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Senator Amy Klobuchar inspects a new solar array at the Jessen farm with Cliff Kaehler, chief executive officer for Novel Energy Systems.

Tracy, man, Senator keep
sunny side up on solar

By Seth Schmidt

 

Not many people can say that they’ve discussed their electricity bills directly with Senator Amy Klobuchar.

Tracy’s Alfred Jessen can.

Senator Klobuchar visited a 19.9-kilowatt solar array Friday afternoon that Jessen had installed this spring on his family’s home place, three miles south of Tyler.   Jessen, who moved from his Tyler farm to Tracy 13 years ago, produced an Xcel Energy statement showing how much the solar array is saving him.

The most recent electricity bill showed that he owed Xcel $111.04  The previous month’s statement showed a bill of $364.58.

The 19.9 kilowatt solar array is one of two that Jessen had installed this spring by Novel Energy Solutions of Rochester.  The other array is on a site with a 1,400 hog-finishing set up.  Both arrays were put on-line in late May and early June.  Jessen’s first monthly bill on the finishing barns, after the array went online, was $1.33.  The previous month’s bill, before the solar array was hooked up, was $261.50.

Each array has 64 panels and takes up about 120x12 feet of space.  The cost for each array was $55,000.  But with each array producing about $250 worth of net electricity savings each month, and with the arrays also qualifying for federal tax credits, Jessen figures that each array will pay for itself in about four years.

“I don’t think that is too bad,” he reflects.

Senator Klobuchar inspected Jessen’s solar arrays at the invitation of Cliff Kaehler, chief executive officer of Novel Energy Solutions.  The Senator and several aides stopped by the Jessen farm, where Alfred’s son, Phillip, and his wife, Sherri, live.  Klobuchar sandwiched the Tyler solar visit between engagements in Marshall and Pipestone that day.

The Senator expressed support for renewable solar energy, and said she favored extending current federal solar incentives.  However, expressing regrets that she was behind schedule, she declined an invitation to visit the other new Jessen solar array, and a smaller four megawatt array and a hydraulic wind turbine that Jessen has on a third site near Tyler.  Jessen said that that the array/wind turbine combination has produced as much as $420 worth of energy in a month.  But, because with the controls of the wind turbine, the electricity at that site has been reduced to only about $100.

The mechanically-minded Jessen vows to fix the problem.

• • •

Why is the retired Tracy farmer so interested in solar and wind energy?

“I’ve always been interested in things like that,” says Jessen, who put up his first wind turbine in 1985. He enjoys tracking the solar energy produced at each of his site, and he likes the environmental benefits.  Plus, the financial benefits, are too attractive to ignore, Jessen contends.

Coincidentally, Jessen ran into Senator Klobuchar again on Saturday in Worthington, where the town was celebrating King Turkey Day.  The Senator didn’t have time to chat.

“She said she had to go kiss a turkey.” 


Big city levy hike possible

By Seth Schmidt

 

As it stands now, the City of Tracy’s 2017 budget would require a 17.33% increase in the city’s overall property tax levy for next year.

A Sept. 12 memo from City Administrator Mike Votca to council members, projects general fund expenditures of $2,085,520 for next year, and non-property tax revenues of $1,211,129.  The resulting gap between revenues and expenses would require a general fund property tax levy of $874,391, or a 19.97% increase.

City government also has a debt-service levy, which makes payments on the city’s bonded debt.  Votca calculates that this levy will need to be $348,205 in 2017, an 11.7% increase ($36,461) from 2016.

The combined general fund levy increase of 19.97%, and the 11.7% increase in the property tax levy would make for an overall increase of 17.33% in the city’s overall property-tax levy for 2017, according to Votca’s memo.  (The city’s  $10,000 levy for the Permanent Improvement Fund, is expected to remain the same).

• • •

Votca cites several factors for the need to increase the levy.

An extra $25,000 is being budgeted to boost the city’s balance in the general fund.  Votca says that the general fund balance is now 22% of expenditures, rather than the 35 to 50% that is recommended by the state auditor’s office.

Votca said that the city has also been reducing the amount of money that’s been transferred from utility funds to provide revenue for the general fund.

“I am slowly trying to end this trend in order to build these (utility) funds up,” Votca writes in his memo.

The administrator also cited transfers from the general fund to operating and capital funds.  As a part of this year’s budget process, Votca said that a “newly created Capital Improvement Program” showed how transfer to capital funds  “should be able to sustain our purchases over the next 10 years.”

• • •

The council and Votca are scheduled to meet Friday, Sept. 23, 1 p.m., for a “work session” to discuss next year’s budget and property-tax levy.

The council is expected to adopt a preliminary budget and levy  at their regular meeting Monday, Sept. 26, 6:30 p.m.  The preliminary budget and levy will be used to calculate estimated taxes on “truth in taxation” statements that will be mailed by the Lyon County treasurer’s office this fall.

The city final levy doesn’t need to be finalized until the end of the year.  The council can reduce the preliminary levy, but not increase it.

 



Tracy Area High School senior homecoming candidates include: (front, from left) Reed Lange, Spencer Smith, Peter Vue, and Noah Tiegs. Back; Britta Byrne, Autumn Lichty, Kendra Ludeman, Emily Dorso, and Anna Soupir. Not pictured: Kelsey Nordsiden, Hunter Anderson, and Parker Anderson.

Homecoming candidates announced

Senior homecoming king and queen candidates have been announced at Tracy Area High School.

Queen candidates are Britta Byrne, Emily Dorso, Autumn Lichty, Kendra Ludeman,  Kelsey Nordsiden, and Anna Soupir.

King candidates are Reed Lange, Hunter Anderson, Parker Anderson, Spencer Smith, Peter Vue, and Noah Tiegs.

Homecoming coronation will be held Monday, Sept. 26, at 8 p.m., in the high school gym, followed by a bonfire.

Homecoming week is Monday through Friday, Sept. 26-30.  Monday will be PJ Day. Nineties Day follows on Tuesday, followed by Holiday on Wednesday, Hawaiian Day on Thursday, and Spirit Day on Friday.

Special activities will include the volleyball match against Dawson-Boyd Tuesday, a Wednesday afternoon staff vs. seniors volleyball game, Friday afternoon activities, and the Friday night homecoming football game against Dawson-Boyd.