banner.gif (15051 bytes)

News from the week of February 14, 2007


School survey to begin soon

By Valerie Scherbart Quist

Surveys on a proposed arts and athletics facility are expected to be completed over the next two weeks in the Tracy School District.

Superintendent Dave Marlette said there will be 300 surveys taken. Callers will identify themselves by saying they are doing a survey for Tracy Public Schools.

The purpose of the survey is to gauge the public interest in constructing an arts and athletics facility addition onto Tracy Area High School, and the willingness of the taxpayers to contribute toward such a project.

A facilities steering committee reviewed potential questions last month. Marlette said the questions were tweaked only slightly regarding the description of the proposed facility. A couple of questions were added concerning how the project costs would affect taxpayers in the district who own agricultural land.

Marlette said the survey will also help the district get a feel for how the public views the school.

“It’s not just about the facility,” he said. “It’s about public perception of the school district.”

The survey should be completed within the next two weeks, and a report given to the school board at its March meeting on the results.

“After the survey is back the board will have to decide whether to proceed,” Marlette said.

If the public is receptive to the idea and the board does decide to proceed, the next phase would be to hire an architect to do preliminary drawings. Marlette estimates that two to three community meetings would then be held to allow the public to see and comment on the proposed designs. A preliminary budget would also be drawn up.

The arts and athletics facility question would then be taken to the voters this fall. If voters approve construction of the facility, the project would be put out to bids and hard costs nailed down. Construction could then begin and would take about a year, Marlette said.

Remodeling progresses on downtown building

Labor Day target set for opening new businesses


By Valerie Scherbart Quist

The Coast-to-Coast building in Downtown Tracy is getting new life.

Jay and Sheila Fultz purchased the building last April. Not much was done on the building at that time because the Fultzes did not move to Tracy until September, Jay Fultz said. Since then, work has mostly involved cleaning out the building.

“We almost have the inside totally cleaned out,” the 1992 Tracy Area High School grad said. The building has been unoccupied since the 1990s. Joe Smarzik purchased the building when Coast-to-Coast closed, and used the building as storage. Fultz said the building was not maintained during that time and now needs a new roof. Otherwise, the building is solid, he said.

Within the next month, plans are to tear off a 20-foot addition to the back of the building. In the next 90 days, construction will begin on the roof and new windows and a new entrance will be put in. A bladder roof will be installed as well as six skylights.

“We’ll try to make it as energy efficient as possible,” Fultz said.

The existing windows will be taken out and new windows extended up about a foot where they once were. A board section between the existing windows and the brick indicate where the new windows will be.

The building will also be painted. Fultz said he would have liked to go back to the natural brick; however, that would require sand-blasting off the existing paint and would damage the brick.

The building’s fluorescent light fixtures are being removed, and Fultz said they are free to anyone who would like them.

Fultz plans to use the back portion of the building for his massage business. He and two other massage therapists will work at the site.

Fultz said he has been working with Community Development Director Bob Gervais on other leads on businesses and organizations that might be interested in office or retail space.

“Bob Gervais has been a tremendous help,” Fultz said.

He added that the process has gone more slowly than he anticipated, with various issues popping up here and there. He hopes that the building will be solid enough by May or June of this year to begin working on the inside. He would like to have his massage business in place as well as other tenants by Labor Day.

Jay is the son of Dennis and Linda Fultz.


CHS Marshall posts $2 million margin


By Seth Schmidt

CHS Inc., Marshall Region, posted a strong bottom line during its 2006 fiscal year.

A financial report at CHS’s annual patron meeting in Tracy Friday showed a net savings of just over $2.2 million for the year that ended August 31. Of that margin, nearly $2 million was returned to patrons ($1,275,596 stock, and $686,859 cash).

“This was a really good year for us,” said Todd Reif, CHS Marshall Regional manager, as he reviewed the year with patrons.

The CHS Marshall Region had total revenues of $11,573,906 and total expenses of $9,608,026. Nationally, CHS had what was termed a “record setting year,” with margins of $490 million.

Reif said that he and other CHS employees remain committed to what he called the co-op’s “brand promise” to deliver a high-level of customer service.

“Good experiences keep people coming back,” Reif said, and promotes a sense of loyalty and ownership among patrons.

Capital improvements during the past year were noted. They include a new ag center and seed warehouse in Ruthton, a new grain leg and dumping facilities in Tracy, and new seed-blending equipment in Marshall.

Harlan Peterson, co-op board chairman, thanked CHS employees for “pursuing” CHS’s “branding promise” which he said relies on “trust and integrity.” Investments made by the co-op during the past year, he indicated, were working out well.

CHS will continue to position itself for on-going changes in agriculture, Peterson added.

“There is a major shift in the grain business and it has ethanol written all over it,” the chairman said. In the future, less grain will be moved to elevators as more corn is used for ethanol production.

“There will be challenges for elevators, but with challenge also comes opportunity,” Peterson said.

