banner.gif (15051 bytes)

News from the week of July 12, 2006


Housing initiatives explored

Townhouses proposed near hospital

By Seth Schmidt


The Tracy Economic Development Authority continues to explore initiatives to develop more housing in Tracy.

Housing-related topics dominated a 90-minute EDA meeting Friday. They included:

• Discussions with a developer who wants to build townhouses near the hospital.

• Talks with a second local business with an interest in developing new housing on sites around Tracy, if the EDA and city will clear the land and provide title to the property.

• Development of a new housing addition.


Tracy townhouses?

Drake Snell presented plans for two, three-plex town homes that he would like to build on Union Street, south of O’Brien Court and the Sioux Valley Tracy Medical Center. Snell said he would need to buy three, 100-foot lots from the EDA in the Eastview Addition.

The two and three-bedroom townhouses would be owner occupied. A 1,200 square foot, two-bedroom, Snell estimates, would sell for about $130,000. A 1,400 square foot three-bedroom unit would sell for about $150,000. Condominiums would each have a single-stall garage. An owner’s association would be responsible for maintenance, snow removal, and lawn care. The location close to the hospital, clinic, Sebastian Park, and a proposed wellness center, would be ideal, Snell feels.

“We think they will go like hotcakes,” Snell told EDA members. The rural Amiret man is an authorized distributor for Knauf Weblok insulating concrete forms. He said that a long waiting list (over 20) for the Eastview Apartments shows a demand for quality, apartment-style housing in Tracy. Owner occupied, maintenance-free housing, he said, offers benefits to buyers and provides a housing choice that Tracy does not now have.

Townhouses would be built on grade, using insulating concrete forms for the walls, with a stucco exterior. The completed townhouses would be virtually maintenance free for 50 years, and be efficient to heat and cool, he said.

The EDA has the three 100-foot lots listed for $8,000 each. Snell said he would have to check with his partners about the proposed $24,000 purchase price.

Robert Gervais, Tracy community development director, said that a potential issue for the townhouses is whether a restrictive covenant would limit the development of townhouses at the proposed location. If so, other Eastview property owners would have consent to the townhouses.

Snell said that ideally, he would like to start construction on the townhouses and have them ready for occupancy by Christmas. He indicated that his target market for the townhouses would be people over 60 who don’t want to be bothered with keeping up a house.

Gervais told EDA members that a townhouse development would be a “win-win” situation for Tracy. The city’s tax base would expand, people would have a new housing option, and houses now occupied by some of the townhouse buyers would be sold to other families.

Snell said that he wants the EDA inform people on the Eastview Apartments waiting list about his plans. If parties on the waiting list have an interest in the townhouses, Snell said he would then contact the prospects and provide additional information.

If the Union Street project goes well, Snell said that he would like to pursue other townhouse projects in Tracy.


Building new houses

Dan Anderson, president of North Star Modular Homes of Tracy and Marshall, told EDA members that North Star would consider building “spec” housing in Tracy if the EDA and city can provide him with the land.

“I’m here to work with the community to provide housing and help get rid of blight,” he said.

North Star, he indicated, would be interested in an arrangement similar to what the EDA worked out with Western Community Action. The EDA spent $6,000 to $7,000 acquiring a tax-forfeit house at the corner of Center and Union, cleared the site and deeded the property to Western Community Action. The agency is having a $120,000 house built on the site.

He would be “less interested” if North Star had to buy land on its own, and be involved in demolition and title issues. Their business, he said, is constructing housing.

EDA members told Anderson that they would like to work with North Star. It was suggested that in addition to having North Star build houses on bare lots and tax-forfeited properties around Tracy, perhaps North Star should be given a prime lot in the Eastview Addition.

Gervais was instructed to get advice from the city attorney’s office on whether, and how, the EDA could convey property to a private developer.


