Murray County in state of emergency due to flooding

Murray County has passed a resolution declaring a State of Emergency due to flooding issues.

In an emergency meeting called Thursday, Murray County Commissioners met with Emergency Management Director Heath Landsman to discuss flooding issues throughout the county, according to a news release from the county.  Murray County has experienced widespread flooding after receiving anywhere between 4 to 8 inches of rain over the past week.

The heavy rains have impacted various public infrastructures throughout the county which led to the county issuing this State of Emergency, the news release said.

Landsman will continue to work with the various city and township officials to monitor the flooding.

Nine up for Miss Tracy

Who will it be? One of these nine Tracy Area High School seniors will become the next Miss Tracy during Box Car Days weekend. Miss Tracy rehearsals are underway with candidates front, from left: Page Anderson, Jessica Miller. Middle: Bobbi Jo Evers, Kristin Bohn, Amanda Rosa. Back: Kalley Hoek, Cassidy Smith, Katie Medford, Kallie Benson. The Miss Tracy Scholarship Program will be presented Sunday, Sept. 2.

Council size, term limits are public hearing topics

Tracy citizens can offer their opinions about proposals to expand the size of the Tracy City Council, and set new term limits for service on the council, at a public hearing next week.
The Monday, June 25, 7 p.m. public hearing will be held at Tracy City Hall.
The Tracy Charter Commission has recommended two amendments to city charter.
One provision would expand the council from four council members and a mayor to six council members and a mayor.
The change would reverse an action taken in 2011, when the council was downsized from a seven-member panel (six council members and a mayor) to the present five members (a mayor and four council people).
A recommendation on term limits would limit consecutive years of council service to 14. Mayoral and council terms would both be subject to the term limits. After being on the city’s governing board for 14 years, an individual would need to be off the council for at least a year before they could be elected or appointed to a new term.
After the public hearing is held, the unanimous support of the city council would be needed to bring the proposed amendments to a public vote.
The vote could be held at either a special or general election, as designated by the council. Passage would require a majority of ballots cast.

Auditor: Fund balance should be increased

By Seth Schmidt

The City of Tracy’s general fund balances are less than ideal, an auditor told the Tracy City Council last week.
“You are kind of at the low end,” said Tom Olinger, a CPA with the accounting firm of Abdo, Eick & Meyers, in reviewing the city’s 2017 audit report.
Tracy’s unassigned general fund budget balance at the end of 2017 stood at $750,463, which represented 36.9% of the 2018 general fund budget of $2,032,202.
The state auditor, Olinger said, wants that percentage to be between 35% and 50%.
A report issued with the audit stated that Tracy’s unassigned fund balances were less than average for similarly sized Minnesota communities. According to the state auditor’s office, in 2015 and ’16, the average general fund balance as a percentage of expenditures for towns with populations below 2,500 were 104% and 111% percent, respectively.
However, Olinger noted that Tracy has shown small increases in its general fund balances over the past five years. Since 2013, the percentage of general fund balances compared with the total budget has improved from 21.8% to 36.8% this past year.
Year-end 2017 figures showed a $73,417 fund balance increase over year-end 2016, when the unassigned fund balance was $677,046. The unallocated general fund balance at the end of 2016 was 34.3% of the general fund budget.
Olinger recommended the Tracy leaders continue to “edge upward the fund balance.” Having a greater fund balance, the accountant indicated, would put Tracy in a stronger cash-flow position. Adequate balances for cash flow, Olinger said, are important because the city receives most of its revenue (Local Government Aid and property taxes) twice a year.

Flat revenues
Olinger described general fund revenues as being “flat.” General fund revenues for 2015 were $2,090,842 compared with $2,056,155 in 2017. Revenues for 2017 were broken down into Intergovernmental (Local Government Aid), $1,024,510; property taxes, $790,608; miscellaneous, $80,684; charges for services, $69,375; transfers in, $41,118; licenses & permits, $26,317; fines & forfeits, $10,602; investment earnings, $8,893; special assessments, $4,048. Local Government Aid accounted for 49.8% of general fund revenues in 2017, with local property taxes contributing 38.5%

Tracy’s general fund spending declined slightly from $2,021,300 in 2016 to $1,990,648 last year.
Public safety, at $577,327, comprised 29.2% of general fund spending. Other general fund expenditures were general government, $422,277; streets & highways, $402,877; miscellaneous, $130,265; economic development, $56,034.

