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News from the week of January 10, 2007


Hearing set on $708,000 street project

By Seth Schmidt

A Jan. 22 public hearing is planned for a proposed $708,000 street improvement project in Tracy.

The possible improvements are:

• Reconstruction of four blocks of Fourth Street East, from State Street to a point between Summit and Circle Drive.

• Reconstruction of one block of State Street, between Four St. East and Fifth St. East.

• Seal-coating Fifth St. East between State and Union streets east of the hospital and clinic.

• Sanitary sewer, water, fire hydrant and “ground water interceptor” improvements along the improved streets as needed.

The reconstructed streets will include new curb and gutter, new base materials and three inches of new bituminous pavement.

The $708,000 estimate is based upon a feasibility report prepared by the Short Elliott & Hendrickson engineering firm of Worthington. SEH’s cost projection calculated $569,560 for construction,, $2,400 for a feasibility report and $136,694 for engineering, administration, fiscal and legal expenses.

Actual costs could be less or greater, depending on the construction bids received by contractors.

The $569,560 estimated construction cost is broken down into $282,053 for street construction, $159,206 for curb and gutter, $70,272 for ground water interception, and $58,029 for utilities. The construction estimate includes a 10% contingency fund for unexpected expenses.

If past city assessment policies are continued, benefiting adjacent property owners will be assessed for 100% of curb and gutter improvements, 25% of street reconstruction, and 100% of groundwater improvement expenses.

If the council “orders in” the project after the Jan. 22 hearing, engineers will draft detailed plans and specifications. Proposals would then be sought from contractors. Bids could be considered and awarded in May, with construction beginning as early as June. Completion is targeted no later than October. An assessment hearing would likely be held in November.

Portions of Fourth Street East date from the late 1950s and 1960s.


First phase

The proposed 2007 street project would be the first of five phases in a “pavement management” plan developed by consulting engineers last fall.

The improvement plan is based upon an evaluation of 172 blocks of city streets, rating the condition of city streets on a scale of 1-10. Plans are mapped to improve or maintain all 172 blocks in five phases.

“The idea is to have a plan that city staff can review and adjust every year,” SEH engineer Steve Robinson told council members Monday. The plan calls for the reconstruction of 14 blocks that are in the worse shape, and recommends maintenance (seal coating or overlays) designed to extend the life of other blocks in better condition.

Robinson said that it’s up to city leaders how quickly to implement the different phases.

“It’s not necessarily going to be every year. It could be every other year. Priorities and conditions can change. But once you lay the ground work (with the five-phase plan), you at least have something to work from.”

Overall, Robinson said that plan shows that city streets are in relatively good shape, with less then 10% of blocks rated in the poorest category.

Rick Robinson, Tracy Public Works director, told council members that “inflow and infiltration” problems (clear drainage water entering the city’s sanitary sewer system) need to be corrected as streets are reconstructed. The city’s “I &I” problem is significant, he indicated. The city’s wastewater pond system designed to receive an average of 300,000 gallons of wastewater per day, Robinson said, but during periods of high water-runoff, the flow can be as much as four million gallons a day.

In the past, when the wastewater flow becomes heavy enough to overwhelm the city’s sanitary sewer system, the city has opened bypass gates and valves to allow wastewater to flow into the city’s storm sewer system, and eventually into streams and open ditches northeast of the city. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has notified the city that actions must be taken to eventually eliminate these bypasses of the sanitary sewer system.

The proposed Fourth Street East reconstruction aims to get sump pump and foundation drains off the sanitary sewer. Proposed improvements include the construction of a ground water interceptor tile which residential sump pump and foundation drains would be connected to. Six brick or block manholes will be replaced, and as will any clay tile sanitary sewer that are a source of water inflow and infiltration. An underground video examination of existing lines it planned to identify problem areas.

The streets being reconstructed will be rebuilt at existing widths. Steve Robinson said that no more than one block of street will be torn up at any one time, and that steps will be taken to minimize access issues for homeowners.

The Jan. 22 public hearing is scheduled to begin at 6:45 p.m.

$10 increase set for city utility bills


Tracy water and sewer bills will increase $10 a month beginning in March.

The city’s base monthly water and sewer charges are each being increased $4, and the city’s utility surcharge is being increased by $2. The increases, which add up to $10 a month, will be included in utility bills payable in March. Council members okayed the new rates Monday night on a 6-1 vote.

It is estimated that the increased water and sewer rates will raise an additional $89,000 annually, and that the surcharge increase will raise $22,000 each year.

