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News from the week of January 3, 2007


No-sort recycling begins

By Seth Schmidt

It’s no longer necessary to sort household recycling materials in Lyon County.

Effective Jan. 1, consumers can place cardboard, paper, cans, plastic, and glass bottles in the same container.

“People don’t have to continue to separate things out and put them in different containers,” explains Sharon Root, of the Lyon County Environmental Office. Beginning this month, materials saved for recycling can be mixed together. Materials will be trucked to recycling centers in the Twin Cities where items will be separated.

Free curbside recycling services are offered in all 13 Lyon County towns. Rural residents are encouraged to bring their reusable materials to a recycling shed located in a Lyon County town. All Lyon County towns have at least one rural recycling shed. Marshall has three.

Root feels that the change should make recycling much easier. Since Lyon County started a recycling program in 1990, materials saved for recycling needed to be separated for pick-up.

People can continue to place items saved for recycling in Lyon County’s familiar green recycling tubs. Root suggests that light items—such as paper and plastic—be placed on the container’s bottom to minimize the threat of wind. Other containers can also be used, Root says, but they must be clearly marked with the recycling logo. Recycling containers also need to be small enough to be handled easily, she stressed, and no larger than 18 to 30 gallons.

Green recycling tubs can be purchased at the Lyon County Environmental Office in Marshall for $8.17. Recycling containers can be bought at Tracy City Hall for $4.

Materials that are acceptable for recycling are:

• Plastic marked with the recycling logo.

• Tin cans.

• Aluminum cans.

• Glass containers with the lids removed.

• Newspapers, flattened cardboard, and magazines.

Flattening metal cans and plastic jugs is optional, but preferred, since it saves space in both the home and the recycling trucks. Removing labels from tin cans, glass containers, and plastic containers is optional. All food containers should be rinsed out.

Materials that can not be recycled include: plastic bags and wrap, Styrofoam, waxy paper packaging from refrigerated or frozen foods.

Lyon County has a contract with Waste Management Services of Marshall to pick up household materials that are saved for recycling. In Tracy, another hauler (Southwest Sanitation) picks up residential garbage containers.

For more information, call the Lyon County Environmental Office at 507-532-8210.


'06 precipitation varied widely


By Seth Schmidt

For the third-straight year, weather at the Southwest Research and Outreach Station near Lamberton was wetter than historic averages.

Precipitation recorded at the University of Minnesota ag center near Lamberton totaled 29.85” for 2006. Last year’s moisture was 18% less than the 36.32” logged in 2005, but still well-above the historic average 26.53” for Lamberton. The University of Minnesota research center west of Lamberton has been tracking weather statistics since 1960.

However, precipitation totals in the immediate Tracy area were below historic norms. Kevin Haney recorded 22.78 inches of precipitation in Tracy in 2006. (See “Weather Watch” column page 13).

Annual precipitation totals at Lamberton for five of the past seven years have exceeded historic norms. The only exceptions occurred in 2002 (22.89”) and 2003 (20.28”).

The 2006 precipitation was timely for farmers. Much of last year’s moisture fell in the spring and early summer growing season. June was the year’s wettest month with 9.39” of rain recorded at the Lamberton research center.

Monthly 2006 precipitation totals at Lamberton were: January, 0.63; February, 0.42; March, 2.25”; April, 3.66”; May, 2.44”; June, 9.39; July, 1.75”; August, 4.11”; September, 2.82”; October, 0.45”; November, 0.45”; December, 1.91.”

Since Oct. 1, Southwest Minnesota weather has been dry, with less than 3” of precipitation falling in the last quarter of the year. October, November, and December brought no measurable snow, a circumstance unprecedented in recent history. The year ended with showers on Dec. 30-31, for a total of 1.22” of precipitation. About an inch of wet snow finally stuck to the ground on Jan. 1, New Year’s Day. Snowfall for early 2006 was also light; just 17” of snow recorded January through March of 2006. The year’s heaviest snowfall occurred March 13, with 8” of white stuff falling.

Temperatures during the May 1 to Sept 30 growing season were just below average. Growing degree units for the five-month period totaled 2,463 in 2006, compared with a historic average of 2,532. But in the important months of June, July, and August, growing degree units exceeded historic averages. July had 11 days when the maximum temperature was at 90 degrees or above. The warmest period of 2006 occurred July 28 through August 1, when the mercury hit 90 degrees five days in a row. July 31 and August 1 were the hottest days of 2006, each with daily highs of 97.

