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News from the week of January 17, 2007



Longtime curator is feted

By Seth Schmidt

No bands played, no balloons ascended, and the air remained free of confetti.

The mayor didn’t deliver a speech. The fire department didn’t sound their sirens. People magazine didn’t dispatch a photographer, and the governor didn’t send his regards.

But it didn’t matter. Sunday was Mary Lou Ludeman Appreciation Day for the Wheels Across the Prairie Museum.

“Without you, Mary Lou, all of this wouldn’t have been possible,” said Museum Board President Jon Wendorff, at a Sunday afternoon reception honoring Ludeman.

The long-time museum curator was thanked for leadership over three decades that helped transform a sheep pasture into an iconic landmark of Tracy heritage.

“How can I possibly say just a few words about what Mary Lou has done?” said Conrad Rettmer, who emceed a short program. Rettmer recalled how Ludeman’s unflagging devotion to the museum helped turn a dream into a historical treasure-trove.

“She has been the heart and soul of this museum” he said.

Rettmer noted that since 1985 when the Wheels museum opened with a single exhibit building, 11 additional structures and a freight train had been added to the site. Raising more than $30,000 for the museum’s signature 1915 switch engine and tender car, and moving the mammoth machines from Rochester in 1990, was a crowning achievement for museum backers, Rettmer said. But, he added, the train engine was one of many museum successes that Ludeman helped bring about.

“Every one of them has its own story,” Rettmer said.

Ludeman responded that the museum’s success has been due to the efforts of many.

“My name may have been at the top, but there have been many others who have worked as hard, or harder than I have.” Slowed by health issues this past year, she stepped down as a museum officer in 2006, but is still a member of the Wheels board. She expressed special appreciation to a new group of volunteers who have taken on leadership roles for the museum.

“You’ve done a wonderful job. It’s good to know that the museum is in such capable hands, and I thank you for this afternoon.”

As a tribute to Ludeman’s work, museum board members unveiled a painted placard, “Mary Lou’s Garden,” that will be erected on museum grounds this year.

“Oh, it’s just perfect,” said the surprised Tracy historian, wiping away a tear.

• • •

Dorthey Pamp was among the well-wishers who attended the reception at the Tracy United Methodist Church. Pamp museum involvement—dating back 30 years to when the museum was incorporated as a non-profit organization—mirrors Ludeman’s work. Both were part of a small Tracy group that worked to establish a permanent Tracy museum following Tracy’s centennial celebration in 1976. Ludeman and Pamp helped organize fund-raisers and collect artifacts for the new museum. and have been partners on innumerable Wheels work projects.

“We just always worked well together,” Pamp said. “I guess it was because we were both farm wives who knew what hard work was. When something needed to be done, we both pitched in and we did it.”

Their work was often unglamorous, but needed.

“Mary Lou had heard that the Best Western in Marshall was getting new carpet. So she went up and got all of their old carpet. Between the two of us, we moved everything around, and laid the used carpet in the museum.”

• • •

A lifelong Tracy area resident, Ludeman is a 1946 Tracy graduate. Her father, Matt Starken, was a Chicago & Northwestern Railroad employee and the family breadwinner. Her mother, Cora Lee, stayed home to manage the household and raise six children: George, Mary Lou, Nancy, Jerome, Gloria, and Sandra.

As a teen, Mary Lou worked at the Steinberg ice cream parlor across from the high school, and later became a telephone switchboard operator.

Several teachers encouraged Miss Starken to go to college after high school.. She thought about becoming a history teacher. But college plans fell by the wayside when the $75 needed for first semester tuition at St. Cloud State College couldn’t be mustered.

In November of 1946, she married Sander Ludeman, and began a new life as a farm wife and mother. She and Sander, who celebrated their 60th anniversary this fall, raised four sons: Allen (Sandy), Paul, Brian, and Cal. She has been honored as both the Tracy Chamber of Commerce’s “outstanding citizen” and is an inductee in Tracy High School’s “Wall of Fame.”

