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News from the week of August 4, 2004

Lake sewer foes present petition

Opponents to a Lake Shetek-Lake Sarah area sewer system marched into the Murray County Government Center Friday to present a petition. The petition, which expressed opposition to the proposed sewer project, had 640 signatures. Petition organizers said that the signatures represented about 70% of the Lake Shetek, Bloody Lake, and Lake Sarah area parcels of property that would be affected by the proposed sewer project.

Thirty to 40 people presented the petition.

A statement from Residents Opposed to the Central Sewer (ROCS) said that the signatures give county leaders a “clear picture of the opinion of the overwhelming majority of people.”

“They (affected residents) finally had an opportunity to speak in a petition,” said Steve Harms, who spearheaded it. It is a “clear understanding of the will of the people,” he said.

The ball is now in Murray County commissioners' court, he said.

Harms feels that according to provisions of Minnesota Statue 116A, the centralized sewer project should be dropped.

However, lawyers for the Shetek Area Water and Sewer Commission and the county are reviewing the statute and petition, said Chris Hansen, Murray County water resources administrator.

A lakes area sewer collection and treatment system has been studied for several years. The total estimated construction cost for the project is $16.6 million, Hansen said. Individual property assessments have been estimated at $12,000 to $15,000, he said.

The commissioners were scheduled to hold an improvement hearing on the proposed plan Tuesday. However, Hansen said that the commissioners did not have all the information they needed for the hearing, and would likely reconvene the hearing at a later date.

Hospital planning continues in wake of resignation

An interim administrator to succeed Dan Reiner as chief executive officer for Tracy Area Medical Services, the Westbrook Health Care Center, and Murray County Memorial Medical Center in Slayton is expected to be named soon.

"We will bring in long-term interim CEO relatively quickly," said Gerry Gilbertson, regional vice president of Sioux Valley Regional Health Systems, Tuesday morning. The interim CEO would serve until the position could be permanently filled, Gilbertson indicated.

Until the interim CEO can be named, Rick Nordahl, chief operating officer for the three hospitals, has overall management responsibilities, Gilbertson said.

The CEO position has been vacant since last week. A July 28 statement from Sioux Valley announced that Reiner had resigned on July 27. Reiner, who lives in Marshall, had served as the CEO at Tracy and Westbrook since March of 2000. He assumed additional responsibilities as CEO in Slayton in October of 2001.

Reiner's departure was unexpected.

"People were in shock," said Carol Cooreman, community relations director for the three hospitals, about the news of Reiner's departure last week. Nonetheless, she added, staff members didn't miss a beat in carrying out their regular work.

Claire Hannasch, chairman of the Tracy Area Medical Services, said that he was disappointed by the loss of Reiner. Hannasch felt that Reiner had done a good job, especially in his role in initiating collaborative ventures among the Tracy, Westbrook, and Murray County hospitals. Reiner, he said, was well thought of by physicians, and had been successful in doctor recruitment.

The Murray County Hospital Board, meeting in a special July 28 session, asked that Sioux Valley approach Reiner about rescinding his letter of resignation. However, Hannasch feels that Reiner's resignation is a dead issue.

"It is time to move forward," Hannasch said. "What is past, is in the past Dan Reiner's tenure is over." The important thing for Tracy and its two affiliated hospitals, he said, is to move ahead with planning that will allow them to offer improved outreach services and adapt to changing trends in the health-care field.

School planning has upbeat vision

By Val Scherbart Quist

With positive attitudes for a positive future, Tracy school board members looked at short- and long-term goals last week.

The District 417 board discussed everything from curriculum to cooperation with neighboring districts at the informal meeting.


Supt. David Marlette told the board he felt they had made a great deal of progress on transportation in the past year. The board approved a schedule for replacement of buses and other vehicles, and two buses and two vans were bought.

Board member Eric Nelson said that, in the future, he would like to see bus bids made for both 77-passenger and 55-passenger buses.

“I think we've made big strides in transportation,” he said.

The board discussed service work on the buses, and the possibility of using other companies when needed. Marlette reminded the board that the Milroy district would be having some of their service work done in Tracy this year.

Staffing and curriculum

Marlette told the board that the district is fully staffed and ready for the start of the new school year.

“I'm really excited about the people we've hired,” he said. “They're outstanding people.”

He said that retirement is expected to be a major issue, with a several staff members considering retirement. Marlette also looked at the possible positives of the situation as new staff members are hired.

“It's sad to see them [the retirees] go, but it presents the opportunity for us to mold new staff into the areas where they're needed,” he said.

Science will be the main point of curriculum discussions this year, Marlette said, as the result of new No Child Left Behind requirements. The new law will require students to take an additional credit of science before they can graduate.

The possible influx of more non-English speaking students is another area of interest. Marlette said the district may be able to receive as much as $120 in integration money per student for use in immersion programs. The district could receive as much as $100,000.

National delegate becomes convention romance story

By Brady Averill

Garvin native Kara Nelson was in the media spotlight last Thursday, but not for her role as a delegate at the National Democratic Convention in Boston. She went to the convention a delegate and came home a fiancée.

Nelson spent last week in Boston to formally endorse Sen. John Kerry as the Democratic Party's presidential candidate. The 22-year-old did her job.

