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News from the week of April 24, 2002

School test scores surge

By Valerie Scherbart Quist

Schools from around the state learned the results of the Basic Skills math and reading tests last week.

Minnesota public school students are required to pass these two tests and a writing test first given in tenth grade in order to graduate. In Tracy, 88 percent passed the Basic Skills math test. That's seven percent higher than 2001, and 17 percent higher than 2000.

Eighty percent passed the reading portion of the test. Although that's two percent below 2001 and three percent below 2000, Tracy students are right in line with the state passing percentage. The average score for Tracy students was 659 in math and 639 in reading. Principal John Rokke said the test results were not unexpected.

“We hoped that reading would be higher,” he said. He noted that a reading program had to be cut in the high school, and that more of the efforts on improving reading are focused in the elementary school. Rokke was pleased to see that Tracy achieved the state passing rate in reading. He was very pleased with the school's performance in math. Tracy was 14 points ahead of the state passing rate on that portion of the test.

Rokke said students who did not pass have the chance to re-take the test this summer.

“We will continue to work with the kids who didn't pass,” said Rokke. He added that since the tests have been implemented, all students who have graduated from Tracy Area High School have passed the Basic Skills Tests.

Street bids come in low

$391,941 contract okayed for 54-block Tracy street project

Plans for an extensive street improvement project in Tracy this summer are moving forward, at a lower than expected cost.

Tracy City Council members awarded a $391,941 contract to Central Specialties, Inc. of Alexandria to improve 54 blocks of streets, as well as pave a parking lot at the new Tracy Family Aquatic Center.

The work is expected to begin in mid-May, with the swimming pool parking lot scheduled for completion by June 1.

The Central construction bid was substantially less than the engineering estimate of $597,184.

Two other bids were also received: McLaughlin & Schultz, Inc of Marshall, $436,776 and Duininck Brothers, Inc. of Prinsburg, $490,764.

Engineering, legal, administrative and bonding costs will add about 30% to expenses, pushing the total project costs to about $509,500.

Originally, 55 blocks of street improvements were proposed last December. One block was deleted from the project, and the paved swimming pool parking lot was added. The pool portion of the improvements is $67,319.

The pool portion of the improvements will be funded by a previously approved swimming pool bond.

A second bond will be sold to pay for the other improvements, Benefiting property owners will be assessed to help pay back the bond.

Swift Lake bikeway is promised extra money

Hopes build for 2003 construction

Extra money promised from Uncle Sam has given a big boost to a proposed bike path through Swift Lake Park in Tracy.

Late last year, Tracy City Council members gave their blessings to the project and chose a route for the bike path. But plans remained in doubt because of higher than expected construction estimates.

Monday night, City Administrator Audrey Koopman told council members that additional federal money has been allocated to bridge a $19,000 funding gap.

Koopman said that Anita Benson, Lyon County Public Works director, informed her recently that the extra money will be available for 2003 construction.

The proposed Swift Lake Park bike/pedestrian path follows the Airport Road from Hwy. 14, north to the park's entrance. Paved shoulders would be constructed on both sides of the Airport Road. (Lyon County Highway 11).

Benson requested that additional federal transportation dollars be allocated for the project because of the higher estimated costs. Had Benson's request to an Area Transportation Task Force been rejected, the city would have had to cover the shortfall with city funds or cutback or cancel the project.

Council members welcomed Koopman's announcement. Jan Otto-Arvizu expressed hope that the Swift Lake trail will increase the chances of Tracy being connected with the proposed Casey Jones trail, which would link Lake Shetek and Walnut Grove.

Limitations outlined for EDA call center involvement

Council takes no action on $125,000 request

The Tracy Economic Development Authority is dialing a wrong number in its efforts to develop a call center in Downtown Tracy, in the opinion of Assistant City Attorney Jim Kerr.

In a memo sent to EDA and city council members last week, and in a presentation to the council Monday night, Kerr said that the EDA does not have the statutory authority to own or operate a call center or any other business normally operated by private individuals.

“We are getting ahead of ourselves,” Kerr told council members. He added that he had not, at any time, been consulted by EDA members regarding what that body can or can not do in developing a call center or other businesses in the former Korner Krafts building. All he knew about the proposed call center, he said, was what he had read in newspaper articles.