• • •

Wheels museum board members who hosted the Sunday program said they deliberately kept the event limited to a few friends, family members, and museum volunteers. But they encourage others to send cards and best wishes to the Ludemans’ home at 320 Hollett St. East, Tracy, MN. 56175.


New owners take root at Tracy Floral


By Valerie Scherbart Quist

Tracy Floral, Gifts and Garden Center has new owners.

Brenda Peterson, along with her husband, Perry Peterson, and children David and Amanda Willander, have taken over operations of the long-time Tracy business. Perry, a 1986 graduate of Tracy High School, is the son of Marlin and Becky Peterson of Tracy.

The greenhouse business is not new to the family. They started a greenhouse near Granite Falls five years ago, and have been doing retail for the past two years. The business is called Majsdac Hill Greenhouse.

Each family member specializes in a different aspect of the business. Perry and Brenda take care of the greenhouse and nursery, David handles the landscaping work, and Amanda runs a floral shop in Granite Falls.

Brenda said they have been splitting stock with Tracy Floral for a couple of years, and recently became aware that the greenhouse was for sale. She said it will be a nice expansion of their current operation.

Not too many changes are planned in the immediate future for Tracy Floral. Employees Sis Beierman and Polly Hauge will stay on, with Hauge increasing her schedule by one day. Brenda, Perry, David, and Amanda will rotate their schedules so that they each spend time at the Tracy store. Brenda said Perry’s parents have been helpful in the transition as well.

Some minor changes are already visible inside Tracy Floral. The counter has been moved and the retail space slightly rearranged. A small room that was used for retail display will be converted into office space. Otherwise, the plan is to keep the retail space the same for the time being.

“It’s been hectic trying to get through all the inventory,” Brenda said.

More distinct changes are planned to take place slowly over the next year. Brenda said some new products will be brought in on the giftware end of the business, while other products will be taken out. One brand she would like to add is Department 56. Stained glass, and iron and wood shelves are other products they plan to bring in.

Other changes planned next year include sprucing up the outside of the business. This year, bedding plants will be brought in from the Granite Falls location. However, by next year they hope to be growing plants at the Tracy location.

Adding landscaping services is also in the plan for next year. David said that for the time being, landscaping will be offered on a limited basis if a customer requests it.

Brenda said the reception from the community has been good so far. She said that once everything gets settled, they hope to have a day for people to come in and meet the new owners.

“It will be exciting meeting new people,” Brenda said. “It’s a new adventure.”

Thanks for memories, outgoing owners say

Eleven summers ago, Harold Remme, Ron Brand, and Terry Hermanson were the top administrators in the Tracy school district. The Tracy Economic Development Authority was letting contracts to build new townhouses on Third Street East, and Rudy Boschwitz was in town, campaigning to win the U.S. Senate seat he’d lost to Paul Wellstone. Almlie Furniture was still an anchor on Third St., and Tracy civic leaders were studying the possibility of spending $250,000 on the Prairie Pavilion and adding a water slide to the Sebastian Park swimming pool.

On Hwy. 14. Bernie and Netter Holm had just sold their family business to two 1982 Tracy grads, twins Tam Schons and Pam Cooreman.

“We can’t believe it was over 11 years ago when we took over Tracy Floral,” Schons said Tuesday. “It went by so fast.”

The sisters bought Tracy Floral in July of 1995. But now Tam and Pam are on the selling end, announcing the sale of Tracy Floral to Perry and Brenda Peterson and Amanda and David Willander of Granite Falls. In a joint statement, Cooreman and Schons expressed gratitude for their years in business.

“We have very fond memories of being in business in Tracy,” Pam and Tam expressed in a joint statement. “Many of our customers have turned into wonderful friends. We can’t thank our customers enough for their wonderful support and patronage over the past 11 years. We have had great employees, who have become like family, and that part will be sadly missed.”

Tam Schons said that she and Pam had decided this fall to put their business up for sale. Each’s youngest child (Cody Schons and Chantalle Cooreman) both started their junior year of high school this fall. Tam said that each felt that they would be ready to do something else after their children finished high school. They decided to start looking for a buyer.

