News from the week of March 7, 2007
|Glimpse of future?
Possible new housing areas mapped
By Seth Schmidt
Tracy Planning Commission and Economic Development Authority members have gotten a glimpse of what a future Tracy housing development could look like. Both boards this week reviewed conceptual plans for proposed housing developments on the north and northeast edges of Tracy.
I & S Engineers & Architects of Mankato, drafted the plans at the request of the EDA, which has long discussed the potential of a new Tracy housing addition. Last year, the planning commission selected a 53 acre site on the northeast edge of Tracy and a 30-acre area on the north side of Tracy as having the most potential for attracting new housing construction.
The 53 acres lie between the Prairie View Healthcare Center on the south and Hwy. 14 on the north, and would extend city limits eastward beyond Fourth St. East. Heirs of the late Johnny Glaser own the property.
Darold Edwards owns the 30-acres of farmland being looked at outside Tracys northern city limits. The proposed north housing area is bounded by Lyon County 11 (Airport Road) on the east, Tracy Auction Service vehicle lot on the west, and city limits on the south.
I & S drafted four plans for each site. The planning commission looked at the layouts Monday. Tuesday morning, the EDA selected a plan for both the Glaser and Edwards properties, and asked the Mankato engineering firm to develop estimates for putting in streets and utilities at each site.
This is the third step in a 100-step process, said Robert Gervais, Tracy Community Development director.
Once the infrastructure cost estimates are made, Gervais said that the EDA can determine which site is more feasible and decide whether to pursue the matter further. Gervais said that it is his hope that private developers would be interested in investing in the development, and that the City of Tracy could offer tax-increment financing or other incentives to make new housing construction in Tracy more attractive. Gervais said he does not think, in talking with others, that the city has the money buy land and develop a housing addition on its own.
A new housing development, Gervais said, would be an excellent way to attract more people to Tracy.
The conceptual plans envision neighborhoods that are much different from most established Tracy residential areas.
Both drawings envision gently-curved streets and several dead-end cul-de-sacs. Lots are irregularly shaped and tend to be large. The smallest lots are 12,000 square feet, with many much larger. Both the Edwards and Glaser drawings have water retention areas.
The north Tracy/Edwards property drawing has room for 62 single-family houses. A proposed pedestrian trail would thread through two park areas on the north and northwest areas of the addition. The development would have three street outlets: an extension of North Third St., and new streets exiting onto Hwy. 14 and the Airport Road.
The northeast Tracy/Glaser property drawing recommends that land along Hwy. 14 be developed into nine multi-family dwellings. Seventy-two single-family residential lots are mapped further south in the proposed development. Access to the new neighborhood would come from the eastward extension of State, Elm, and East Hollett streets, and a new street coming off Hwy. 14.
High school survey report planned Monday
The District 417 Board of Education will receive a report at their Monday, March 12 meeting on the facility survey that was recently conducted.
Three hundred surveys were completed in Tracy over the past few weeks, asking taxpayers about their interest in constructing an arts & athletics facility addition to Tracy Area High School.
The facility survey report will be given to the school board at 6 p.m., prior to the 7 p.m. board meeting. The meeting will be held in the TAHS choir room, and in the case of a large crowd, moved to the lunchroom. Everyone is welcome to attend.
Physicians say farewell
Religion, family cited for return to Pakistan
By Seth Schmidt
Dr. Haseeb Khawaja and Dr. Nida Latif say that life was good in Tracy
The husband-wife physician team lived in a nice house. Both had good-paying jobs. Each enjoyed their work as physicians, and derived great satisfaction from being able to help people. The Pakistani natives had made friends in the community. Their two young sons were healthy and active. The couple felt welcomed and respected by neighbors and colleagues.
We have been happy here, Dr. Latif said. The people have been wonderful.
Yet something was missing.
