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News from the week of March 20, 2002

Monroe Township residents to discuss town hall Tuesday

The fate of the Monroe Town Hall could be decided next week.

Township residents are scheduled to meet Tuesday, March 26, 8 p.m., in a continuance of their March 12 annual meeting. Up for discussion, is whether the township should proceed with plans to build a new town hall. If the construction plans move forward, the existing town hall will likely be moved to the Wheels Across the Prairie Museum in Tracy.

Sparked in part by the town hall issue, an unusually large number of people turned out for last week's Monroe Township annual meeting.

The Monroe Town Hall has become an issue because of state plans to improve Hwy. 14 between Tracy and Garvin this year.

For safety reasons, the Minnesota Department of Transportation wants the town hall moved further back from Hwy. 14. The state has offered, and the township board accepted, a $13,100 compensation offer to move the town hall back from the highway, and if necessary, build a new hall. The highway department wants the structure removed to improve visibility at the Hwy. 14 and Township Road T-221 and reduce snow blockage on the highway.

Last month, the town board approved a $14,500 contract to build a new town hall. However, for the construction to proceed, township residents need to approve spending money for the project.

If township residents reject construction of the new town hall, the township's next option would be to continue using the existing town hall by moving the structure further back on the one-acre township site. The estimated cost to move the existing town hall further from highway right-of-way, onto a new concrete foundation and make it handicapped accessible, is $10,000.

July 6 is the township's deadline for removing the town hall from Hwy. 14 right-of-way.

The Monroe Township Board has offered to donate the old town hall to the Wheels Across the Prairie Museum, if the museum pays for the move. The museum's board met last fall and agreed to accept the building if it became available. The museum would use the town hall as a concert hall exhibit, featuring the museum's collection of musical instruments.

Babes in Toyland

Cast members for the upcoming Tracy Children's Community Choir musical Babes in Toyland tried on costumes for the first time Monday. The children's reactions ranged from sheer delight to absolute surprise. The show opens April 6.

Vickerman loses Tracy in redistricting

The new redistricting plan leaves Sen. Jim Vickerman (DFL-Tracy) in District 22, but the lines of the district have now been drawn to exclude his hometown of Tracy. The Senator, who has served in the Senate since 1986, lives in Murray County south of Tracy.

The re-drawn District 22 includes Murray, Pipestone, Cottonwood, Rock, Nobles, and Jackson counties.

Redistricting lines for Minnesota, based on the 2000 Census, were released Tuesday. A panel of judges decided upon the new boundaries after a plan could not be reached by the Minnesota Legislature.

In District 21, now represented by Sen. Arlene Lesewski (R-Marshall), the lines have been re-drawn to include Sen. Dennis R. Fredrickson, also a Republican, who was previously in District 23.

A total of 18 incumbents were paired in the re-drawing of Senate district lines. There were two instances in which a Democrat was paired with another Democrat, three instances in which a Republican was paired with another Republican, and four instances in which a Democrat was paired with a Republican.

The redistricting process also affected other area representatives. Rep. Richard Mulder (R-Ivanhoe), who was formerly in District 21B, will now be part of District 20A, along with Doug Peterson (DFL-Madison), who was formerly in District 13B.

Rep. Marty Seifert (R-Marshall) was not paired with any incumbent in District 21A, just as Rep. Ted Winter (DFL-Fulda) is not paired with another incumbent in District 22A.

A total of 34 incumbents were paired in the House of Representatives. There were five situations in which a Democrat was paired with a Democrat, five instances in which a Republican was paired with a Republican, and seven instances in which a Democrat was paired with a Republican.

In Congressional redistricting, Tracy will be part of District 7, which extends from the southern borders of Lincoln, Lyon, and Redwood counties north to the Minnesota border. Murray County will be part of District 1, which extends from Pipestone and Rock counties in the west to the eastern border of the state.  

City condemns abandoned duplex

The owner of a fire-damaged duplex at 472 Third Street has been given 90 days to tear down the house.

Tracy City Council members voted to condemn the house, after receiving an inspection report from Building Inspector Gary Garrels and Fire Marshal John Judkins.

The house has been unoccupied since a July, 1999 fire. Garrels and Judkins told council members that the house contained large quantities of debris and appeared to have been abandoned. Many parts of the house, their report said, need repair or replacement. The electrical, heating, and plumbing systems, chimney, bearing walls, windows, siding and interior stairway were all listed in poor to questionable condition.

“The cost of repairing this structure would far exceed the property value. We recommend this structure be condemned and removed,” the inspectors concluded.

The report said that the house is a hazard to public health because of the junk inside the house, its cracked and crumbling asbestos siding and the ease with which someone could break into the house.

Garrels suggested that if the owner wants to repair the house, he should first obtain a report from a structural engineer stating how it could be fixed. However, council members felt there was no point in having an engineer get involved, if the house wasn't worth repairing. With that in mind, the council members ordered that the owner tear down the house within 90 days.

According to city records, the owner of the house is listed as John Herr of Walnut Grove. Ger Xiong, who lives in the Twin Cities, was the owner at the time of the fire.

The inspection was conducted Feb. 26 after the city obtained a search warrant.

Knowledge Bowl teams advance

Triple Top-Ten performance is school's best ever

Tracy Area High School Knowledge Bowl teams logged the best overall performance in the history of the program Monday.

Three Tracy teams qualified for regional competition with Top Ten rankings in the sub-region tourney Monday. Tracy has never before qualified more than one team for regional Knowledge Bowl competition.

A Tracy team made up of Mark Freeburg, Eric Nelson, Ryan Stobb, and Tony Stephens finished third in a field of 24 teams. The foursome netted 91 points, behind Marshall's 105 points, and Windom's 95.

The top Tracy team received a third-place trophy and individual medallions, first-time honors for a Tracy Knowledge Bowl team. The squad was eight points ahead of the fourth-place team, Marshall No. 2.

A second Tracy team—comprised of Reuben Flesner, Darin Hansen, Hank Schewe, and Ryan Peterson—finished fifth with 82 points. Tina Gervais, Randy Bornitz, Anders Davidson, and Anthony Vroman rounded out Tracy's strong showing with 63 points and ninth-place. By finishing in the Top Ten, both teams also qualified for regional competition.

The Knowledge Bowl are now preparing for the Monday, March 25, regional competition, where teams vie for a berth in the state Knowledge Bowl.

“They have an outside chance, if they are asked the right questions,” comments Eileen Schimming, Tracy Knowledge Bowl advisor.

Auditor notes positive trend for Tracy finances

Equity, fund balances rise

The City of Tracy's annual audit had mostly good news for city taxpayers.

The financial report, compiled by Nicole Larson of Kinner & Company, showed an increase in city assets and equity for the fiscal year that ended Dec. 31, 2001. Larson told council members last week that she found city finances to be in good order.

“We are issuing an unqualified audit, which is the kind that you want. We found that the City of Tracy is in compliance with all laws.”

The balance sheet showed assets and other debits increasing from $20,673,210 at the end of 2000 to $24,232,411 on Dec. 31, 2001. Total fund equity rose from $12,599,093 to $14,499,608. Total fund balance rose from $2,821,543 to $3,804,319. Cash and accounts receivable assets rose from $4,698,509 to $5,825,301.

Larson added one caveat to the increased balances. Some of the increased balance is due to the city's $1.5 million aquatic center bond that was sold last year. The city took in the money as 2001 revenue, but as of Dec. 31, had not paid out all expenses for the pool that is now under construction.