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News from the week of May 24, 2006


Pool meets first splash test

Aquatic Center opening is May 31

The Tracy Aquatic Center will open for the first time since 2003 next week.

Swimmers can try out the refurbished facility beginning at 2 p.m. Wednesday, May 31. The pool has been closed since August of 2003; first for an extensive series of tests and evaluations, and then for a $1.2 million repair project.

“It’s wonderful,” says Pool Administrator Shorty Engel, of the refurbished aquatic center. He said that all pool systems have been tested and are functioning fine. All of the aquatic center’s water toys have been put back into place. All of the pool’s major water slides are ready to be used.

The installation of a Myrtha PVC liner in all pool areas was the centerpiece of recently completed pool repairs. The liners, Engel said, give the aquatic center’s bottom and sides a new resilient feel. The renovated pool also has a new gutter system that makes it appear that water levels are higher than in the original aquatic center. Actually, water depths are the same as they were before.

The first test of the renovated aquatic center by swimmers occurred Wednesday, May 17, as the aquatic center’s 2006 lifeguard staff began a series of training classes. The classes, being taught by Suzanne Lightfoot, are needed to certify many of the individuals on the year’s lifeguard staff. Additional Red Cross training will follow to certify some lifeguards as Water Safety Instructors. The 2004-05 closure disrupted the aquatic center’s normal process for maintaining a certified lifeguard staff.


Daily rates same

The basic daily admission charge for the coming season is $5, the same as 2003. A $2 daily charge is set for an early bird 6 a.m. swim session and also an 8 a.m. senior swim.

Season passes, which eliminate the need for a daily fee, are $100 for a resident family, $150 for a non-resident family, $100 for a non-resident single, and $60 for a resident single.

Regular open swimming hours are 2 to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 1 to 8 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

Water aerobics classes begin the week of June 12. A 5:30 a.m. morning class will be held Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays. A second class, will meet Tuesdays and Thursdays beginning at 5:30 p.m., and Saturdays at 9 a.m.

Three sessions of swimming lessons are offered: June 12-23, July 3-17, and July 24-August 11. (The week between each session is reserved for weather-related make-up dates). Seven levels of classes, from tiny tots through lifeguard training, are scheduled. An infant aquatics class for children ages one through four is offered Saturdays from 10 to noon Saturdays.

People can register for swimming lessons or buy pool passes at Tracy City Hall through May 31. After May 31, all pool business will be moved to the aquatic center office.


Wellness Center construction eyed

If all goes as expected, ground will be broken on a new wellness center southeast of the Sioux Valley Tracy Medical Center campus this summer.

“I’d like to be getting started by the end of June or early July, “ said Ron Gramstad, of the Tracy Ace Home Center, on Tuesday.

“That sounds good to me,” agreed Rick Nordahl, chief executive officer for SVTMC.

Gramstad and his brother, Warren, would build and own the 6,240 square foot building. The Gramstads would then lease the facility to Sioux Valley Rural Health System, which manages the Tracy hospital, medical clinic, and O’Brien Court. The new building will serve as a community wellness and fitness center, and also house therapy and rehabilitation services now located at the hospital. Hospital space now used for physical, occupational and speech therapy would become available for other medical outreach services.

The one-story wood-frame structure would be located on a 300x250-foot parcel of undeveloped land south of the Prairie View Healthcare Center.

For the project to move forward, three additional things need to happen:

• The Gramstads and Sioux Valley must agree on final details for a long-term lease. Both Nordahl and Ron Gramstad say that only a few minor points still need to be ironed out.

• The Tracy City Council must grant the tax abatement.

• The City of Tracy and the Gramstads must agree upon the proposed property tax abatement agreement.

• • •

The proposed tax abatement would give the Gramstads a ten-year break on the city’s share of wellness center property taxes.

According to Gramstad, the 10-year tax abatement is needed to make the wellness center financially feasible. Without the tax abatement, “the numbers don’t pencil out” and he and his brother will not be able to move ahead with the project, he said.

City Administrator Audrey Koopman calls the tax abatement “a win-win situation” for the community, the hospital, and the Gramstads. The community will get a needed wellness center and, after ten years, a larger tax base. The hospital will have better facilities for its rehab and therapy services, and an opportunity to add outreach services. The Gramstads will be able to move ahead with a large construction project.

The proposed wellness/rehabilitation center has an estimated price tag of $560,000 and would have an estimated annual property tax capacity of $20,900. The city’s projected annual portion of the wellness center property taxes would be $14,464. Under the proposed tax abatement, the city’s share of the wellness center taxes would be given back to the Gramstads for a 10-year period. The county and school district’s share of the wellness center’s property taxes would not be affected by the tax abatement.

After ten years, the tax abatement would end and the city should retain its share of wellness center property taxes.

Koopman said the key question is whether the project would become a reality without the city tax abatement. She believes that it would not. Since the undeveloped property is generating very little in the way of property taxes now, the City of Tracy has nothing to lose, and much to gain by granting the tax abatement, she said.

The Tracy City Council has set a June 12 public hearing on the proposed tax abatement.

• • •

The Gramstads and Sioux Valley have been studying the wellness center project for about a year. Late last summer, the Gramstads reached a deal with the Tracy Economic Development Authority to purchase undeveloped lots in the Eastview Addition for the wellness center. The purchase was contingent upon being able to work out a lease agreement with Sioux Valley.

The Gramstads plan to build a driveway and off-street parking lot for the center, which would face west. The wellness center, which would be equipped with state-of-the art exercise equipment, would be open to members 24 hours a day through an electronic card access system. SVTMC therapy staff members would see patients during regular business hours, and serve as a resource for people using the wellness center.