• • •

Three CHS Marshall Region board members were reelected to the board Friday: Dick Verlinde, Tom Versaevel, and Merle Zeinstra. Other board members are Peterson, Craig Deutz, Joel Vandeputte, Dale Johnson, Steve Hansen, and Steve Knott.

CHS Marshall Region has grain facilities in Tracy, Ruthton, Marshall, Tyler, Arco, and Lake Benton; feed facilities in Tracy and Tyler; seed facilities in Marshall, Tracy and Ruthton; fertilizer facilities in Tracy, Marshall, and Ruthton, and propane facilities in Pipestone, Tracy, Tyler, Balaton, and Marshall.

The CHS Marshall Region patron meeting was held at Shetek Bend Banquet Bar & Grill in Tracy. About 340 people attended.


Estimates sought for new Hwy. 14 lights

A plan to replace half-century-old lighting fixtures in Downtown Tracy may be expanded to include the Hwy. 14 corridor.

Council members indicated Monday that they may want to upgrade Hwy. 14 lighting at the same time a proposed $230,000 downtown lighting and sidewalk improvement is done. Council members asked city staff to gather information for replacing fixtures along Hwy. 14.

“Is it the consensus of the council that we have to do something to improve the downtown, and if we can also do Hwy. 14, that’s even better?” summed up councilman Russ Stobb.

Other council members nodded.

“Hwy. 14 is a pretty visible part of our town,” said Mayor Steve Ferrazzano.

Sandy Rettmer said that Hwy. 14 lighting needed more investigation.

‘I think we need to look into this a little deeper. I think that Hwy. 14 gets ignored.”

The Hwy. 14 lighting discussion surfaced at a public hearing to consider the installation of 40 to 43 new lights in a six-block area of downtown. The new light poles would be 14 to 18-feet tall, with an acorn-shaped globe on top. Estimated cost for the new downtown lights is $159,000, with an additional $70,000 estimated for the replacement of bad sidewalk and curbing.

The new fixtures and lights would replace streetlights and poles that date from the 1950s and are in poor condition. It has been proposed that financing for the improvements be included in a large bond issue that the city is planning this year. Past city policy calls for 25% of costs be assessed to adjacent property owners. The remaining bond cost would be repaid over time by all city taxpayers.

Strong support was voiced for new downtown lights.

George Hebig called the existing lights inefficient, unreliable and a safety hazard. He estimated that the new lights would save 25% in energy costs. Decorative lights plugged into the new system, Hebig noted, would be much easier to turn on and off, providing additional savings.

Cookie Cooreman, Tracy Chamber of Commerce president, said that new lights would contribute to an improved “ambiance” for downtown.

Dean Salmon said that he had long advocated upgrading downtown lights. But he urged that Hwy. 14 also be considered. Salmon also said that Xcel Energy should be asked for some financial incentives similar to what is commonly offered to electric customers who upgrade to more energy-efficient fixtures and lights.

The Tracy Chamber of Commerce’s board of directors has recommended that downtown lights be done first, with Hwy. 14 lights being done in a second phase.

City Administrator Audrey Koopman said that the Minnesota Department of Transportation does require the light poles along Hwy. 14 be at least 30 feet high and meet “breakaway” standards. But she said she didn’t have any cost estimates for Hwy. 14 fixtures.

In agreeing to seek more information about Hwy. 14, the council continued the public hearing on the proposed downtown improvements until March 12.


Nyquists win county conservation award


An Amiret Township couple has been honored as Lyon County’s Outstanding Conservationists for 2006.

Otto and Elaine Nyquist were honored by the Minnesota Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts and The Farmer magazine.

Steve Prairie, chairman of the Lyon Soil and Water Conservation District board, explained why the Nyquists were selected.

“Otto and Elaine were recognized for a variety of reasons. We are very proud of what they have done for conservation in our county. Otto and Elaine provide a wonderful example for our other landowners.”

The Nyquists live 2 1/2 miles east of Amiret. They raise corn, soybeans, small grain and alfalfa, as well as 200 head of stock cows.

Conservation practices on their farm include terraces, water and sediment control basins, grassed waterways, field windbreaks, a farmstead windbreak, livestock water pond. They are one of only a handful of county farmers who practice ridge tillage.

Otto Nyquist has been a member of the Lyon County SWCD for 30 of the past 37 years. A technician with the SWCD in the 1950s, Otto Nyquist was a recipient of the Minneapolis Tribune’s Soil Savers Award in 1960.

The Conservationist of the Year award was presented at the state association’s annual convention in Bloomington.


Parents alerted about student 'cutting' reports


By Valerie Scherbart Quist

If a parent finds out a child has a problem with cutting, he or she might assume that the teenager has skipped class. But a much more serious trend called “cutting” is gaining attention locally and nationally.

Parents of Tracy Area High School students were invited to an informational meeting Monday about the self-injurious behavior called cutting, in which students cut or scratch themselves. Parents received a letter about the problem and the meeting last week, the same day as an article on the issue ran in the Minneapolis-based Star Tribune newspaper.

School psychologist Mindy Butman opened the meeting by saying that the school has been made aware that students are cutting and that some are even having “cutting parties.”

