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News from the week of October 4, 2006


Homecoming spirit sizzles

Panther homecoming week festivities continue at Tracy Area High School this week.

Dan Dieter and Celia Brockway will preside over the festivities as homecoming king and queen. The two were crowned at a Monday night coronation ceremony. Homecoming week activities come to a climax Friday with a school pepfest, powder puff football game, downtown parade, homecoming football game and junior and senior high homecoming dances.

Kick-off time for the football game against Fulda is 7 p.m. The parade begins at about 4 p.m.

“Beach Party: Scorch ‘Em” is the homecoming week theme.

Each day this week has a different dress up theme for students. Monday was “Summer Bum Day,” Tuesday was “Toga Day,” Wednesday was “Super Hero Day,” Thursday will be “Surfer/Hawaiian Day.” Friday is dress up day.

Tracy/Milroy/Balaton faces Gibbon/Fairfax/Winthrop Thursday night in the homecoming volleyball match. A bonfire near the practice football field follows the match.

High school classes will be dismissed Friday afternoon to allow students to take part in special games and activities. A powder puff football game that pits the junior girls against the senior girls will be held on he high school football field.

Following the homecoming football game, students in grades 7-9 have a dance at the elementary school. Grades 10-12 plan a dance at the high school.

Foundation honors Mary Lou

The Southwest Initiative Foundation presented a 20-year anniversary award to Mary Lou Ludeman of Tracy on Monday, Oct. 2. Ludeman was a charter member and chairman of the advisory committee for the Paul & Alma Schwan Aging Trust Fund The Aging Trust Fund is a part of the Southwest Initiative Fund that provides resources and leadership to promote productive aging in southwest Minnesota.

The Southwest Initiative Foundation created the award to honor 20 individuals, groups, organizations, or businesses that have helped the foundation achieve its mission and goals over its 20-year history.

“Mary Lou helped shape the work of the foundation’s Paul & Alma Schwan Aging Trust Fund,” said Sherry Ristau, foundation president. “She was (and still is) deeply committed to the mission and purpose of both the initiative foundation and the Aging Trust Fund. Mary Lou has given selflessly of her time and talents to help the Foundation make a difference for older people in the region.”

In addition to an engraved pottery vase, Ludeman received a $1,000 grant from the SWIF to be awarded to the project or program of her choice serving southwest Minnesota. Ludeman chose to give her grant to the Tracy Nursing Home for a new lift chair.

“This is just beautiful,” Ludeman said when the award was presented Monday. “Thank you so much.”

Ludeman, a 1946 Tracy High School graduate, was inducted into her school’s “Wall of Fame” in 1996. She is the curator at the Wheels Across the Prairie Museum, and a past recipient of the Tracy Chamber of Commerce’s “outstanding citizen” award.

• • •

Over its 20-year history, the Southwest Initiative Fund has

Awarded 1,602 grants totaling over $15.9 million to projects and programs serving southwest Minnesota

Awarded 478 loans totaling over $24.5 million to help start or expand businesses in southwest Minnesota. Loans have resulted in the creation or retention of nearly 6,500 jobs.

Built assets of over $49.3 million. Of that total, $30.1 million are designated as endowed assets, which serve as a “savings account” for future projects.

The Southwest Initiative Foundation is a regional foundation dedicated to advancing Southwest Minnesota through leadership, relationship-building, program development and philanthropy. For more information see


What's most important? City to discuss priorities


By Seth Schmidt

Tracy City Council leaders want to bring city goals and priorities into sharper focus.

At their Sept. 25 meeting, council members agreed to have a combined planning meeting with the Tracy Economic Development Authority and Tracy Planning Commission. Council member Jan Arvizu suggested the meeting.

“We need to set some priorities. We can’t do everything…I’d like to see a game plan here that is more concrete than just hopping from idea to idea.”

It was the consensus of council members to try having the gathering in late October or early November and see if a professional “facilitator” can be hired to lead the meeting. Council members also agreed to contact Tracy school board and hospital board representatives, to see if they are also interested in the common planning session.

Tracy city government, Arvizu said, has many future issues. Many suggestions have been made for city projects and programs, but they all cost money, and city taxpayers can’t afford all of them, the council member asserted. Future needs include streets, sewage lagoons, water system, and a proposed south Tracy storm sewer, she said. Money borrowed to pay for aquatic center amenities hasn’t been repaid, she said, and the hospital is looking at future improvements.

The Tracy Economic Development Authority, Arvizu said, has talked about developing a new housing addition, expanding the industrial park or building a new one, building a corrections facility and demolishing old buildings.

“I think that we, as a council, have to encompass the big picture,” Arvizu said. “We are only going to do so much…we need to look at where we are going to get the biggest bang for the buck.”

