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News from the week of April 13, 2005

Sportsmen's Show hopes to real in thousands

Thousands of people are expected in Tracy for the third annual Southwest Minnesota Sportsmen’s Show Saturday.

The free shows begin at 9 a.m. and continues until 5 p.m. in and around the Tracy Prairie Pavilion in Downtown Tracy.

A full-size NASCAR race car simulator, celebrity outdoorsmen, programs and scores of exhibits are among the attractions. Except for the NASCAR simulator, which will cost $2, all events are free.

“We really do have a lot going on,” said JoAnn Biren, Tracy Area Chamber of Commerce manager. “There are things to keep people busy all day.” Many activities and events, she stressed, will appeal to the entire family, not just hunters and fishermen.

An eight-foot Jayco pop-up camper or $3,000 is one of ten prizes that will be given away in a show raffle. Up to 1,000 tickets will be sold for $20 each.

Outdoors experts booked for day of free programs

“Wes Harrison. You’ve really got him coming? I’ve seen him perform at the Wisconsin Dells and he is absolutely a character!”

That comment, heard recently by Chamber Manager JoAnn Biren, is just one example of the quality program booked for this Saturday’s Southwest Minnesota Sportsmen’s Show in Tracy.

“This man can apparently mimic any animal known to man or woman. I’m told that he puts on quite a show by the people who have seen him.”

Harrison is putting on three shows: at 10:30 a.m., and 1:30 and 3:30 p.m. His performances will be in a large tent that will be erected the municipal parking lot west of the municipal liquor store on South St.

Harrison has done shows in Las Vegas and has performed at state fairs from coast-to-coast. His vocal talents have been used on numerous television programs and movies, including Tom & Jerry, Peter Pan, and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

The show, like all demonstrations and seminars at the Tracy sportsmen’s show, is free.

Raptor show

Two wildlife specialists from the University of Minnesota Raptor Center will present shows in the show tent at 9:30 and 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 and 2:30 p.m.

Four raptors will be used in the show: a bald eagle, owl, hawk, and falcon. Exhibits and items from the raptor center will be on display.


Outdoors seminars.

Ten fishing and hunting related seminars will be presented throughout the day. All seminars will be located on the Prairie Pavilion’s second floor.

Scott Petersen, writer for the Outdoor News, will offer tips on how to become a better fisherman. A tournament fisherman for 20 years with 14 first-place and 26 runner-up honors, will present fishing seminars at 12:30 and 3 p.m. The Oakdale man is now working on a cable television program in the Twin Cities market.

Terry Tuma, the television host of “Fishing—An Inside Look,” will present seminars at 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.

Other seminars include:

• Minnesota Duck Calling, Nick Johnson, 9 a.m.

• Minnesota Goose Calling, Nick Johnson, noon.

• Midwest Canine Training, David Crawford, 10:30 a.m., 2:30 p.m.

• Fishing the Midwest, Mike Frisch, 11:30 a.m,, 4 p.m..


Archery demonstration

The Saratoga Archery Club will present shooting demonstrations at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. World-level, national, and state-level competitors will participate. Following the demonstrations, people will have a chance to learn to shoot with certified instructors.


Kids’ shooting range

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources instructors will man an indoor shooting range will pellet guns. Instructors will offer lessons in marksmanship and safe gun handling.

Prairie Pavilion name will be changed to Vetrans' Memorial Center

Tracy City Council members have decided to change the name of the Tracy Prairie Pavilion.

On a 5-0 vote, the council voted to change the building’s name to the Veterans’ Memorial Center, in honor of Tracy area servicemen who have lost their lives in the military.

Mayor Steve Ferrazzano, who recommended the change, said that he wanted to honor local military personnel who have lost their lives in the service of their country.

Along with the name change, council members also gave their blessings to the idea of giving recognition to fallen military veterans in the building’s front entry. Names of Tracy servicemen, dating back to the town’s incorporation in the 19th century, would be posted on a wall. Memorabilia from servicemen would be displayed in glass display cases.

“One reason for this is that fact that a lot of kids use that building. I want them to know that there was a heavy price to pay for the freedoms that they enjoy,” the mayor said.

The recommendations were developed by the mayor and a group of local veterans that included Red Brekken, Darrel Janssen, Dale Klein, and Garry Hippe. The mayor received permission from other council members to form the committee, after the Feb. 21 death of Tracy’s Lt. Jason Timmerman in Iraq. Ferrazzano told council members that he wanted to find some way of honoring Timmerman and other local soldiers who had lost their lives in the military.