Their desire to sell the business became more urgent, Tam said, when Pam sustained serious injuries in an Oct. 10 accident.

“When the accident happened, then selling the business became a little more serious,” Schons said.

The sisters feel that the Peterson family “will be an excellent addition” to the Tracy business scene.

“We support them, and wish them our sincere best wishes for a successful business. We will support them in any way that we can.”

Schons said that her sister’s health and therapy is “the top priority” for the immediate future. Down the road, both are considering “going back to school,” Schons said.

“Our sincere thanks to everyone who has been a part of our lives and our business for the past 11 years,” Schons concluded.


EDA nailing down final Aquapower details

Money would be borrowed from three funds

The Tracy Economic Development Authority meets Friday to finalize a plan to acquire and remodel a building for a prospective business.

EDA members have drafted a plan to purchase an 8,800 square-foot building on South Street, and remodel it for Aquapower Inc., an Eveleth company that specializes in cleaning ethanol plants. Cost of the project, which includes the acquisition and demolition of an adjacent building, is just over $156,000.

Aquapower would use the Tracy site for its operations in the region. Company representatives have told the EDA the business could eventually employ six to eight full-time employees, and 18-24 part-time workers. Wages would start at $11 an hour.

The EDA has offered a remodeled building on South Street rent-free for a year, as long as it employs at least one person at the Tracy site. Rent would be $2,000 a month the second and third years of the lease, but rent could be reduced by $200 for each full-time equivalent job based in Tracy. After three years, Aquapower would have the choice of either renting the building for $2,000 a month, or purchasing the property for approximately what the EDA has invested in the property.

To finance the project, EDA members have discussed borrowing money from several funds that they oversee. At a Friday, Jan. 12 meeting, consensus of the board was to borrow from the Third Street Apartments, O’Brien Court, and Housing Downpayment Assistance funds.

The housing fund, which has a balance of about $62,000, was established in the 1990s as a way to help people buy houses in Tracy. City of Tracy money matched a state grant to establish the fund. In recent years, the Downpayment Assistance Program has attracted little interest. Several board members indicated Friday that using the money for the Aquapower project would be a better use of the money.

In addition to the housing fund, EDA members are considering borrowing from the O’Brien Court and Third Street East Apartment funds for the balance of the needed money. Finance Director Dave Spencer told the EDA Friday that both accounts have more than what is needed for bonded debt and other immediate expenses.

EDA members indicted Friday that they would prefer taking some money from the O’Brien Court and Third St. East Apartment funds, rather than exhausting the EDA’s revolving loan fund that is used to help new businesses.

EDA members may decide Friday how much money they’d like to borrow from each fund. The Tracy City Council would likely be asked to authorize the inter-fund Aquapower borrowing at the council’s Jan. 22 meeting.



South St. building

A 55x160-foot metal building at 436 South St. is the planned site for the Tracy Aquapower operations. Kim Daniels and Keith Peterson of Daniels-Peterson Construction of Tracy, owners of the property, have offered to sell the building to the EDA for $95,000. The property includes a vacant lot west of the building. Daniels and Peterson have also offered to sell an adjacent block building for an additional $15,000. The block building, which fronts Fifth Street and the alley, would be razed by Daniels/Peterson Construction to provide an easier access to sewer and water hook-ups for the South St. building. The cleared property would also be used for parking Aquapower equipment and vehicles.

Both Daniels-Peterson buildings are now used for storage.

The cost to remodel the South St. building with 12-foot overhead doors, insulation, 200 amp, three-phase electrical service, and office and bathroom space has been estimated at $52,550. Daniels and Peterson have offered to donate $9,900 worth of labor,, reducing renovation costs to $42,650. The $110,000 cost to purchase the two properties, and the $42,650 brings the purchase and remodeling cost to $152,650.