The money is earmarked to help pay for an estimated $770,000 of utility improvements, and replenish reserve funds that have been used to pay for past projects. Projects planned for this year include: South Tracy drainage improvements ($318,000); land acquisition for drainage project ($124,000), mapping underground utilities using global positioning technology ($20,000); safety equipment ($5,000), new sewage lift station, ($118,000), purchase used backhoe ($28,000). A fire hydrant repair and replacement plan was completed last year, and the first phase of a water meter replacement plan is underway.

City leaders have discussed borrowing money for the utility improvements as part of a $1.9 million bond issue in 2007. (Street and downtown lighting improvements are also being considered.). The increased revenues generated by the more expensive water and sewer rate would be used to repay the utility portion of the bonded debt.

The $10 sewer and water rate increase is the second time in a little more than a year that the city’s rates have increase. A $2 a month increase in both the water and sewer rates, and a 20-cent increase for each 750 gallons of water used was approved in October of 2005. The 2005 increase was estimated to cost the average residential customer an additional $5.40 a month.

Tony Peterson cast the lone dissenting vote on the council motion approving the new increases. Peterson said he wasn’t necessarily against the increases, but as a new council member, wanted time to study the proposal before voting.

The rate increases will go into effect by an amendment to city ordinance. No one from the public spoke at a hearing to consider the ordinance amendment.


EDA considers $150,000 investment to attract prospective business

By Seth Schmidt

Tracy Economic Development Authority members hope to finalize an incentive package for a prospective business Friday.

The EDA’s incentive plan calls for purchasing and remodeling a building at a cost of about $150,000, and offering the building to the company rent-free for one year. The company would be committed to employing at least one person at the Tracy site for the first year. EDA members hope that future employment will be significantly more.

Robert Gervais, Tracy Community Development director, has told EDA members that the company hopes to eventually have 6-8 full-time employees and 18 to 24 part-time employees working from the Tracy site.Wages for most of the jobs, he said, will start at about $11 an hour.

EDA members are considering the purchase and remodeling of a 9,000 square-foot warehouse on South Street now owned by Keith Peterson and Kim Daniels of Daniels-Peterson Construction to accommodate the prospective business. EDA members held a closed session Friday with Daniels and Peterson to discuss the possible purchase.

No decision was made, according to Gervais. But he estimated the cost of purchasing and remodeling the building would be $150,000 to $155,000.

The prospective business specializes in the cleaning of ethanol plants. Gervais said the company has told him that Tracy is their first choice if the EDA’s preliminary offer is finalized. The company could begin operations in Tracy as soon as March. Gervais said one person and his family could be moving to Tracy by late January to start setting up the operations. Gervais also indicated that he was meeting with a company representative Thursday, to finalize the proposed remodeling plans.

EDA members met Friday, Jan. 5, to discuss their offer to the company. The proposal calls for the EDA to buy and remodel a building now owned by Peterson-Daniels Construction (former Tracy Bottling Company warehouse), and lease the building to the company for no charge for the first year. The company would be required to employ at least one person at the Tracy site. The EDA would pay the property taxes on the building, with the new company paying the utilities.

The second year of the lease, the company would need to pay a monthly lease of $2,000 a month, although a $200 credit would be given for each full-time equivalent job based in Tracy. In the third year, the firm would have the option of paying a $2,000 monthly rent or purchasing the building for what the EDA has invested in the property.

The EDA has also offered the company a two-bedroom apartment, in one of the EDA’s Fifth Street four-plexes, rent-free for a six-month period.

In discussing the merits of their proposal, EDA members noted that they would be retaining ownership in the building. If the company left Tracy after a short period of time, EDA members feel that they would still have a marketable property that could be used for some other business.

Gervais said that County Assessor Dean Champine told him that after the improvements are completed, the building would likely have an assessed market value of about $80,000.

Financing discussed

At the EDA’s Jan. 5 meeting, discussion was held on how to finance a purchase/remodeling project of about $150,000. It was reported that the EDA has about $60,000 on hand in its revolving loan fund. Gervais said that an officer at Minnwest Bank South told him that the bank would be willing to finance $100,000, if the Tracy City Council would guarantee annual appropriations to repay the note. EDA members also discussed the possibility of borrowing money from another city fund.

EDA member and council member Sandi Rettmer said she was supportive of attracting a new business to the city. But Rettmer said she was also concerned about the “spending money that we don’t have.” She also expressed misgivings that the EDA and city would be getting “no return on its investment” for the first year of the lease.

Gervais said he disagreed that the city wouldn’t be gaining anything in the short-term. The first employee who would be coming to Tracy, he said, would have a child attending Tracy schools. Local businesses would gain by selling services and products to the new company. Most importantly, Gervais indicated, Tracy would helping establish a new local business that could possibly become a major employer in the city. The firm’s employees, in turn, would be prospects to buy or build houses in the community.