“I like the idea,” said Jan Arvizu, after the mayor presented the Pavilion name change idea. Bill Chukuske, Russ Stobb and Charles Snyder joined Arvizu and the mayor in passing the motion. Council members Tim Byrne and Sandi Rettmer were not present.

Ferrazzano said that the name change, and the indoor veterans’ tribute, could be accomplished without spending very much money. Chukuske said that some organizations and individuals would likely be willing to contribute money for expenses. One expense, it was noted, will be to change letter signage on the Pavilion’s exterior.

The council’s motion did not specify a time for the name change to go into effect. After the meeting, Ferrazzano said that Memorial Day would be a logical date for the change.

• • •

The Prairie Pavilion was built in 1957-58 as an armory for the Minnesota National Guard unit then based in Tracy. The City of Tracy chipped in $65,000 to have the new armory attached to Tracy City Hall. The large auditorium and gymnasium was used extensively by Tracy High School athletic teams until a new Tracy Area High School opened in 1971.

The armory became the “Prairie Pavilion” in the early 1990s, after the State of Minnesota closed the armory and sold the building to the city for a nominal sum. The Prairie Pavilion name was chosen from names submitted by the public. Mary Lou Ludeman, rural Tracy, suggested the Prairie Pavilion name.

Murray County looks at new type lake sewer

Murray County Commissioners are expected to hear more next week about an alternative set of plans being drawn up for the Shetek-area centralized sewer system.

Last month, the commissioners voted to move forward with the second set of plans, to include a vacuum sewer system. The original plan drawn up by engineer Bonestroo & Associates was for a gravity system.

The decision to look further into a vacuum system came following research by commissioners and the Shetek Area Water and Sewer (SAWS) Commission. A major reason for considering an alternative plan was a potential cost savings. It has been estimated that installation of a gravity system would cost around $17 million.

At a meeting last month, Bonestroo representatives agreed to work with AIRVAC, Inc., an equipment supplier for vacuum systems, on the new plan. The two entities are in the process of working on the alternative plan.


Vacuum vs. gravity

What is a vacuum system and how does it differ from a gravity system?

Todd Olson, a regional manager with AIRVAC, said the major difference between a gravity system and a vacuum system is that vacuum systems can be buried at shallower depths. This avoids deep excavations into either high water table or shallow rock areas, he said, thereby reducing the excavation cost and time for construction.

In cases with level or nearly level terrain, he added, one vacuum sewer station can often take the place of three or more gravity lift stations.

“This is because in a vacuum sewer the wastewater can be forced to flow against gravity, without the use of a lift station at the point you would like to flow at a higher elevation,” Olson.

He said both of these advantages often result in significant cost savings initially over the capital construction costs of a gravity sewer. Savings of 20 to 30 percent are common, he said, with 50 to 70 percent savings being attainable depending on site conditions and density of home connections.

Is there a downside to vacuum sewer systems?

Olson said gravity sewers are more cost effective if the volume is really large, or really small. Vacuum sewers do not take on large flows (greater than 1,000 gallons per minute) efficiently, he said. For a really small system, gravity is better because vacuum stations cost much more than one small gravity lift station.

“There are always exceptions to the rule, and they normally occur when the growth pushes the number of connections to a higher level than the original plan or ground conditions would make a gravity sewer expensive,” he said. “Shetek probably has many lake areas that will see unexpected growth once the sewer is in place. Vacuum handles extra growth easily due to the nature of the collection stations.”


How does it work?

Olson said a vacuum sewer works by creating a pressure difference between the air pressure in the atmosphere and the lack of air pressure in the sewer collection pipe. Pumps at the vacuum station create the pressure difference in the pipe.

As wastewater collects from a home into a valve pit it triggers the valve to open by using only air pressure caused by the water being collected. As the valve opens, it allows the collected wastewater and some atmospheric air to rush toward the sewer pipe under vacuum and on to the vacuum collection station.

“A vacuum sewer is in reality a vacuum assisted gravity sewer,” Olson said. The vacuum is only used to get over the artificial humps (sawtooths) built into the pipe.”