If the EDA wants to invest money in the Korner Krafts building, the city and EDA must first create an Economic Development District, Kerr advised. A substantial amount of background information, he added, is needed before such a district could be created.

“First, you have to have the data.” An Economic Development District can not be created for just one building, he said.

Once the district was created, there would still be limitations on how much money the EDA could invest in a building, Kerr advised.

“You have to have an Economic Development District before you can start spending any money (on the building) and you will never, never be able to run this as a business.”

Kerr was asked how a call center differed from the townhouses and O'Brien Court, which the EDA owns.

Kerr responded that Chapter 469 does give EDA's housing development authority.

Tele-Radio is closing

Business was established in `73

In the 1970s, the Tracy Tele-Radio shop averaged a half-dozen television repairs every day.

Today, the Tracy business may get just a single TV repair job during an entire week.

When Charlie's Angels and All in the Family ruled the network airways, Tele-Radio sold about 100 new televisions annually. In recent years, that figure has decline to ten sets a year.

Times have changed, say Tele-Radio owners John and Susie Clancy. How much? After 29 years of business in Tracy, the Clancys are closing their business effective May 1. After 29 years of business in Tracy, they plan to move to Arizona this summer.

“We're going backward instead of forward,” said Susie.

The Clancys say they have found it increasingly difficult to compete with larger retailers, such as Wal-Mart, on new sales. Television and radio repairs have dried up because newer sets break down less frequently, and when they do, consumers often throw away the old and buy a new set.

“We live in a throw-away society,” John notes. “The companies aren't interested in stocking parts and service because there isn't any money in it. If something breaks and it's under warranty, people bring it to where they bought it and they give you a new one. If it's beyond the warranty, they throw it away and buy a new one.”

Increasingly low prices on consumer electronics items, John observes, makes it economically impractical to repair broken televisions, VCRs, and stereos.

Past Grand Master of state Masons addresses Tracy lodge dinner

The Tracy Masonic Lodge No. 155 honored several local masons with anniversary year pins. William Pamp, the lodge's Worshipful Master, opened the program and introduced the main speaker, Verne Long, Past Grand Master of the Minnesota Masons. Long, a member of the Pipestone Lodge, is a past member of the Minnesota Legislature and the University of Minnesota Board of Regents.

Ray Randall, Area Deputy Representative to the Grand Lodge and a member of the Slayton Lodge, and Dave Hicks from the Tracy Lodge presented the pins.

Bruce Flesner, the Shriners Hospital Presenter, told the Masons about his son, Reuben, who was sponsored through the Tracy Masonic Lodge, to the Shriners Hospital in the Twin Cities where he had a leg repaired that was injured when he was a young boy.

A scholarship from the Tracy Lodge was awarded to Ryan Baker, who attends Westbrook-Walnut Grove High School. Ryan will be attending Ridgewater College in Willmar.

Bill Pamp, who had attended Grand Lodge in April, reported to the Lodge members that shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Tower in New York City, the Grand Lodge of New York requested Masonic benevolence funds from all states. A total of over 1 million dollars was raised. Minnesota Masons responded with $240,000 of the total amount.

The Minnesota Masons have taken over sponsoring the Boy Scout troops in the Twin Cities as the schools will no longer sponsor them.

The Tracy Lodge sponsors a Miss Tracy candidate and awards six local scholarships each year.

Local Lodge 155 takes a group of fifth graders each year to the Shrine circus in Sioux Falls from the public and parochial schools in Tracy. The Tracy American Legion assists the Tracy Masonic Lodge in this endeavor.

Freemasonry is the oldest and largest fraternal order in the world. Although it is founded upon religious principles, it is not a religion, nor is it a substitute for religion. Candidates for membership are, however, expected to profess a belief in God, and be of good moral character.

Anniversary pins were awarded to:

55 year — Guy Salmon.

50 year—Dave Hicks;.

45 year—Dick Kelley, Virgil Munson, and William Pamp. Ralph Tyler, Clair Rygmyr, and John Starr.

40 year—Curtis Reinert, Loren Richardson, William Hansen, Thomas Warren, and Clair Baker. Morris Ohman, Roger Christopher, Robert Froehling, Lawrence Shoeman, Virgil Anderson, and Terry Nackerud.