“That’s economic development to me,” he said.

The discussion ended, with the consensus of the EDA board to obtain more information on the possibilities of borrowing from another city fund, such as the EDA’s down-payment assistance housing fund.

Monday night, Gervais asked Tracy City Council members if they would approve of the EDA borrowing money from four EDA funds to finance proposed property purchase and remodeling. Gervais indicated to council members that borrowing money from the EDA’s revolving loan fund, down-payment assistance fund, O’Brien Court fund, and Eastview Apartments fund would provide enough money to buy and remodel the South St. property.

“It sounds great,” said Mayor Steve Ferrazzano.

No other council members expressed an opinion on the proposed inter-fund borrowing.

Councilman Russ Stobb asked why the EDA hadn’t borrowed money from the Community Capital Fund. Gervais explained that the EDA couldn’t borrow money directly from the fund.


Utilities needed

The proposed remodeling of the Peterson-Daniels building on South St. involves bringing water and sewer services into the building, insulation, and partitioning off an office area. The proposed purchase would also include a nearby block building that EDA members have discussed demolishing.


City buying Central Livestock site

By Seth Schmidt

Agreement has been reached on the sale of the former Central Livestock property to the City of Tracy.

The city will be acquiring 30.9 acres of land for $132,101, or just over $4,000 an acre. The sellers are Kenneth, David, and Gerald Anderson and their spouses. A unanimous Tracy City Council motion Monday night approved the purchase.

City Attorney Frank Nielsen announced Monday that that terms for the land deal had been agreed to at a closed Dec. 11 council meeting. He said that the Anderson family members have all signed the sale documents. Nielsen expressed hope that the transaction can be closed by March 1.

City leaders intend to use a portion of the land for drainage improvements. Plans are to use the southwest corner of the Central Livestock site as a water retention area. The new retention area would temporarily hold surface water after a heavy rain or sudden snowmelt, but would otherwise be dry.

Council members have been discussing the possible purchase of Central Livestock property since 2004 when serious consideration began for improving drainage in southwest Tracy. The city became interested in the Central Livestock site, when engineers suggested that an open drainage ditch built across the Central Livestock site would be less expensive than constructing a large storm sewer down South Fourth Street. The open drainage ditch idea was dropped last year in favor of the water retention area.

The irregular-shaped Central Livestock site is generally bounded by South Fourth St. on the west, parcels owned by Charpheng Thao and Cenex-Harvest States on the north, the Swift hog-buying station on the east, and Front St. on the south.

The terms of the sale give Dave Anderson the right to rent cropland on the site for $85 an acre in 2007. Anderson will also be renting the Central Livestock buildings for two years for $3,000 a year. The buyers and sellers are splitting a $2,200 special assessment on the property.

About 5-7 acres will be needed for the planned water retention area. What the city would do with the remainder of the property has not been decided, although city leaders have discussed the possibility of someday tearing down the Central Livestock barn and making a portion of the site available for housing development. However, an environmental study conducted by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has identified possible soil contamination on a portion of the property, where many years ago, batteries were disposed of.


Survey on school addition is set to begin soon

By Valerie Scherbart Quist

Will Tracy school district taxpayers support a new auditorium/gymnasium addition to Tracy Area High School? That’s what the district 417 board of education hopes to find out with a telephone survey that should be conducted soon.

Board members received a draft of potential survey questions this week.

The scope of the questions ranges from determining people’s perceptions of Tracy Area Schools to what taxpayers would be willing to contribute toward a new facility. The list of people to be surveyed will be drawn randomly from a list of registered voters.

Superintendent Dave Marlette recommended to the board that the facilities steering committee be called together to review the questions. A meeting was scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 18 at 6 p.m. at TAHS. Board members Chris Schons, Peggy Zwach, and Eric Fultz will represent the board.


Drainage problem studied

Supt. Marlette said a preliminary report had been received on testing done over the holiday break at Tracy Elementary School. Marlette said many of the suspicions about the water problem at the school had been confirmed.

The report found that the building sits on a granular base but the perimeter and underlying soils are clay. The water table was found to be about seven feet below grade. The engineers reported that the grade along various exterior walls allows surface drainage to flow back to the building. According to the report, “the combination of these conditions has created a ‘virtual bathtub’ and the moisture seeks the path of least resistance … in this case, the building interior.”

Marlette said some of the test results are yet to be revealed. However, he believes the problem can be addressed with a tiling project that the board has discussed previously.