Here, there is a (Christian) church every few blocks, said Dr. Khawaja, who, like his wife, is a devout Muslim. To go to a mosque here, I have to go to Marshall. The next closest mosque is in Sioux Falls, or Mankato. Back home (in Pakistan) it will be just the opposite, there will be a mosque every few blocks.
In Minnesota, loved ones were missing from their family circle.
We have been gone (from Pakistan) for six years, Dr. Khawaja said. Their pre-school sons, Kaamil and Affan, knew their grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins mostly as voices on the telephone or as faces in a photograph.
We had to decide what was most important to us, Dr. Khawaja said.
The decision to end their Tracy medical practices and return to Pakistan, Dr. Khawaja said, was based upon their desire to be closer to their families and make it easier to instruct their sons in the faith of Islam.
A farewell reception for the physicians was held at Sanford Tracy Medical Center Feb. 28.
We appreciate everything you have done here, said Rick Nordahl, Sanford Tracy administrator.
As a farewell gift from the hospital, the doctors received a Tracy afghan etched with images of the community.
We arent going to let you forget about Tracy, Sanford employee Carol Cooreman told the doctors.
The family was scheduled to depart from Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport Wednesday, March 7, beginning a 20-hour flight to Pakistan.
First medical practices
Dr. Latif and Dr. Khawaja came to Tracy in October of 2004, after completing medical residencies in Michigan and studying at Michigan State Universitys Kalamazoo medical center. Before emigrating to the United States, the physicians earned medical degrees in Karachi, Pakistan.
Dr. Latif saw patients primarily at the Tracy medical clinic. Dr. Khawaja saw patients in Tracy, Westbrook, and Balaton. Both found local people to be friendly and accepting. They praised their fellow clinic and hospital workers.
The quality of health care here is very good, Dr. Latif said. People are well trained and dedicated. The staff has been wonderful to work with. People are good at what they do.
In public, Dr. Latif wears a full-length tunic. A scarf covers her head. Her attire, she explains, is what is prescribed for women in the Koran, the holy book of Islam.
Tracy area people, she said, have been very understanding and supportive of her familys Muslim religious beliefs and practices.
I have not had one problem, she said.
Dr. Khawaja said that before coming to Tracy in 2004, they had been asked at other job interviews whether she would consider adopting conventional American fashions. They would not.
This is a part of our religion, Dr. Khawaja said. When they were interviewed for the Tracy/Westbrook jobs, Dr. Khawaja said they were pleased that Dr. Latifs traditional Muslim attire was not an issue during their Tracy interview.
Both doctors expressed appreciation for accommodations that allowed them to be faithful to Islamic religious practices at work. For example, when it was time for them to say prayers (Muslims are called upon to face Mecca and pray five times each day), they were able to close their office doors and have a private time.
Dr. Latif said that she could only recall being confronted by religious intolerance only once during her years in the U.S. During her residency at a Michigan hospital, a couple requested an American doctor see their sick child rather than her.
They transferred their child to another hospital rather than been seen by a Muslim doctor.
In Minnesota, Dr. Latif said people have been has been tolerant and understanding of their religion.
Dr. Khawaja said that he would like to be a Muslim fundamentalist, who follows Islamic practices ordained by the Koran as closely as possible. However, he and the vast majority of Muslims, Dr. Khawaja stressed, do not support what he called extremists who use religion to condone terrorism and suicide bombings against innocent people, and violence and hatred against Americans. Unfortunately, he said, American foreign policy has served only to inflame anti-American sentiments in much of the Middle East and the Muslim world.
The doctors say that they struggled with their decision to leave Tracy.
We wondered if we were making the right decision. We wondered if people would be angry with us for leaving, Dr. Latif said. It was a relief, after they announced their plans, she said, that people were so understanding.
Financially, Dr. Khawaja said, they will lose by leaving the U.S.. On the other hand, he continued, some things in life are more important than money.
Sometimes you have to take risks to do what you really want to do. By not taking any risks you can lose too.
