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There was little emergency responders could do Friday morning, after finding James Arnt’s crashed crop-dusting aircraft in a soybean field. (Photo courtesy Pipestone County Star).

Sprayer pilot remembered
James Arnt was '66 Tracy High School grad

By Seth Schmidt


Doris Hemish remembers standing on the edge of a farm grove with her husband Gordon, and watching an airplane swoop low to spray one of their fields.

“The airplane went back and forth over the field just exactly right, it was amazing.”

When the entire plot had been sprayed, the airplane pulled up, and when it reached flying altitude, the pilot tipped its wings.

“It was then that you knew that Jim Arnt was the pilot of the plane,” Mrs. Hemish reflects.  “He was the only pilot that did that.”

Arnt, a 1966 Tracy High School graduate, is being remembered by many this week.  The son of Henrietta Arnt and the late James Arnt of Tracy, died in an aerial crop-spraying accident west of Ruthton Friday morning.  Authorities said that Arnt’s crop-dusting plane struck a guy line of a radio tower in Fountain Prairie Township, before crashing into a soybean field. The 68-year-old Arnt died in the impact.

Funeral services for Arnt were held in Worthington Tuesday.

The owner of Arnt Aerial Spraying of Worthington learned to fly at the Tracy Airport in 1970, after his discharge from the U.S. Navy.

Homer Dobson, retired Tracy minister and longtime local aviation enthusiast, remembers Arnt from the days when he first took flying lessons, and also during his crop spraying career.

“Jim was a very, very, well-respected pilot,” said Dobson.   Arnt, he said, was known for being conscientious about doing his work well, careful as a flyer, and “meticulous” in the care and maintenance of his airplane.

Although his business was based in Worthington, Dobson said it wasn’t unusual for him to also fly out of Tracy.

“He would fly where ever he was needed.”  Dobson said he saw Arnt at the Tracy Airport only two months ago. 

In addition to being a good pilot, Arnt was highly respected at his church, St. Matthew Lutheran in Worthington, Dobson said.

“He was a very faithful worker.”

He and his wife, Pat raised six children.

See a complete obituary inside.

The Masonic Lodge building has been a landmark in downtown Tracy since 1926. But the vacant building has deteriorated badly in recent years and is thought to be beyond repair. The view looks west on Morgan, from the Third St. intersection.

Demoliton money sought for Masonic Building

By Seth Schmidt


A downtown Tracy landmark has been moved one step closer to demolition.

The Tracy City Council Monday night directed EDA coordinator Tara Onken to continue with a state loan application to raze the former Tracy Masonic Temple building.

“It has to come down, no ifs, ands, or buts about it,” said Mayor Steve Ferrazzano, of the Masonic building.

The council’s act follows a unanimous August 17 recommendation from the Tracy EDA, that the state demolition  financing be sought.

Tara Onken, EDA coordinator, told the council that the low-interest loan from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, would have to be repaid, unless the city could demonstrate that it had a redevelopment plan for the cleared lot.

Council members indicated that they would allocate money in their 2017 budget for the loan’s repayment.

“We will have to put $5,000 to  $13,000 aside every year,” said City Administrator Mike Votca, depending on what the demolition costs actually are.

Onken said that Public Works Director Shane Daniels estimates the demolition expense at around $100,000.

Onken and the EDA have recommended that the plans and specifications be drawn up for the demolition, in hopes of attracting more favorable bids for taking down the building and clearing the site.  The city’s consulting engineering firm, the I&S Group, presented the council with three different proposals related to the demolition:

• $1,600 for “funding assistance” to “review the requirements and timelines” for the state demolition program, “prepare a preliminary option of estimated cost for the proposed demolition” and prepare a “narrative of the scope of work.”

• $4,000 for drafting demolition plans and preparing demolition specifications for bidding out the project.

• Bid administration, on an hourly basis, estimated at $2,000.

City leaders didn’t take action on the I&S proposals.  Ferrazzano noted that the city didn’t draft demolition specifications several years ago, when the Living Farms building was razed.  But he added that the Masonic structure is a much larger building, in the heart of the downtown.

For more on this article, seet his week's Headlight-Herald.

Votca is finalist for job in Belle Plaine

Mike Votca

Tracy City Administrator Mike Votca is one of two finalists for the city administrator’s position in Belle Plaine.

“I’ve been told that the city council in Belle Plaine will be making an announcement about their decision on the night of Sept. 6,” Votca said Friday.

Votca has been the city administrator in Tracy since July of 2013.  He said that he has been interviewed three times in Belle Plaine.  The reason he’s interested in the Belle Plaine position, Votca said, is that it represents an excellent professional opportunity, in a growing community that is close to his hometown of Mankato.  He stressed that he is not dissatisfied with his job in Tracy.

“I really like it here in Tracy, and I like working with the city staff.  We’ve got a really good group of people here,” Votca said.  “But when I saw they had an opening in Belle Plaine, I thought, ‘wow, that’s the kind of opportunity that you don’t see everyday.”

Belle Plaine is a rapidly growing Scott County community of 6,700 that straddles Hwy. 169,  between Mankato and the southwestern suburbs of the Twin Cities.  Belle Plaine Public Schools have 1,500 students K-12, roughly double the enrollment of Tracy Public Schools.

After he decided to apply, Votca said he was pleased to be selected for an interview, and that he is honored to be one of  Belle Plaine’s two finalists.

“We’ll see what happens,” he said.

• • •

Votca, 39, succeeded Roger Gorius, who left Tracy after two years, to accept a city administrator position in Wisconsin.  The City of Tracy is his first municipal administrator job.  Previously, Votca had done a city government internship in Mankato, and served in the U.S. Army for 13 years.