Drug-sniffing dogs

High School Principal Chad Anderson reported that Interquest Canine Detection will be putting on a lyceum for students on Thursday, Feb. 1 at 2:40 p.m. During the lyceum, the canine detection service will be explained to students. Students will be notified that searches will take place randomly throughout the school year, and that the dogs do sniff out prescription and over-the-counter medication as well as illegal substances.

Anderson said that when the searches take place, he plans to pull out students randomly in an attempt to keep the searches anonymous. Students will be notified of this at the lyceum.


Activity day

Anderson said an activity day is being planned at the high school on Jan. 22. Students will have the opportunity to participate in games, a knowledge bowl competition, and an academic pep fest. Students will receive awards based on their Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment results. Individual and class prizes will be awarded.


2007-’08 schedule

Anderson gave the board a preliminary 2007-2008 class schedule. He said the schedule is similar to this year’s schedule with just a few minor changes.

Anderson said one thing that is being considered is keeping the schedule the same from year to year and having students register to the schedule. That way, if a student wanted to take an elective but it competed with another class he or she was taking, the student could take one of the classes one year and one the next.

Adding Accelerated Reader to the 8th grade quad and taking out choir was also suggested by Anderson.


Little Panthers

Nichole Paulzine and Kari Landuyt reported on the Little Panthers preschool program. At the beginning of the school year there were 28 students in Little Panthers. There are currently 30 students in the program and four on a waiting list. Paulzine and Landuyt described the program for the board.


Elementary school

Tracy Elementary School Principal Scott Loeslie reported that the school has purchased the Study Island web-based computer program. This program, which is used for students in grades 3-8, is intended to help students prepare for the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments. Study Island can be accessed by students at home and its usage tracked at the school. The program was purchased with Computers for Education money raised at the school.

Loeslie said the next Integration Collaborative day will be Wednesday, Jan. 17. Tracy third graders will be hosting other third graders throughout the collaborative.

Loeslie also reported that the elementary school will be looking into a new reading series.


Activities report

Activities Director/Community Education Director Bill Tauer reported that Tracy will be hosting the Camden Conference wrestling tournament on Saturday, Jan. 20. Tracy will also be host to the Final Four wrestling competition on Feb. 16. The Final Four determines who will be going on to the state competition.

Tauer told the board that the community education brochure will be coming out soon.

He also asked the board about the possibility of establishing an athletics hall of fame. He said students who compete on the state level are currently featured on a wall of honor. In the past, one jersey (Mary Jo Miller) has been retired. Tauer said he had been approached about the idea and asked the board to think about the prospect.



The board accepted, with thanks, the resignation of Marcey Xiong as an elementary paraprofessional.


New coach

The board approved the hiring of Tyrone Oulman as junior high wrestling coach for the remainder of the 2006-2007 school year.


Peterson, Martin take seats on Tracy council

Two new members joined the Tracy City Council Monday.

Tony Peterson and Michael Martin began four-year terms on the council, filling council spots formerly held by Jan Arvizu and Tim Byrne. Peterson and Martin, elected to the council in the November general election, took their oaths of office along with re-elected Mayor Steve Ferrazzano and re-elected councilman Russ Stobb.

Other incumbent council members are Bill Chukuske, Charlie Snyder, and Sandi Rettmer.

The swearing in ceremony was the first in a series of business related to the start of a new year for the council.

City appointments for 2007 include:

• City Clerk/Administrator—Audrey Koopman.

• Deputy Clerk, Public Works Director—Rick Robinson.

• Finance Director—Dave Spencer.

• City Attorney—Frank Nielsen.

• Fire Chief—Dale Johnson Jr.

• Assistant Fire Chief—Dave Engesser.

• Weed inspector—Tom Greenfield.

• City Forester—Rick Robinson.

• Building inspector—Gary Garrels.

• City Assessor—Orlin Bruss.

• Civil Defense Director—Bryan Hillger.

• President Pro-Tem—Russ Stobb.

• Community Education advisory board—Charlie Snyder.

• Planning Commission—Russ Stobb.

• Economic Development Authority—Sandi Rettmer, Charlie Snyder.

• Attorney committee—Steve Ferrazzano, Mike Martin.

• Hospital advisory board—Tony Peterson, Steve Ferrazzano.

• Labor-Management committee—Bill Chukuske, Tony Peterson.

The council agreed to adopt “Robert’s Rules of Order” for meetings, and set regular meetings for the second and fourth Mondays of the month at 6:30 p.m. The Tracy Headlight-Herald was designated as the town’s official newspaper, and official municipal depositories were set as Minnwest Bank South, the 4-M Fund, State Farm, and Salomon Smith & Barney.