A common misconception, said Olson, is that the vacuum sewer sucks the water toward the station. In reality, the air rushing into the system pushes a smaller volume of water about 800-1,200 feet and comes to rest in one of the lower portions. Then another valve opens up and “leapfrogs” the sewage toward the station.


Cost effectiveness

What characteristics of a vacuum system make it more cost effective in some situations?

Olson said the ability to bury the sewer main just below the frost line saves a tremendous amount on excavation costs.

“Think of it as digging a five-foot trench versus a 15-20 foot trench,” he said. “Deeper trenches often require more dewatering or shoring up the sides of the trench to prevent collapse. Vacuum sewers can often avoid both.”

He said vacuum sewers can also save money by eliminating multiple gravity lift stations with one vacuum station.

“This is because water can be forced to flow uphill in a vacuum sewer without a lift station at that point,” he said. “Less stations means less initial cost at building them.”

There are also no manholes or air-release valves in a vacuum system, or electricity required at the home.



How do vacuum systems compare in terms of maintenance?

“Ask this question to 10 different operators and you’ll get 10 different answers,” Olson said. “Depending on the cost of certain maintenance items I’ll let others determine which they think costs less.”

AIRVAC’s opinion, he said, is that when all costs are considered vacuum and gravity are much closer than people would expect.

“Vacuum may be slightly higher, but some of our owners maintain they are less than or equal to gravity sewer,” he said.

One advantage of a vacuum sewer, said Olson, is that it is totally sealed from the outside (it has to be in order to work). This means vacuum sewers don’t have unwanted groundwater or rainfall runoff coming into the system, he said.

“The result is that an owner is only treating the wastewater that they are using and not treating storm water, thereby saving on the costs to treat this water unnecessarily,” Olson said.

Being sealed and removing air from the system also means that an environment for corrosion doesn’t exist with vacuum sewers.

He added that a vacuum sewer is also immune to intrusion from tree roots, a common problem in gravity sewers.

Additionally, during low-flow periods, a gravity sewer may require the use of a water jet truck to flush out lines where the sewage hasn’t been moving and deposits solids in the lines causing the potential for blockages, Olson said. Vacuum sewers are immune to this problem, he said, because they depend on the incoming air to move the water, not the water itself.

Another benefit, said Olson, is that grease doesn’t effect a vacuum sewer as easily as a gravity sewer. This is because the speed of the sewage in a vacuum sewer is about eight to nine times faster than a standard gravity system, he said, so any grease that tries to cling to the pipe is town off by the high transport speed.

The cons?

“A vacuum sewer requires more attention than a gravity sewer, so the day-to-day labor costs can be slightly higher due to the operator needing to check the stations to see how they are functioning,” Olson said.

Oil in the vacuum pumps needs to be changed about four times a year. Valves and controllers on the valve pits must also be maintained.


The right system?

Olson said Shetek has many areas where vacuum makes sense due to the relatively small elevation changes and potential for high groundwater in the area.

“We expect this will result in many areas where the savings in excavation costs versus a standard gravity system will be significantly in favor of a vacuum sewer,” Olson said.

There are also several areas where one vacuum station would be able to eliminate several proposed gravity lift stations, he added.

He said he does not believe 100 percent of the area will be served with a vacuum sewer.

“While technically feasible for about 98 percent of the project, there are more efficient ways to serve the entire area economically with a combination of gravity lift stations and vacuum stations,” he said. “This approach will minimize the costs involved on the project without sacrificing quality and should result in the overall lowest possible monthly bill for a homeowner.”

Should a vacuum sewer system be installed as the lakes-area centralized sewer, it would be the first such system in Minnesota.


Two sets of bids

The consideration of a vacuum system doesn’t mean a gravity system is totally out of the question.

Last month, Mark Hanson of Bonestroo & Associates said the engineering firm would ask for two sets of bids on the sewer project. The base bid would be for the vacuum system, and another set of bids would be received for the gravity system.


Meeting next week

The Murray County Commissioners have set aside time at their Tuesday, April 19 meeting to go over the details of the alternative plan. Time has been set aside at 9:30 for the discussion.

It is expected that the commissioners will also set a public improvement hearing date for next month during the meeting.

Jones accepts job as MCC administrator

A former Tracy Area High School teacher has accepted an offer to become the new superintendent/high school principal for Murray County Central Public Schools (MCC).

Steve Jones is scheduled to begin his new duties on July 1.