Marine Corps vet to speak Monday

Major Steven Booth is the keynote speaker at this year’s Memorial Day program in Tracy.

Booth, a 1970 Tracy High School graduate, spent 18 years in the United States Marine Corps, serving from 1976 to 1994. From 1976 to 1979, Booth was on active duty, and commanded three reconnaissance platoons in Panama.

Following his active duty, Booth operated a farm of 340 acres, and served as Company Commander of his hometown Infantry National Guard Unit, which was rated number one in the state of Minnesota.

From 1989-1991, Booth was Commanding Officer at a recruiting station in Cleveland, Ohio, where he supervised both military and civilian personnel in recruiting operations covering 14,000 square miles. From 1992-1994, he served as Officer in Charge of the Weapons Training Battalion in Quantico, Virginia.

In addition to his military service, Booth served as a county commissioner in Beltrami County from 1997 to 2001, and was a GOP-endorsed State Senate District 2 candidate in 2002.

• • •

The Tracy Memorial Day program, sponsored by American Legion Post 173 and VFW Post 871, will take place on Monday, May 29 at 9:30 a.m. at the Veterans’ Memorial Center (formerly the Prairie Pavilion). The program will include special music by the Tracy Area High School brass ensemble. A wreath-laying ceremony outside the center will conclude the program. The public is invited.

City wastewater upgrades required

Engineers hired to identify best options

By Seth Schmidt

What should the City of Tracy do to improve an aging wastewater treatment system that doesn’t meet state standards?

City leaders hope to find answers from a $25,000 engineering study that was authorized Monday. The St. Paul engineering firm of Short Elliott Hendrickson Inc. will study Tracy’s four sewage lagoons northeast of Tracy and recommend steps to make the system compliant with state environmental standards. The options are to include repairing and enlarging the present ponds, or starting over.

“We will identify your options, and see what is the most cost-efficient,” SEH engineer Steve Robinson, told Tracy city council members Monday. Robinson indicated that he could see facility improvements being done in phases, over a three to five-year period.

Tracy’s wastewater treatment lagoons were built in the 1960s. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) has notified the city that the ponds are non-compliant because of leakage and capacity issues. Tracy has two 16-acre primary ponds and two four-acre basins.

Robinson said that unacceptable leakage is occurring around lagoon gates and dike walls, and that inadequate rip-wrap along dikes has allowed vegetation to take root and burrowing by animals. Years of accumulated sediment have reduced the ponds’ capacity.

The sewer treatment facilities have been further strained by large quantities of stormwater run-off entering the sanitary system. The “infiltration and inflow” into the sanitary sewer has forced the city, during periods of high water run-off, to “bypass” the overloaded sanitary sewer into city storm sewers. That practice, in effect, has allowed untreated city sewage to drain into area creeks and streams.

Robinson said that many communities have problems with “infiltration and inflow.” Groundwater run-off can enter a sanitary sewer system from multiple sources, he indicated, from roof drains, catch basins, and drainage tile that are hooked into the sanitary sewer. Sometimes, storm sewers and sanitary sewers are connected. Tracy Public Works Director Rick Robinson told council members at a recent meeting that he suspects that uncapped pipes from demolished railroad buildings are contributing to extra water in the city’s sanitary sewers.

Steve Robinson told council members that reducing infiltration and inflow into the sanitary sewer is a costly process. For that reason, he suggested that the city adopt a strategy to correct problems over a five to 20-year-period. The engineering costs, he said, for developing an infiltration and inflow program, he said, would be an estimated $50,000.

Council members instructed Robinson to see how much could be accomplished by spending $5,000 to $10,000 on engineering.

The engineering fees will be paid from the city’s utility fund.

Grads hope for sunshine Sunday

Weather permitting, Tracy Area High School’s 2006 commencement ceremony will be held outdoors on the high school football field this weekend.

Eighty-three seniors are scheduled to take part in the 2 p.m. Sunday program. In case of bad weather, the graduation ceremony will be moved indoors to the high school gym.

Fifteen students are graduating with honors, having achieved at least a 3.67 grade-point average (A-) through grades 9-12. The honor students are: Bobbi Buyck, Jenna Fischer, Sarah Fritz, Rachel Gervais, Nicole Hansen, Brad Lanoue, Corey Lanoue, Stacy LaVoy, Casie Miller, Mai Vue Moua, Victoria Ruppert, David Schiller, Jillian Tholen, Krysta Tholen, and Jackie Vroman. The honor students will wear gold chords and tassels.

Jillian Tholen, Jenna Fischer, and Bobbi Buyck are the three senior speakers. In keeping with a school tradition, Buyck will speak about the past, Fischer the present, and Tholen the future. Stacy LaVoy will deliver the class welcome, and Krysta Tholen the farewell.

The class valedictorian and salutatorian will not be announced until the commencement ceremony.

Supt. David Marlette, and representatives of the Tracy, Milroy and Balaton school boards, will present the diplomas. Dan Zimansky will represent the Tracy board, Leo Lindquist the Balaton board, and Lon Walling the Milroy board.

The program will begin with the “Pomp and Circumstance” processional played by the high school concert band. The band, directed by Chris Miller, will also perform “La Bamba.”

The senior high choir will sing “I Will Remember You.” Shirlee Gilmore directs the choir.

• • •

Outdoor commencement programs have become a new tradition in Tracy. The Class of 2002 started the trend with the first outdoor TAHS commencement since 1954. Outdoor graduation programs were also held in 2003 and 2005. Wet weather forced the 2004 ceremony indoors.