Additionally, the City of Tracy would need to spend an estimated $4,200 to $7,500 expense for bringing water and sewer service to the building. The estimate is varies, depending on whether City of Tracy personnel or a private contractor does the work.

As part of their incentive package, EDA members offered a two-bedroom apartment in its Fifth St. complex rent-free for six months. Aquapower officials asked that the rent-free period be expanded to a year, and Friday, the consensus of EDA members was to agree to that request.

In reviewing the lease, EDA members agreed that the definition for a full-time equivalent job for Aquapower should be 32 hours a week. They also decided that Aquapower employees in Tracy counted for the rent credit need to live within a 40-mile radius of Tracy.

The proposed lease calls for the EDA to pay real estate taxes and insurance on the building in the first year of the lease, with Aquapower power paying taxes and insurance in the second and third years of the lease. Aquapower is to pay for all utilities for the duration of the lease.

Gervais says the county assessor has estimated that the remodeled building would have an assessed, estimated market value of $80,000 to $100,000.

Daniels and Peterson have indicated to EDA members that if the sale of their properties is concluded, they plan to build a new building in the Tracy industrial park. The two Daniels-Peterson buildings that would be sold to the EDA are primarily used for storage.


Hearing set Monday for $569,000 street project

A public hearing will be held Monday, Jan. 22, for the City of Tracy’s proposed 2007 street improvement project.

The estimated cost of the street and related improvements is $569,560. (The estimated cost was reported incorrectly in last week’s Headlight-Herald as $708,000).

The hearing is set for 6:45 p.m. in the Tracy City Council meeting room at City Hall.

The project calls for

• Reconstruction of Fourth Street East from State Street and a point between Summit and Circle Drive

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

• Seal-coating Fifth St. East between State and Union streets (the street 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 Worthington engineering firm of Short Elliott Hendrickson has presented a feasibility report on the project. Its $569,000 estimate includes 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, 470,272 for ground water interception, and $58,029 for utilities.

If past city assessment policies are continued, benefiting adjacent property owners will be assessed for 100% of curb and gutter, 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. Bids would then be sought from contractors. Bids could be considered and awarded in May, with construction beginning as early a June. Completion is targeted no later than October. An assessment hearing would likely be held in November.


Tracy could get two more new MURL houses

Western Community Action is considering Tracy for two more MURL housing projects.

That was the word that Community Development Director Robert Gervais had for Tracy Economic Development Authority members Friday. Gervais said that Jill Houseman, of Western Community Action, told him that the agency was pleased with the MURL house that had been constructed last year on East Morgan St., and that Tracy is being considered for two additional houses.

Western Community Action provides all financing and construction management for MURL houses. Completed houses are sold to income-eligible families.

The EDA would need to provide cleared lots for the new houses. The replacement of dilapidated housing is one of the objectives of the MURL program.

Gervais told EDA members that property, at the corner of South Center and Pine streets on the southeast edge of Tracy, might be a good site for one of the houses. A vacant house, last occupied by the late Jack Schaefer, has been condemned as a hazardous building because of a crumbling foundation.

School playground drive continues, $17,000 raised

About $17,000 has been raised so far for new playground equipment at Tracy Elementary School.

The Parent-Teacher Committee has done several fund-raisers for the new equipment, with the goal to raise $35,000. The Tracy American Legion recently donated $1,000 toward the project.

Kristin Haugo-Jones of the PTC said the fund-raising efforts will continue. A tailgate party is being planned sometime this month. Donation jars labeled “Pennies for Playground” have been distributed throughout Tracy. Other fund-raising ideas are in the works as well, she said, including a quilt auction.

She added that there are still select cookie dough, coffee, and candle items available from a fund-raiser done prior to Christmas. Flat donations are also welcomed.

Last week, students had the opportunity to view several component options for the new playground including slides, overhead components, climbers, and extreme play. Students voted on their favorite options in each category. Haugo-Jones said the voting was done to get a better idea for what students want in a playground.

Those who would like to make donations toward the new playground may do so through funds set up at Minnwest Bank South and Tracy Area High School.