“I’m really excited about this opportunity,” said Jones. He said he was offered the position early last week, and accepted it on Friday. Jones submitted his resignation at high school principal at Maple River Monday.

Jones, 45, was an English teacher at TAHS for 5 1/2 years before accepting the Maple River position in January of 2004. Jones said he has a “really good feeling” about MCC school staff and students.

“I was really impressed with the people,” he said of a school visit that he had in Slayton last week.

MCC has about 750 students, with about 350 of those pupils in grades 7-12. The 2005-06 school year will be the first in which MCC has combined the two administrative positions.

Jones said that while he has much to learn in the new position, he feels he will be greatly assisted by existing MCC staff. Jones said that it is his understanding that at a part-time dean of students will be put in place to assist with high school administrative duties.

The location of the MCC job, Jones, feels, will work out well. He and his family live on Bloody Lake, between Slayton and Tracy. Although he had an apartment in Maple River, he had been driving the 110-miles between his home and Maple River several times a week.

He and his wife, Kristin, have two children: Noah, 7, and Hannah, 4. He also has two children by a previous marriage: David, 16; and Alex, 14. Kristin is a physical education teacher at Tracy Elementary School.

• • •

Prior to becoming a teacher in Tracy, Jones was employed at—and for a time owned—Enderson Clothing in Downtown Tracy. The native of Shavertown, Pennsylvania is a graduate of Southwest State University in Marshall, and is a former Tracy City Council member. He earned a Master’s degree in educational administration in May of 2003 and a specialist degree in educational administration in December of 2003.

Crowds say farewell to 'Bye-Bye Birdie'

Big crowds Saturday and Sunday pushed total attendance for the Tracy community musical of Bye-Bye Birdie to over 1,100.

About 700 people saw the show’s last weekend, with a paid admission of 420 Saturday and 279 for Sunday’s matinee.

“We were really pleased with the crowds this weekend,” said Marge Robinson, president of the Fine Arts Council of Tracy, which helped sponsor the event. She said she had many good comments about the musical in the community.

Attendance was better than the show’s first weekend, April 1-2, when paid admission was 213 and 226. Total attendance of 1,138 was slightly less than numbers posted by two previous community musicals: Music Man! in 1999 and Oklahoma! in 2000. Attendance for Oklahoma! was about 1,200 over four nights.

Directors’ Ade Miller and Jesse James told cast members after the show that they felt the play had gone very well. Mayor Steve Ferrazzano, who also had a part in the play, presented the directors with a “Key to the City” from the City of Tracy. The key had earlier been used as a prop in the play.

The musical, based loosely on the story of Elvis Presley being drafted into the U.S. Army in the late 1950s, first appeared on Broadway in 1960. Principals in the Tracy production were: Celia Brockway (Kim MacAffee), Jeremiah Martin (Hugo Peabody), Jacob Gilmore (Conrad Birdie), Dalton Kirk (Randolph MacAfee), Michael Martin (Albert Peterson), Mary Zwach (Rose Alvarez), Ferrazzano (Harry MacAfee), Deb Miller (Doris MacAfee), Vicki Peterson (Mae Peterson), Emily Baumann (Ursula Merkle) and Pam Peterson (Gloria Rasputin). The cast had over 60 people.

Kris Edwards was the assistant director. Shannon Benson and Shirlee Gilmore were keyboard accompanists. Sylvia Vahle was a vocal coach for some of the singers, and Sandi Carpenter, Emily Gilmore, Megan Landa, and Michelle Lenertz assisted with choreography.

Others who assisted with the production included:

Sound—Darwin Saxton, Lynn Nicks, Errol Steffen.

Lights—Al and Jan Landa, Jason Kainz.

Technical effects—Roger Benson, Randy McIntire.

Set Construction—Kim Daniels, Keith Peterson, David Johnson, Garry Hippe, Chris Schons, Keith Rayman, and George Hebig.

Publicity/tickets—Marge Robinson, Chris Schons, Vicky Rasmussen.

Stage crew—Kim Daniels, Dan Anderson Dona Daniels, Barb Johnson, Keith Rayman, George Hebig, Jan Mason, Steve Schenkoske, Keith Peterson, Sandy Fultz, Chris Schons, Trent Edwards.

Bye-Bye Birdie was the third large community musical James and Miller have directed since 1999. They also collaborated on four children’s choir musicals: Annie!, Wizard of Oz, Peter Pan, and Babes in Toyland.