Neither physician has a job lined up. But they say they arent worried. Many opportunities are available for physicians not only in Pakistan, but also neighboring Arab counties such as the United Arab Emirates, Qutar, and Saudi Arabia, Dr. Khawaja said. A medical practice in the Middle East, he said, would allow them to live close to Islams holy city of Mecca, but would also be just a short flight from family members in Pakistan.
New physician to begin soon at Sanford Tracy
Sanford Tracy Medical Center announces addition of Dr. Mohammad Fareed to its medical staff.
The family medicine doctor saw patients previously at the Divine Providence Health Center in Ivanhoe, which closed recently.
Dr. Fareed is expected to begin working in Tracy in late March, although no definite date has been set.
The new Tracy physician is a Diplomat of the American Board of Family Medicine, a member of the American Medical Association, American Academy of Family Physicians and the Minnesota Academy of Family Physicians. Dr Fareed served on the Minnesota Academy of Family Physicians Legislative and Academic Affairs committees from 2002 to 2004.
Dr. Fareed and his family live in Marshall.
$3 million sewage treatment ponds top five-year city budget
By Seth Schmidt
A five-year City of Tracy budget projects $6.4 million in potential capital improvements spending.
The budgetokayed by Tracy City Council members in Januaryis a road map for possible city projects through the year 2011. However, inclusion in the budget doesnt necessarily mean a listed project will become a reality. All figures in the budget are estimates.
This isnt cast in stone, said councilman Charlie Snyder before the budget was approved. City Administrator Audrey Koopman said that the five-year budget plan provides a rough idea of future city spending needs.
A $3,000,000 estimated cost for improving or replacing the citys sewage treatment ponds is by far the largest item in the budget. The sewage pond improvements are budgeted for 2009.
Major spending proposals in the budget are:
Street improvements, $913,300.
Fire Dept. rescue van, $200,000.
Water meter replacement, $105,000.
Water main replacement, $120,000.
Street sweeper, $133,300.
End loader, $110,000.
Industrial park (new or expansion), $500,000.
New housing addition infrastruction, $525,000.
Bituminous overlay for cemetery roads, $96,000.
Demolition of old buildings, $160,000.
A department-by-department breakdown of the capital improvements budget follows. All spending estimates are for the five-year period.
The $200,000 rescue van is budgeted for the year 2011.
Other budgeted items are: radios, $28,000; grass-fire rig, $16,000; skid unit-grass rig, $12,000; computer, $2,000; parking lot repairs, $13,000; fire hall roof, $40,000; air compressor, $14,000; rescue air bags, $10,000; grass rig for vehicle # 1120, $16,000; skid unit for vehicle #1120, $14,000; thermal camera, $18,000; turnout gear, $30,000; overhead doors & openers, $25,000.
A $28,000 squad car replacement in 2010 is the police departments major budgeted need. Other items are: portable radio, $2,400; radio and light bar, $2,500; light bar and siren control, $1,000; radar units, $3,000; computer replacements, $3,000; office renovation, $3,000.
Playground equipment repair and replacement, $22,500; Swift Lake campground improvements, $10,000; city tree nursery, $5,000.
Construction of a $60,000 courtyard/patio in 2007 accounts for most of the liquor stores capital improvements budget. Other items are $14,000 for roof repairs and $4,800 for new carpeting.
Water & sewer$3,294,000
Items besides the $3,000,000 sewage lagoon improvements are: water meter replacement, $105,000; main line value replacement, $40,000; water tower cleaning, $4,000; pull & inspect well, $10,000; shop/plant furnaces, $15,000; water main replacement, $120,000.
Two-way radios, $4,000; street sweeper, $133,000; end loader, $110,000.
Mens restroom, $8,300; kitchen, $2,000; building improvement, $1,500; roof replacement, $17,000; exterior walls & door opener, $2,000; sand blast building, $3,000; replace windows, $1,000.