“It’s not just here at the school,” Butman said, referring to the Star Tribune article.

She said school officials felt an informational meeting on the issue was warranted.

“We’re not experts in cutting but we are experts at caring about kids,” Butman said.

School nurse Mary Carter said there are several health concerns about cutting. She said there have been rumors about kids cutting as a group, in which case sterilization becomes an issue. Usually cutters cut in private, she added.

“We don’t know why they are doing it in groups, but it does sound credible,” she said.

If students are sharing cutting implements without proper sterilization, blood-borne pathogens become an issue. Of particular concern, Carter said, is the potential spread of Hepatitis B or HIV, because those diseases often do not show up right away. As a result, kids might think someone is safe to share a cutting implement with.

“It’s just not safe to share those kinds of things,” Carter said.

There is also a risk of infection, Carter added.

Deann Reese with Western Mental Health Center spoke to the group about cutting and other self-injurious behaviors. Reese is in the Tracy School District once a week, and also spends time in the Slayton, Marshall, and Redwood Falls school districts.

Reese said self-injurious behaviors are seen in cases of anorexia and bulimia, as well as depression.

“Self-injury is used as an act of coping,” Reese said. “It’s an inappropriate act of coping, but it is an act of coping.”

Often, she said, people who cut have been the victims of physical or sexual abuse.

There are three types of self-injurious behavior. The first is self-mutilation, which results in permanent disfigurement. The second type involves behaviors such as head-banding, pinching, and eyeball pressing. The third is superficial self-mutilation, which includes cutting and hair-pulling.

Reese said the first question parents often ask is why their child is engaging in this type of behavior. She said it is often difficult even for the person doing it to describe. One of the most common explanations is that it provides relief from feelings of emotional pain such as anger or guilt. Others feel numb and use cutting as a way to make themselves feel something.

“It’s abstract to understand but it works for them,” Reese said. Because it does work as a coping mechanism for them, it is important to help self-injurers to direct their coping mechanisms in other ways.

Reese said that in her work she sees two groups forming when it comes to cutting. The first group includes those who cut as a way of coping.

“For true cutters it is very private,” Reese said. She said cutters will try to hide the marks they leave with long sleeves, by cutting on the insides of their thighs, or cutting on their ankles and wearing socks.

The second group is what she calls copycat cutters, which includes kids who are experimenting. She said this behavior has increased in the past few years. Reese said there is less concern about students who are just experimenting. However, she said, they still need to know the dangers and consequences of their actions. There is also the concern that once they experiment they will become addicted to the euphoria that results from cutting.

“I want them to know the facts of what this disorder can lead to,” Reese said. This includes hospitalization, scarring, and the potential for disease. Often, she said, the mere mention of having to be hospitalized or go through treatment for the disorder is enough to deter them from cutting again. Many, she said, are just seeking attention.

Butman said many of those who are copycats are experimenting with cutting because more popular students are doing so.

Reese and Butman said at this time all of the students they work with who cut are girls. However, Reese said, she has worked with adult males who cut. She also noted that girls are more likely to seek help for a problem than boys are.

For those who cut as a coping mechanism, Reese said, depression is often the underlying cause. Things parents can watch for include changes in sleeping pattern, feelings of sadness, guilt, or shame, extreme grumpiness and mood swings, and suffering grades. Anorexia and bulimia can also be underlying causes.

“I think the best thing for you to do as parents is to ask a lot of questions,” Reese said. “They need to know that you’re taking note and you care about them.”

Butman said that often the first instinct for parents is to be shocked and angry to learn that their child is cutting. However, she said, it will not help the child to have a negative approach when he or she is already having a difficult time coping with stress.

Reese agreed. “It’s not something that you punish,” she said.

Reese said it takes therapy to help someone stop cutting. She takes a cognitive behavioral approach to help the person change her way of thinking. Different techniques such as deep breathing can be used to help the person get into a relaxed state. She said she is up-front with cutters that the feeling of release they get with other, more appropriate coping mechanisms will not be the same. However, it is very important that they do find other ways to cope.

Reese said the best approach for parents is to open the door of discussion with their children about the subject of cutting and to keep it open. She said she believes the Tracy School District has taken the right approach by trying to educate parents about the issue.

“I think Tracy Schools are being very proactive in this,” Reese said, adding that Tracy is the first school she’s been asked to speak at about cutting.

“I’m not overly concerned with the situation at Tracy,” Butman concluded. “We just wanted to be proactive.”

Superintendent Dave Marlette said the main goal of the meeting was to educate parents.

“This isn’t about discipline,” he said. “This is about getting help for students who are doing this. We are here and we have resources for kids who need help.”

• • •

If you suspect your child is cutting, whether as a coping mechanism or as a copycat behavior, there are several resources available.

At Tracy Area High School, parents may contact school psychologist Mindy Butman or counselor Chris Kamrud at (507) 629-5500.

Western Mental Health Center has several people available to help, including Reese. The number for Western Mental Health Center is (507) 532-3236.

For further resources, parents may contact the administration at Tracy Area Public Schools by calling (507) 629-5500.