For more on this article, see this week’s Headlight-Herald.

Horses, horses … motorcycles?

At the other end of the parking lot stood dozens of motorcycles, the mode of transportation for the annual Balaton Veteran Run.

By Per Peterson

Scott Thomasson is all about motorcycles. Jeremy Trulock is all about horses. Put these two local men together and the result is a creation of an eye-catching Sturgis-meets-Dodge City scene.
In this case, the backdrop was Bitton’s Roadhouse in Garvin, where dozens of motorcycles that were part of the annual Balaton Veteran Run pulled into the restaurant’s parking lot about the same time as roughly a dozen horses trotted in, directly from Garvin Park, just a few miles north of Garvin.
“I met some friends from Minneota and we decided to go camping,” Trulock said. “We went for an early-morning ride this morning and rode around camp. I introduced myself to a bunch of people. I said, ‘I’m gonna ride into Garvin later, anyone want to come with me?’”

The juxtaposition of cycles and equines was nothing more than a flukish coincidence. While Trulock and his gang of riders spontaneously decided to head into town for a drink, the motorcycles were there for a more serious reason as part of the Veteran Run, which takes place every year to raise money for military veterans.
This year’s run was likely one of the biggest ones ever with more than 200 bikers taking part.

For more on this article, see this week’s Headlight-Herald.

Public schools stay busy during summer

It might be summer, but class is in session at Tracy Area Public Schools.
At the high school, there are two courses being offered: Intro to Education and Principles of Biology. Intro to Education is a three-credit course that meets on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Principles of Biology is a four-credit course that meets three times a week. Classes began on June 4 and run through June 28.
The Summer Math Credit Recovery program is being offered during two sessions this month. The first session is complete, and session two began Monday.
At the elementary school, Camp Discover S’more will take place in July. The camp will be July 9-27, Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. until 1 p.m.

Grateful Threads ready to auction off creation

By Per Peterson

Marcella Matthys holds up the quilt that will be put up for auction this weekend.

A quilt made by a group of women that has met monthly since January will be part of this year’s Quilt Auction at Shetek Lutheran Ministries on Saturday.
Jana Milbradt, Connie Schwartau, Marcella Matthys, Marissa Kunde, Jean Larson and Lois Ahlschlager — the Shetek Grateful Threads — created the 88” by 96 1/2” quilt that is ready to be put up for auction at the annual event.
“There was a group that was together for years and they decided to fold,” Milbradt said. “Jean called me and asked if I would head up a new group. About six of us got together and wanted to do something for the auction.”
Milbradt explained the colorful quilt includes 20 different batik prints — from light to dark — in a blended pattern.
“It’s interesting picking them,” she said. “You start with one and just keep adding the different shades until you get all the way to the end. The store had a sale the day I was there, so I just starting putting them in line and they just fell in place.”
The name of the quilt is Bargello — it’s an argyle pattern the group chose.
“It has three beautiful starbursts in significant spots in the quilt,” Milbradt said.
Milbradt said Matthys did the quilting with her long-arm quilter.
“It’s a fun and exciting project,” said Milbradt, who calls quilting her passion. “It’s fun to be involved with such a nice group of people.”
The 32nd Annual Quilt Auction begins at 10:30 a.m. at the SLM Activity Center, on Valhalla Road. There will be a Quilt Preview from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Friday and from 8:30 to 10 a.m. on Saturday. A 5K Pelican Fun Walk/Run fundraiser will be at 8 a.m. on Saturday. Theme baskets will be available during the silent auction.
New this year will be a Friday brats and burgers picnic from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. with pontoon rides during that time. Other highlights of the event include a pulled pork dinner from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Kids Day at Camp from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and an ice cream sundae bar at 2 p.m.
“It’s amazing to see what all is put into the auction itself,” Milbradt said. “The work that is put into it. Last year, they had about 180, and it was to be close to that again this year. There’s a silent auction as well — they’re doing a lot of different things.”
For more information, call (507) 763-3567.