Robert Gervais, Tracy community development director, said that he supports the idea of setting priorities, and knew of a trained individual who would facilitate two meetings at a cost of $400.

“I think it would be money well spent,” said councilman Bill Chukuske. He said that the goal setting meeting was similar to what council had tried to arrange in early 2005, shortly after three new council members took office.

Council member Sandi Rettmer expressed support for the planning idea, but asked, “can’t we do this without spending $400?”

Councilman Charlie Snyder said he liked the idea of goat setting but wondered whether the city was attempting to accomplish too much, too quickly.

Arvizu said she’d like the goals set before the council finalizes its 2007 budget.

Council members passed a motion instructing staff to see when the facilitator is available, and contact other boards to see when they will be available to meet.


New pastor to be installed at Tracy Lutheran Sunday

A new pastor will be installed at Tracy Lutheran Church Sunday.

Rev. Elton Jorde, 50, comes to Tracy from McIntosh, where he has served for the past seven years. He and his wife, Keren, have two high school age daughters: Rachel and Elisabeth.

“It’s good to be here,” Pastor Jorde said early this week. “I’m looking forward to getting started.”

The clergyman was introduced to Tracy Lutheran members Sunday. He delivered his farewell sermon in McIntosh on Sept. 24.

Prior to his ministry in McIntosh, Pastor Jorde served as a missionary in Madagascar. The entire Jorde family lived in Madagascar, an island country off the southeast tip of Africa, for 11 years. A 1987 graduate of North Dakota State University, Jorde earned a Master of Divinity degree at Luther Seminary.

Keren, Rachel, and Elisabeth Jorde moved to Tracy prior to the start of the 2006-07 school year. Rachel is a senior at Tracy Area High School, and Elisabeth is a junior. Keren is employed as a paraprofessional at the high school. Pastor Jorde joined the rest of the family in Tracy last week.

Pastor Jorde succeeds Pastor Gary Gabel, who has been a part-time interim minister at Tracy Lutheran since July of 2002. Pastor Gabel, who lives in Ivanhoe, was called to the church after Pastor Marlene Elmstrom accepted a call in Ortonville. Pastor Steve Olson, Tracy Lutheran’s senior clergyman for 17 years, left the congregation in August of 2005 in order to serve a Lutheran church in International Falls.

Rev. Katherine Rood, Canby, dean of the Prairie Conference of the Evangelical Lutheran Church’s Southwest Minnesota Synod, will conduct the 9 a.m. Sunday installation service.


Council nails down maintenance ordinance

By Seth Schmidt

A new ordinance designed to make it easier for the City of Tracy to enforce minimum maintenance standards for buildings in Tracy goes into effect at the end of October.

Tracy City Council members unanimously approved Ordinance 301 last week. Text of the ordinance was published in the Sept. 27 Tracy Headlight-Herald. The ordinance goes into effect 30 days after publication.

The council gave their blessings to the ordinance after a spirited discussion with city council candidate Tony Peterson, who spoke against the ordinance.

“I understand the intent. It’s a noble intent. But I don’t see how you are going to enforce that and I don’t see the necessity.”

Councilman Russ Stobb defended the ordinance.

“It would be a nice world if we didn’t have to do this.” But in fact, Stobb said, the city has had to deal with instances where people have been living in buildings unfit for habitation. The ordinance will give the city more authority in dealing with situations that could endanger people’s health, he said. Stobb cited an instance where the city boarded up the windows of an abandoned house, only to have people move into the structure, and replace the board up windows with plastic.

City Administrator Audrey Koopman said the city had an instance where a family was living in a camper for an extended period of time.

“It becomes a safety hazard. This ordinance would prevent this from happening.”

The administrator said that the ordinance will also promote a neater community.

Council member Sandy Rettmer and Koopman said that they envision an advisory board being established after the ordinance becomes effective, to step up the ground rules for enforcement.

The ordinance enforcement responsibilities to a “compliance officer.” Koopman said that the compliance officer could a city building inspector and/or fire marshal.

• • •

The goals of the ordinance are:

• Protect the character and stability of all structures and property within the city.

• Correct and prevent conditions that aversely affect or are likely to adversely affect, the life, safety, general welfare and health, including the physical, mental and social well-being of persons occupying structures within the City.

• Provide minimum standards for heating, sanitation, ventilation, light and maintenance necessary to the health and safety of occupants of structures.

• Provide minimum standards for the maintenance of existing structures, and thus prevent slums and blight.

• Preserve the value of land and structures throughout the City.

The ordinance sets minimum standards for building foundations, exterior walls, roofs, steps, decks, porches, grading, heating systems, and kitchen and toilet facilities. Standards are also established for types of allowable fencing and the maintenance of vacant buildings. A definition is provided for “buildings unfit for human occupancy” and specifies under what circumstances the city has the right to inspect a dwelling or building.