Housing development

EDA members agreed to meet with the Tracy Planning Commission in August to discuss possibilities for a new housing addition in Tracy. Several board members expressed the opinion that the time had come for Tracy to move ahead with a new housing development.

A brief discussion about possible locations mentioned city land south of Swift Lake Park as a new housing site. Others mention was made of land south of Pine Street between the elementary and high schools, the former Central Livestock site, and land east of Fourth Street East.

Anderson said that he thinks that retirees and first-time homebuyers hold the most s for new housing construction in Tracy, but that the two “don’t necessarily blend.”

Anderson said that when plans for Balaton’s new Eastbay Addition were announced, public sentiment in that community was negative. But now that 15 lots have been sold and the first houses are going up, opinions have changed 180 degrees, he said.

A golf course, large lots, views of open areas, and the small-town charm of Balaton are part of the appeal of Eastbay, Anderson said. Another advantage is that Balaton has a “feeling of being close to Marshall,” Anderson said.

EDA members felt that a meeting with the planning commission would be helpful in determining what direction Tracy should follow in developing new housing areas.

Museum rails to get boost

Wheels Across the Prairie boosters will be “workin’ on the railroad” this year.


Plans have been mapped to move the museum’s freight train a short distance south. Temporarily relocating the train will make it possible to shore up the section of track directly underneath the museum’s 1915 switch engine and tender car.

“We didn’t take into account the effect the weight of the engine would have on the tracks,” explained Mary Lou Ludeman, the museum’s longtime curator. The 62-foot long switch engine and tender car were set on the museum’s specially constructed tracks in 1990. But 16 years of the steam engine’s mega-tonnage has warped the steel rails and crushed ties underneath the engine.

The planned remedy is to first build a new section of track on the south end of the museum’s “railroad.” Once enough footage is available on the museum’s rail spur, the engine, tender, boxcar and caboose will be pulled south onto the new section of track. The damaged track segment that is now underneath the engine will then be rebuilt.

To prevent a reoccurrence of the settled track, plans are to pour a cement pad where the engine’s repaired tracks will be laid. The rock for the track will cover the concrete, so the museum’s train will look as realistic as it does now. Once the track is rebuilt, the train will be repositioned in its present location.

Ludeman said that the museum is grateful to the Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern Railroad, which is donating old rails and ties for the project.

The switch engine and coal car were moved to Tracy from Rochester in 1990. A turn-of-the-century wooden boxcar and caboose were added later.

EDA sets price for Eastview apartments

The Tracy Economic Development Authority has set a $900,000 asking price for its Eastview and Fifth Street Apartments.

The EDA has not been actively trying to sell the properties. But the city development group agreed Friday to the $900,000 sale price in response to an inquiry from a private party looking to buy rental properties.

If the prospective buyer is interested in one apartment complex and not the other, the EDA set the price of the Eastview Apartments at $550,000 and the Fifth St. Apartments at $450,000. Each apartment complex consists of two, four-plexes. Each two-bedroom apartment has about 1,100 square feet.

The EDA spearheaded the construction of the apartment complexes in 1995 and 1999, and continues to own and manage them.


Sodus Township school plans reunion

By Kyle Lessman

The one-room schoolhouse era is long past, but the memories made in these simple country schools live on in the minds and hearts of the many students who once passed through their doors.

“One-room frame schoolhouses once dotted the American countryside,” explained long-time Sodus Township resident, Wayvel Johnson. “They were rectangular structures, usually white, with large windows on both sides for light and ventilation.”

Wayvel attended Sunnyside School, District 84 in the ‘30s. The Sunnyside School was built in 1901 in Sodus Township, located just to the northwest of Tracy.

“We were born at the end of the pioneer era,” said Johnson. “Family, home and friends taught us values and goals and our teachers enhanced and enlarged those values and goals.”

