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News from the week of December 18, 2002

Renaissance begins for key downtown building

The former Ben Franklin/Korner Krafts building in downtown Tracy will soon be full of life again.

Owners Glenda Johnson and Marsha Goff plan to bring several new businesses to the building, which they bought from the Tracy EDA in September.

Since then, the pair has been cleaning the building out and working to get various licenses and permits that are needed.

“We've totally gutted the building,” said Johnson, who plans to move her business, Baskets of Yarn, into the building. “We've made a lot of progress.”

It likely will be a couple more months before the building is ready for its new occupants. Johnson said that she and Goff are in the process of deciding on a contractor and seeing when they can begin work.

Once work is completed, the building will be home to Baskets of Yarn, a coffee shop, and a Christian bookstore. The basement has been leased to Jim and Ade Miller, who plan to sell hand-painted items. While no contract has been reached, Johnson said, a furniture store has expressed bringing in new pieces to sell.

“We've got the building full,” Johnson said.

At this point, plans to locate a call center on the building's top floor appear to have fallen through. Goff has tried to call the party interested in opening the call center several times, but has never received a response.

“They've never gotten back to us,” Johnson said. “We feel they aren't interested.”

The Tracy EDA had originally purchased the building with the intent of attracting a call center to the location.

As for completion, Johnson said she couldn't put down a target date yet.

“We can't do that until the contractors get started,” she said. “We can hardly wait until we can start seeing that happen.”

She speculated that it would be at least late February before work is completed.

Pawlenty hopes state government can match SSU's turnaround

Governor-elect Tim Pawlenty shared his vision for the future at Southwest State University's annual Legislative Day held Friday.

Pawlenty was optimistic, yet realistic, in his outlook considering the estimated $4.5 billion deficit the state is facing.

“The magnitude of this challenge cannot be overstated,” he said. “It is the financial equivalent of a natural disaster.”

Pawlenty credited SSU with a turnaround from a struggling college to being named one of the best in the country. He said it would now be the challenge to accomplish a similar turnaround with the state's projected deficit.

“It isn't going to go away. It has to be tackled head-on.”

Pawlenty said he doesn't plan to continue with the status quo while the state goes deeper into debt.

“Minnesota needs to be ready for a time of change, because it's coming.”

He said there have been many concerns about government spending, but maintained that revenues are going up by 6.6 percent.

He said that one of the main reasons the state has such a large deficit is because expenditures are going up 14 percent, mostly due to property tax relief.

“The math just doesn't work,” he said. “The next era is going to demand change.”

Pawlenty maintained his insistence that raising taxes is not the answer. He noted that the state has lost 38,000 manufacturing jobs over the past year, and added that Minnesota is one of the highest-taxed states, while the state budget has doubled.

“We cannot afford to raise taxes,” he said.

Legislators not sorry to bid Ventura good-bye

Area legislators agreed on at least two items Saturday, at a legislative breakfast in Tracy.

They are happy the Jesse Ventura will soon no longer be Minnesota's governor. And they feel that the state's budget problems, while daunting, aren't the end of the world.

“It is only 11 days until Christmas, but there's only 23 days until we have a new governor,” said Rep. Gary Kubly (DFL-Granite Falls), at a gathering sponsored by Area II of the Minnesota River Basin Project. “We were ready (prior to the election) for a new governor and we really didn't care who it was.”

Senator Jim Vickerman (DFL-Tracy) echoed those sentiments.

“There is no one who could be worse than Jesse Ventura,” said Vickerman, who described the governor as thin-skinned, combative and difficult to work with. “You wondered what he was thinking about. I don't know if he knew himself sometimes what he was doing.”

Senator Arlene Lesewski (Republican-Marshall), who is retiring after ten years in the state senate, said she was “disappointed” that Ventura didn't “realize what a great part of the state” rural areas are. The governor, she lamented, often favored pet metro projects at the expense of rural areas.

Senator Dennis Frederickson (Republican-New Ulm) said he also didn't understand some of Ventura's actions as governor.

Lawmakers promised to work through the state government's projected $4.5 billion budget shortfall.

“There is a lot of gloom and doom,” said Vickerman of the money problems, “but remember that life goes on.” He pledged support for continued state funding for Area II's flood control projects. “The good news is that people want the land taken care of. We'll move along.”

Yankton County School student seeks okay for Tracy band activity

Should a student who no longer attends Tracy Area Public Schools be allowed to continue taking classes at the school?

That's the question facing board of education members following a request Monday night. District 417 has received a request that a student who has open-enrolled out of the district be allowed to continue taking band classes in Tracy.

The board first discussed the issue at the Nov. 25 regular board meeting after the request was received from Yankton Country School (YCS) in Balaton. At that time, the board decided that since YCS is a charter school, the request should be made through the sponsoring district, Balaton Public School. Superintendent Rick Clark was directed to notify the Balaton Public School of the issue.

At that time, the board had discussed possible options, including charging YCS or the parents for the class. However, they chose to put off such a decision until they received a request through the proper channels.

The board also agreed to let the student continue to attend the class as a visitor until a decision was made.

Floodwater control agency faces state funding cut-off

Area lawmakers pledge support

Rain falling on Buffalo Ridge near the headwaters of the Redwood River tumbles more than 700 feet by the time it reaches the Mississippi River near St. Paul. The drop from Murray to Ramsey County is greater than the Mississippi elevation decline during its more than 1,0000 mile journey from St. Paul to the Gulf of Mexico.

During periods of rapid water run-off—heavy thunderstorms or a big snowmelt—Buffalo Ridge's steep escarpment often results in severe flooding. The Area II Minnesota River Basin Project tries to minimize flooding damage through the design and construction of floodwater retention structures. But this coming year, the Marshall-based agency is challenged by more than Mother Nature.

Area II is scheduled to receive no state funding after June 30, 2003.

“We have been cut back to zero as of July 1, explains Kerry Netzke, Area II coordinator. “Obviously, it is a priority for us to get funding restored (during the 2003 legislative session) so we can keep the office operating.

This year, Area II is receiving $140,000 in state money. The state money is matched on a 25% basis by nine supporting counties, for a total budget of $185,000.

The proposed zero funding next year comes on the heels of a 25% budget cut that occurred this year. Area II previously received a $189,000 state appropriation, with a $63,000 match from Lyon, Murray, Redwood, Yellow Medicine, Lincoln, Pipestone, Lac qui Parle, Cottonwood and Brown counties.

School, city agreed to have panel discuss Pavilion lease

Tracy City Council and Tracy Board of Education members agreed Monday night to form a committee to discuss differing interpretations of a Prairie Pavilion lease agreement.

School board and school staff members gathered for the onset of the council's meeting at City Hall, prepared to answer questions. But no discussion was held. School board members left for their own meeting at the high school, after hearing the council pass a motion calling for the appointment of the committee. At their meeting, school board members also agreed to appoint two members to a committee. Both boards will make their appointments after Jan. 1.

Mayor Claire Hannasch was the only person to address the Pavilion lease issue at the City Hall gathering.

“I think it is very important that we (the school and city) find ways to work together, rather than have these little problems that we have in front of us...We are one.”

The mayor indicated that school and city representatives had agreed in advance to the appointment of the city/school committee.