Only five below-zero degree days were recorded in 2006: Feb.17, minus 21, Feb. 18, minus 13; Feb. 19 minus 9; Dec. 7, minus 3; Dec. 8, minus 3.


May completion eyed for townhouses

A four-unit townhouse project planned near the Tracy United Methodist Church could be ready for occupancy as early as May.

Dan Anderson, president of North Star Building Systems of Tracy and Marshall, says that three of the townhouses are at various stages of completion in North Star’s factory facilities.

“It’s possible that we could be ready to set them (on their foundations) by the middle of February,” Anderson said. North Star buildings are constructed in sections indoors, then hauled to the site and connected together.

Kendall Cooreman Contracting began digging footings on Wednesday, and concrete was expected to be poured for the foundations on Thursday.

The townhouses could be completed by May, Anderson said.

The four-plex is being built on a 175x175-foot parcel of land south of the Methodist Church. The units will face north, towards Morgan Street. Each two-bedroom unit will have about 1,200 square feet and have its own attached double garage.

“Genesis One,” as the project is called, will have individual units for either rent or for purchase, Anderson said.


Employee becomes DQ owner

The Dairy Queen in Tracy has a new owner.

Jessica Sheets has purchased the Hwy. 14 restaurant from Ken and Brenda Hagert. The sale was effective Friday, Dec. 29.

“I’m really excited about this,” the new owner said. “This is a new adventure for me.” Sheets, 22, has been a Dairy Queen employee for the past two years. She said she’s enjoyed working at Dairy Queen, knows the business well, and looks forward to the challenge of being an owner.

“This is a good opportunity for me. I’ve lived in Tracy all my life, and I know the people.”

The Hagerts, who live in Wanda, have operated the owned the Tracy Dairy Queen for six years.

“It’s been a very good business,” Brenda Hagert said. “We loved it the whole time we had it. It’s not like Ken and I sold it because we were tired of it, because we weren’t. It just seemed like this was a good time to sell.”

Their recent adoption of three children between the ages of 2-4, was one factor in their decision, Brenda said. (The Hagerts also have a 12-year-old daughter). Another influence was the opportunity to sell the business to a valued employee.

“She has been a very good employee and has the knowledge of the business to be successful. She’s a good person with ties to the community, and support from her family,” Hagert said.

Sheets, a 2003 Tracy Area High School graduate, said she is grateful to her parents, Ken and Doris, for helping provide financial backing to buy the business. She said she also appreciates the support of the Dairy Queen employees who will continue to work for her: Manager Barb Johnson, Holly Van Meveren, Natalie Ankrum, Abby Knott, and Teresa Buetow.

“We all help each other,” Sheets said of the employees.

The Dairy Queen will be run much as it has in the past, Sheets indicated. But there will be changes too.

Sheets has decided to keep the Dairy Queen open throughout the winter, rather than closing in January. January hours will be between 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. In February , the hours will likely be extended to 8 p.m.. In the summer, the Dairy Queen is open until 10 p.m.

So far, Sheets said, mild winter weather has kept customers coming to Dairy Queen. “It depends a lot on the weather,” she said.

The official name of the business is now Dairy Queen of Tracy.


Italian youth adjusts to American ways

By Valerie Scherbart Quist


At first glance, David Ottogalli seems like the typical American teenager. He loves movies, playing video games, and watching sports on television. His favorite thing to eat? Hot dogs.

“They are really good,” he said.

Ottogalli is an exchange student from Italy, and is staying with the Stephen and Diane Ferrazzano family. David said he decided to become an exchange student because he wanted a change.

“Everything was the same for me,” he said.

David had traveled to San Francisco with his parents as a child, and often watched American movies.

“I always liked America,” he said. “People here are really friendly.”

David’s hometown is about 20 minutes from Venice by train, he said. His family at home includes dad Marco, mom Daniana, and sister Marta, who is 14.

One change for David while living with the Ferrazzanos is that instead of having a younger sister, he has a younger brother. David and host brother Stephen, 7, enjoy watching the “Rocky” movies together and playing video games.

“It’s cool having a little brother,” David said.

The “Rocky” movies are special to David because Rocky is Italian. David said he recently enjoyed seeing the latest in the series, “Rocky Balboa.”

School is going well for the 17-year-old, who said there are many differences between school in the U.S. and school back home.

“A lot of people think it is easier but I don’t think that it is,” he said.

He said the teaching might not be as difficult, but most students have jobs or participate in sports, giving them less time to study. His classes include trigonometry, computer, chemistry, and social.

