to come out of the technology budget.

Future discussions will center around the software half of the grant. An equal amount of money to the hardware portion is available to both the high school and elementary school. Options include educational software and operating system software for the new PC business lab, Ladehoff said. She expects to have more information for the board within the next month or two.

The board approved the proposed usage of the hardware portion of the grant.

People sought for school committee

Volunteers are being sought for a facility steering committee for a potential arts/athletics facility addition to Tracy Area High School.

The committee will look into the needs, cost analysis, and feasibility study of building a new arts/athletic facility. Anyone interested in serving on this committee is asked to call Jeanette Hollingsworth or Superintendent David Marlette at the high school, (507) 629-5500, or write indicating willingness to serve on the committee.


Waste-to-energy plant eyed at Redwood Falls

Ethanol plant seen as option for Lamberton

By Valerie Scherbart Quist

The plans may have changed, but a waste-to-energy facility is still on the horizon in Redwood County.

Plans now call for the facility to be built at Redwood Falls, not Lamberton as originally proposed.

Redwood County Commissioner Brian Kletscher said a joint powers committee for a proposed waste-to-energy facility met in September with Home Farm Technologies of Manitoba, a private company that proposed using a gasification process instead of mass burning of the garbage. Gasification is a process in which municipal solid waste is converted into a synthetic gas.

After hearing their presentation, the joint powers board decided to give the proposal further consideration.

Kletscher said Home Farm Technologies’ proposal was a good one from the perspective of the joint powers board. The waste-to-energy facility proposed for Redwood County would still move forward, but with a private company constructing it instead of the county.

The Home Farm Technologies plan also had the benefit of lower proposed tipping fees. Under the original plan, tipping fees were estimated to be in the $60-$65 range per ton. That tipping fee would be lowered to around $40 per ton, Home Farm Technologies estimates.

Kletscher said turning the project over to a private company greatly limits the county’s involvement in the project.

“We will help out where needed and continue to promote the project,” he said.

Kletscher said Home Farm Technologies would like to begin the permitting process in the next few months. The permitting process for this type of project generally takes two to two-and-a-half years, he added.

The company will have to develop contracts for waste, see how much is available in the area, and then, if needed, bring in waste from outside the area.

Home Farm Technologies does have a potential consumer of the steam that is produced at the waste-to-energy facility. The company is working on a contract with Central Bi-Products. Central Bi-Products operates a large rendering plant and a facility that can produce bio-diesel from either soybean oil or animal fats.

Kletscher said he is pleased that the waste-to-energy project is continuing to move forward.

“I hope we can get this accomplished now,” he said. “I think it’s time to move forward.”

Kletscher said he feels a waste-to-energy facility will be a positive step for Southwest Minnesota.

“It will be a good regional project,” he said. “I like the idea of handling municipal solid waste in a different manner than burying it. I feel we owe that to our constituents.”

Lamberton is no longer the proposed site of a waste-to-energy facility, but there could be another exciting opportunity on the horizon for the community.

Kletscher said the Redwood County Commissioners have entered into discussions surrounding building an ethanol plant at Lamberton. Preliminary water testing was positive, showing that there would be enough water to support the project. The commissioners are now moving forward with further tests, and hope to know more next month.

The commissioners are seeking nine to 11 individuals who would be interested in serving on an interim board for the ethanol plant project.

Kletscher said while plans are in the early stages, the process can move fairly quickly. The permitting process for an ethanol plant generally takes six to nine months.

“We will be on the fast track to get this started,” he said. “There is a good change we can get this accomplished.”

He said anytime a facility can be added to a region that brings jobs, it is positive for the entire area. The commissioners want to make sure the impact of the facility will be positive for the entire region. It is estimated that 40-45 jobs would be created by building the plant.

“It should be a very positive impact,” he said.