Peterson criticized the ordinance making it a violation if more than 20% of an exterior building surface is “blistered or peeling.” Peterson said that 20% rule was “too subjective” and “too broad.” Many buildings in the city don’t meet the letter of the 20% rule, he said, including the city shop on Hwy. 14.

“I don’t think government needs to be doing this,” Peterson said.

Koopman said that ordinance would give the city a tool to help people maintain their properties. The city, she said, could possibly offer to buy paint to paint their house if they can’t afford it.


Narrow, vacant lot draws wide-ranging discussion

Property will go back on tax roll

By Seth Schmidt

The Tracy City Council agreed last week to transfer ownership of a vacant lot to a local development group.

PC&B Properties agreed to pay title transfer costs, if the city would convey a 37x175-foot parcel of land on Morgan Street. The parcel adjoins a 138-foot by 175-foot plot of land that PC&B Properties would like to develop or sell.

Council members (with Bill Chukuske abstaining) agreed to the transfer, despite two contrary points of discussion. Marv Van Acker, an adjacent property owner, protested that he’d tried unsuccessfully on two previous occasions to buy the lot from the city. City Attorney Frank Nielsen advised council members that transferring the lot to PC&B Properties could raise a conflict-of-interest issue for the city.

PC&B Properties is comprised of Chukuske and Dick Boerboom of Tracy, and Brian Pfeiffer of Marshall. Chukuske, besides serving on the Tracy City Council, also serves on the Tracy Economic Development Authority (EDA), and Tracy Planning Commission. Dick Boerboom is a member of the EDA.


Similar to past requests

Boerboom presented the lot acquisition request to the council. He noted that it has been the council’s past practice to deed small, vacant lots owned by the city to adjoining property owners, if the buyer agrees to pay the transfer costs of updating the abstract and title. Transferring the property to PC&B Properties, Boerboom noted, would put the parcel back on property tax rolls and relieve the city of the expense of mowing the strip.

PC&B Properties purchased their 138-by 175-foot parcel of Morgan St. property from the State of Minnesota earlier this year as tax-forfeited property. PC&B Properties has subsequently razed an old house and cleared brush and debris from the site. The Morgan St. land is now for sale.

Boerboom told council members that he and his partners would like to attract a developer interested in building a four-plex on the site.


Objection raised

Van Acker, a Tracy mayoral candidate in the November general election, objected to the sale to PC&B Properties. Van Acker said that he had tried to buy the vacant lot on two previous occasions, but had been rejected by the council.

Council members asked Van Acker what he would do with the lot, which is across the street from Van Acker’s home. The vacant lot is on the west side of First St., while Van Acker’s house is on the east side of the street.

Van Acker replied that he had wanted to put up a storage building on the vacant lot.

Councilman Tim Byrne said that he didn’t think it made sense for anyone but PC&B Properties to own the narrow lot, because it was too small to build on.

Van Acker responded that the city had recently changed an ordinance to make it easier to build on small lots. City Administrator Audrey Koopman said that was true, as long as setback requirements were met.

Chukuske said that if the council didn’t want to sell the land to PC&B, that was okay because he and his partners already have enough land to develop their property without the additional 37 feet.

“If you don’t want to sell the property, that’s fine. It won’t stop us from moving forward.” But if the land remains in city ownership, he said, taxpayers would be stuck with on-going maintenance costs of the plot.

Nielsen asked whether adding the 37 feet would add value to the PC&B Properties land.

Boerboom said it probably would, but not for certain. One prospective buyer, he said, has expressed concern about the potential cost of street assessments, should First St. (a gravel street) ever be paved.

Councilmen Russ Stobb and Charlie Snyder asked whether it would be fairest to seek sealed bids for the sale of the 37-foot vacant lot, as long as two parties were interested.


No ‘stumbling blocks’

Council member Jan Arvizu asked Nielsen what process the council should use in selling the lot.

Nielsen said that he had not been asked to research the potential land sale prior to the meeting. But he said that the council should consider whether the proposed sale to PC&B Properties presented a conflict of interest issue. Nielsen said he wasn’t saying that the sale was a conflict of interest, only that it could be.

Byrne said that Chukuske would abstain from the vote.

Nielsen responded that a Chukuske abstention “may or may not” resolve the potential conflict of interest.

“I am not saying that it can’t be done,” Nielsen told council members.

Council member Sandi Rettmer responded by stating that the city shouldn’t be “putting up stumbling blocks” for potential developers. She said that “a similar issue” had arisen before the EDA, and as a result, a proposal for the purchase and repair a vacant downtown building had fallen through.

A motion to transfer the property to PC&B Properties, with the business paying all transfer fees, passed unanimously, with Chukuske abstaining.