Outside improvements, $7,000; tuckpoint brick, $5,000; close off windows, $3,000; floor scrubber, $7,500.
Building improvements, $3,100; ceiling panel replacement, $4,000; replace paneling, $5,000.
Economic Development Authority$1,185,000
Industrial Park expansion, $500,000; housing addition and infrastructure, $525,000; old building demolition, $160,000.
Trees, $2,500; straighten stones, $2,000; overlay roads, $96,000; cemetery signs, $3,000.
A $913,300 expenditure is budgeted for 2009. The street overlays, crack filling, seal coating, and reconstruction projects are what is recommended for phases three, four, and five in the citys pavement management plan.
Computer updates, $10,000; office furniture, $1,000; digital copier replacement, $7,000.
How much snow fell in and around Tracy last week? Kevin Haney of the Tracy Weather Center measured 21 of snow over a four-day period, Tuesday through Friday. Personnel at the Tracy water plant measured 18.5. The heavy snow, combined with high winds, created blizzard conditions for parts of three days, and shut down most events. City of Tracy crews (top) were busy with snow removal operations Friday. Meanwhile, Shetek State Park was snowmobilers heaven.
State officials declare use of closed road signals success
The first use of new road closing signs on Minnesota state highways during winter blizzard conditions Thursday and Friday was declared a success by Minnesota State Patrol and Department of Transportation officials.
The gates and flashing lights did what they were supposed to do. There were a few glitches but, overall, they worked well, said Tom Zimmerman, DOT superintendent.
The road closed signal on Hwy. 14 on Hwy. 14 was activated from about 2 p.m. Thursday, to 2 p.m. Friday, as were signals at the intersection of Hwys. 14 & 59 near Garvin.
DOT notified the local Minnesota State Patrol districts and the local radio stations about the status of the road closing signs. Broadcasters were able to announce the closures several hours in advance.
Minnesota State Patrol dispatchers were quoted as saying We would have had many more crashes and stranded motorists if the gates on I-90 and the flashing lights on rural roads hadnt been warning of the roads being closed.
The Marshall District of the Minnesota State Patrol reported there were 38 property damage crashes and eight minor personal injury crashes during this last winter storm. There were no fatal or serious personal injury crashes reported. Troopers responded to 150 reports of stranded motorists, stalled vehicles, vehicles off the road or abandoned vehicles.
The Minnesota State Patrol issued these winter travel reminders for motorists:
If you have to leave your vehicle-please call law enforcement to let them know where it is and Information about road closures and highway conditions is available by calling 511 or on-line at www.511mn.org that is updated as soon as possible.
Take road closures seriously. Motorists are subject to criminal penalties if they drive past flashing road signals and lowered barriers.
New senior center head plans more activities
By Valerie Scherbart Quist
Mary Ann Blanchette is the new director of the Tracy Senior Center.
Blanchette said she decided to apply for the job after talking with several of the seniors who frequent the center. Several of them encouraged her to take the position, she said.
Being senior center director isnt Blanchettes only job. She is also a foster grandparent for the Head Start program at Tracy Elementary School in the morning from 9 a.m. to noon. She spends afternoons at the senior center, arriving at 1 p.m. in time to make the afternoon coffee and lunch. She also does bookwork for the center and schedules activities.
Blanchette said she has tried to plan more activities at the center. On Monday, March 12, there will be a fashion revue put on by Four Seasons clothing store at 1 p.m. Helping to Heal will present a program on chair tai chi on March 19 at 1 p.m. The activities will last about half an hour.
Blanchette said she would also like to get blood pressure and foot clinics going again, and plan other activities and maybe even field trips.
Blanchette said she is enjoying her new job.
Its kind of fun, she said. Its especially fun since she knows most of the people at the senior center.
Mary Ann and her husband, Gordon, have lived on their farm near Tracy since 1956. All seven of their children attended school in Tracy.