David said it was difficult taking classes in English the first week. He said it has gotten easier since then as he has gotten used to learning in English and he is able to understand more.

David participated in soccer in the fall and plans to try baseball in the spring. In the interim, he is doing weight training. Soccer was a sport he was well-acquainted with, but he had never played baseball before coming to the U.S.

Watching American sports on TV are a favorite pastime for the Italian teen. He especially enjoys watching the Timberwolves, the Wild, and college football. Back home, David and his dad are Yankees fans because Yankee player Jason Giambi is Italian. However, he said, he likes watching the Twins too.

David has adjusted well to life in Tracy. He has made many friends and has friends pick him up for school every day. He has attended different events in the area with his host family and friends, and plans to travel to New York in May. While there, he looks forward to seeing a Yankees game. Enjoying Thanksgiving and Christmas with his host family have been highlights of his stay so far.

“This town is pretty cool,” David said. “It is going good and I hope it will continue to.”

Upon returning home, David plans to get his diploma and attend college either in Italy or in the U.S. He is interested in a career in business/marketing, following in his father’s footsteps.

In addition, the tables will turn for David when he returns home and he will get a taste of what it’s like to be a host brother. David said his parents plan to host an exchange student of their own.


Lola Cooreman era ends for Tracy Senior Dining

By Seth Schmidt

Life wasn’t always a bowl of cherries for Lola Cooreman at Tracy Senior Dining.

“One morning Shirley (Heinrich) came in to make dinner and the dishwasher had sprung a leak. We had water all over,” Cooreman remembers.

But the director, who retired last week as Tracy Senior Dining director, says that the good times far outnumber the bad during her tenure.

“It’s been fun. We’ve had our ups and down, but we’ve always made it. I’m going to miss all of the people.”

The Tracy woman is looking forward to the next chapter of her life.

“It’s time to do something else. I’ve got kids and grandkids to visit, and I like to travel. When you have a job five days a week, it’s hard to get away,” Cooreman says.

The senior dining program offers a nutritionally balanced noon meal Monday through Friday at the Tracy Multi-Purpose Center. Home-delivered meals are also offered.

“It’s not only the food, it’s the fellowship,” Cooreman says of the program. “It gets people out with other people.” After lunch, many people stay to play cards or play Bingo.

The program helps keep seniors healthy, Cooreman says, because it is sometimes difficult for older people living alone to make complete meals for just one or two people.

As senior dining manager, Cooreman has been responsible for the program’s administrative and record keeping chores. She also shares nutrition information with seniors, leads a short pre-meal program, and lines up guest speakers and entertainment.

School groups and AFS students are among the favorites. The Sam and Melissa Sahlstrom family, she adds, is especially popular.

“Anytime we have the Sahlstroms singing, we will have a good turnout.”


More home-delivered

Tracy Senior Dining typically serves about 20 people each weekday in-house. Volunteers deliver another 25 to 30 meals to people’s homes. Each Monday, a week’s worth of meals (one hot, and six frozen) are delivered to about 21 homes in the Garvin and Amiret areas.

Since she started in May of 1988, the number of people eating meals at the senior center has declined, while the home delivered meals has increased.

“It’s the opposite of what it used to be,” Cooreman says.

Two decades ago, Cooreman says that Tracy Senior Dining might serve 50 people, and have only 8 to 10 home delivered meals.

Several factors are contributing to this trend.

“People are working longer,” she said. That has meant that fewer young retirees in their 60s are coming to the noon meal.

Tracy didn’t have an O’Brien Court in 1988. O’Brien Court residents, she explains, can have their meals served at O’Brien Court.

More retirees are going south for the winter compared with 18 years ago, Cooreman adds, which also reduces potential numbers for senior dining.

People who count on home-delivered meals, Cooreman said, tend to be older, and have greater difficulty in getting out. Cooreman looks for the growth in home delivered meals to continue.

• • •

Cooreman’s retirement coincides with another change at Tracy Senior Dining.

Effective Jan. 2, Lutheran Social Services is the region’s new senior dining provider. Lutheran Social Services succeeds Nutrition Services, Inc. of Waseca, which has had the Region 8 senior dining contract for the past three years. Cooreman said that she did not know who would be assuming her duties as senior dining manager.

“A transition is always hard, but I’m sure that things will keep running smoothly,” Cooreman said.

Heinrich, a 28-year veteran with senior dining, is expected to continue as the program’s cook, with Linda Petit serving as assistant.