She went on to explain that country school teachers worked extremely hard, and therefore gained great respect from students and parents alike. Along with the traditional “three R’s” of reading, writing and arithmetic, the teacher was also responsible for teaching science, physical education, history, music, art, spelling and citizenship. She also served as the nurse, janitor, and disciplinarian.

Not only were the teachers of the day very versatile but the building too served many purposes. The school building was often the site of Christmas programs, basket socials, card parties, bridal showers, dances, 4-H club meetings, oyster stew suppers, Sunday Bible school and many other events.

This school served not only as the center of learning for the more than 200 students and teachers who spent countless hours under its humble roof, but also a center of social activities and community events until it closed its doors in 1954. The building now serves as the Sodus Town Hall.

Fifty-three years of learning and fellowship has not gone unrecognized. In 1974 Wayvel organized the first Sunnyside School and Sodus Township reunion. Along with this reunion Wayvel began collecting information about the students and teachers from Sunnyside as well as the history of Sodus Township. She has since compiled two books full of letters from former students and teachers along with historical facts and pictures. She now lives in Marshall. Copies of her books are available upon request.

Since 1974 there has been a reunion ever few years, the last being in 1991. Now after 15 years there will once again be a reunion held. The potluck dinner and Sodus Township reunion will begin at 12 noon on Sunday, July 16 at the Sodus Town Hall.

“Often my memory takes me back to a time when my life revolved around simple school days, the joys of journeying into a new world through characters in our school books,” reflected Wayvel in one of her compilation books. “I think of my days in a one-room schoolhouse, back in the ‘30s that left me with a rich heritage and an appreciation for natural pleasures.”

Green thumbs share city gardening duties

By Kyle Lessman

Tracy residents may have noticed a new splash of color in city gardens along with some new faces.

Early this spring Tracy residents Lisa Schaar and Kris Tiegs took on the challenge of planting and caring for the 11 city gardens sprinkled across the city.

“We’ve been friends forever and this just seemed like something fun to do together and plus we get paid for it,” said Tiegs.

Both women work for the school and have the summer off. They both also enjoy gardening so this was the perfect opportunity for them.

The duo began their work in mid-May, planning and planting. “We changed the shape of some of the gardens and began adding perennials that will come up every year,” said Tiegs.

Schaar explains that they were lucky in June and did not have much watering to do but now with warmer, dryer weather in July they are watering and weeding one to two times per week. “With the two of us it takes about three to four hours to weed and water all of the beds,” explained Schaar.

The two are already planning for some new features next year. “We are hoping to continue to add perennials to all of the beds,” said Schaar. “And we would like to add a bench too.”

Until the frost of fall comes the pair of green-thumbs will continue to color the streets of Tracy with beautiful blooms.


Shocked at first, Belgian grows to love rural Minnesota

By Seth Schmidt


Free health screenings, medical demonstrations, lively music, helicopter fly-in, and a fun run are among the activities planned at the Shetek Medical Services Health & Fitness Fair.

The Saturday, July 15 event is at End-O-Line Railroad Park in Currie, from 7:30 a.m. to noon.

Ten free medical screenings and tests will be offered. Several other minimal charge screenings are also scheduled.

Free screenings and tests include skin cancer, glucose, lungs, orthodics, bone density, vision peripheral arterial disease, blood pressure, hearing, hemoglobin.

Reduced cost screenings include full chemistry blood panel (12-hour fast required), and prostate cancer. Tetanus booster shots will be offered for $20.

Ultra sound screenings, which require advance registration, include carotid artery/stroke, abdominal aortic/aneurysm, and varicose veins. For more information, call 507-212-4122.

Other health fair highlights include:

• 5K fun/run walk, *;30 a.m.

• Music by the Lake Sarah Praise ensemble.

• An educational display about bio-terrorism threats and responses.

• Massage therapist services.

• Kiwanis pancake breakfast, 7:30 to 11:30 a.m.

• Sioux Valley medical helicopter landing.

• Health and fitness displays.

• Community Blood Bank blood collection.