“I cast my vote for Kerry. I was the first person to sign the ballot from Minnesota,
she said. “I put my big “x” next to Kerry's name and signed it, and I was able to pass it on. It felt really cool to say that I supported John Kerry.”

When she wasn't endorsing the presidential candidate, she was busy getting engaged.

Her story was broadcast on WCCO TV after Walter Mondale announced her new engagement to another political enthusiast, Andy Zetzman.

“It's kind of a long story,” she said.

Zetzman, who flew in for the last two days of the convention, Kerry's speech and, of course, to see Nelson, decided he'd propose during Reverend Al Sharpton's speech Wednesday night. He turned to his friend, and said he was going to buy a ring and ask Nelson to marry him that evening.

He embarked on a three-mile trek around Boston, trying to find an open jewelry store. With advice from police officers near the convention center, Zetzman found a store and bought a ring. He already knew the style and size.

After Minnesota's general session, delegates returned to their hotel around 11 p.m. That was Zetzman's opportunity to pop the question. The proposal was reminiscent of the first night Nelson and Zetzman met. They were in Washington, D.C., for a convention. They spent the night walking around their hotel talking for hours.

The morning after the proposal, former Vice President Walter Mondale announced to the Minnesota delegation crowd that one of their own had just gotten engaged. He waved media crews over for the story opportunity.

“We had to make a lot of phone calls really quick,” Nelson said.

Neither had yet called their families to tell them the news.

While the proposal was a highlight of her convention experience, Nelson was thrilled by the rest of the convention, too.

“I guess the night Kerry was endorsed was pretty spectacular. It's what we went out there for. It all led up to that,” she said.

Seifert: Delay in Faribault project boosts Tracy's prison prospects

By Brady Averill

Tracy's prospects for attracting a privately-operated corrections facility could depend upon what happens to expansion plans at a public prison in Faribault, Rep. Marty Seifert said at a Tracy "town meeting" last week.

The Fairibault prison recently contracted with the Prairie Correctional Facility in Appleton, Minn., because the legislature didn't pass a bonding bill that would upgrade the public prison, Seifert said. It's the first time in several years the state of Minnesota has contracted with a private prison.

“Faribault's loss could be Tracy's gain in the long term,” Seifert said.

The state is going to need to find some place to house growing prison populations, Seifert said. Minnesota prison populations are expected to increase by 2000 inmates by 2011, according to the Minnesota Department of Corrections. This is representative of a nationwide trend, Seifert said.

In the state's contract with Appleton, the daily cost to house an inmate is $55, Seifert said. Housing an inmate at a public facility like Stillwater's prison, for example, costs at least $80 a day, he said.

Contracting with private prisons saves the state and taxpayers money, the Marshall lawmaker said.

Tracy residents indicated that town people should have a say in what kind of inmates a privately-operated Tracy prison would hold.

“I don't think we as a community want a maximum security prison,” Diane Ferrazzano said.

Seifert said he understands the interests of his constituents. A Tracy corrections facility, he said, wouldn't get repeat offenders of violent crimes.

Seifert and area leaders have informed the Department of Corrections and prison vendors about Tracy's interest in hosting a 500 to 1000 bed facility for low to moderate risk offenders. If the state leaders okay the idea of a privately-operated prison for state inmates, competition for the corrections facility will be fierce, Seifert indicated. Workforce, size and infrastructure will be factors in the selection of a site.

“As far as the prison issue goes, I would say be vigilant, be long-term,” he said.

Seifert predicted at least five years of planning would be needed to attract a prison to Tracy, he said.

Seifert said he will re-introduce bills allowing the state to contract with privately-operated corrections facilities during the next legislative session.

Shetek Station to move

Building sold, expanded 'Helping to Heal' planned

Shetek Station Custom Framing is moving to a new location.

Owner Betsy Schmidt plans to move her framing business across the street to the lower level of The Etc. building. Schmidt said that she has sold her building to Charles and Lois Reinert.

Glenda Johnson and Bobby Jo Alberda of The Etc will assume the antiques portion of Shetek Station's business.

"I think that the change is going to work out well for everyone," said Schmidt, who has operated her custom-framing business for eight years.

Schmidt's last day of business at her 192 Third Street location will be August 21. The Reinerts will take possession of the property on August 23. The Reinerts plan to remodel the building for their Helping to Heal business, which is now located at 125 Third Street.

Most of Shetek Station's remaining antiques inventory will be moved to the main level of The Etc. building the weekend of August 21-22.

The new location will allow Reinert to expand Helping to Heal services.

"Our space was adequate for a first start in providing alternative health care, and now we are ready to begin offering expanded services to our clients," Charles Reinert said. "The new facility will provide space for much more, including massage therapy, hyperthermia, and perhaps hydrotherapy, in addition to the work we now do with emotional and physical healing."

The remodeled building will provide an expanded retail area for health supplements, and gallery space where local artists can exhibit their work, Reinert said.

An upstairs level will be remodeled to be used for martial arts, Tai Chi, and other exercise classes.

Reinert said that he expects that the new remodeled facility will be ready in early October. Helping to Heal operations will continue at the present location until the move.