Science behind the storm

KSTP meteorologist takes residents inside a thunderstorm

By Per Peterson

Meteorologist and stormchaser Jonathan Yuhas, who has been at KSTP-TV for 11 years, shared his expertise of storms and tornadoes with a large crowd at The Caboose on Saturday afternoon as part of the city of Tracy’s commemoration of the 50th anniversary for the June 13, 1968 tornado.
“These big F5 tornadoes are maybe a little more common in this part of the world than we think,” Yuhas said. “You live in the part of Minnesota that is most prone to F5 tornadoes. You know about the Chandler tornado of 1992, you know about the Comfrey tornado of 1998, which was an F4. It may be elevation related, and that might enhance some of these storms.”
Yuhas showed an animated video that detailed why some thunderstorms produce tornadoes while others don’t. He also showed, live footage of KSTP’s coverage of the Tracy tornado. Yuhas pointed out that in some of the live shots from the broadcast, Tracy residents can be seen wearing light jackets, a subtle note, he pointed out, that in part explains how tornadoes occur. He said June storms are the result of winter not wanting to let go and summer trying to begin.
Yuhas said in June, nature has a lot of energy coming from the sun. That energy, he said, is expelled through thunderstorms.
“When we still have a winter hangover per sé with cooler air sitting over Canada and we still have that warm, humid air coming up from the south — those two clash together,” he said. “The reason why we don’t have severe weather in September is because the sun angle is a lot lower in September.”
Specific to Tracy, Yuhas said the F5 was the result of a thunderstorm that “basically dropped to the ground,” he said. “That rotating part of the back of the thunderstorm came down and that’s what got you.”
A veteran meteorologist of 26 years, Yuhas said tornadoes in general are black or dark when they’re coming at you and white when they are going away from you. He said you can tell when a tornado is near the end of its life when it makes a left or right turn.
“Usually they take a turn to the right — that’s their death stage,” he said. “Tornadoes mostly spin counterclockwise and as a storm system starts to fall apart, eventually the storm cloud comes crashing down. That’s why some storms give you a push of cold air.”

A day of reflection

Left: Norine (Forbregd) Hanson, who was injured in the tornado, volunteered at the church.

50 years removed from watching large sections of their city get ripped apart by a killer tornado, Tracy residents past and present reflect, with smiles and tears

By Per Peterson

Saturday’s threatening skies could only produce a steady morning rain as former Tracy resident Scott Thoma made his way to the intersection of Park and Rowland streets, nine black balloons in tow.
The less-than-ideal weather was an appropriate backdrop to a solemn moment planned to remember the nine souls who perished in the F5 tornado that tore a path of destruction through Tracy in 1968. Thoma released one balloon at a time as the nine accompanying rings of the Tracy Lutheran Church bell by Clint Peterson pierced the otherwise silent occasion.
Nine chimes. Nine balloons. Nine lives never to be forgotten by the city they once called home.
Those killed were: Nancy Vlahos, 2; Barbara Holbrook, 50; Walter Swanson, 47; Ella Haney, 84; Mildred Harden, 75; Ellen Morgan, 75; Otelia Werner, 75; Fred Pilatus, 71; and Paul Swanson, 60.
“I didn’t think it would be that emotional for me,” Thoma said. “I always wanted to do it. I thought I would be standing here in the rain by myself — I didn’t expect this many people.”

For more on the weekend event, see this week’s Headlight-Herald.

Tornado talk stirs emotions

By Per Peterson

Not only did the weekend spur numerous private conversations between past and current Tracy residents, it also gave a few people a chance to express their thoughts on a public stage.
Before KSTP-TV’s Jonathan Yuhas took the stage for his presentation Saturday afternoon, a number of people grabbed a mic and talked about what they remember about that fateful night and what impact the storm had on them.
Tracy Area High School graduate Ron McDaniel was on the Tracy American Legion baseball team that was on a bus a few miles north of town on the Airport Road, headed back to Tracy from a game in Cottonwood.
“It started hailing (in Cottonwood) and they called the game,” he said. “Fritz Lessman was driving the bus; we get on the bus, and we’re headed back to Tracy and somewhere before we got to the Amiret Road, Johnny Glaser says, ‘Look, it’s a white tornado.’ It all started rather humorously, but as we got closer to Tracy it became rather obvious what was going on.”
McDaniel said team members all had developed an “empty feeling” as their bus got closer to town.
“You could see the gaping hole right through town,” he said. “You just knew it went right through the grade school area.”
McDaniel concluded by saying he’s glad to have been able to share his story and honor the people who lost their lives and their livelihoods — their whole lives, their history, their family albums were all sucked up in that tornado,” he said.

For more on this article, see this week’s Headlight-Herald.