Until last year, the city often did not seek reimbursement for the fire department's cost to respond to minor leaks or spills with its hazardous materials unit.

But the recent spike in the number of gas lines hit by contractors has prompted a change.

“The sheer number of hazmat responses has put a strain on (Lincoln Fire and Rescue). As a result, we have made a concerted effort to collect fees on more of the hazmat calls to help to defray the cost to the city,” said Jeff Kirkpatrick, city attorney, in an email.

The tip of this hazmat iceberg was two claims filed recently by the city against Lincoln Electric System: one for $2,551 for a gas line that was hit near Capitol Beach Lake and another for $1,495 for a gas line hit at 56th and R.

The city must use the tort claims process to collect from LES, which is a political subdivision. In other cases, Lincoln Fire and Rescue simply bills contractors.

Since September 2016, the department has billed various contractors 104 times for service calls as the result of gas lines being hit, said Elizabeth Elliott, an assistant city attorney.

Lincoln Fire and Rescue seeks payment from the contractor responsible for the hit. If an improperly marked line is blamed, the bill will go to Black Hills Energy or the contractor responsible for marking the line.

The department's call data clearly shows an increase in hazmat calls between the two fiscal years, September to the end of August. Boring activity has increased over the same period, with Allo Communications involved in a project to install fiber across the city.

49 trees for 49 years

Parks Superintendent Jerry Shorney, who is retiring after 49 years with the city, has served nine mayors — beginning with Sam Schwartzkopf — and has worked in positions ranging from heavy equipment operator to assistant director of parks operations.

Friends and coworkers are honoring his career by raising money through the Lincoln Parks Foundation for 49 trees.

The foundation was four trees short of the $12,500 goal as of last week, with 72 donations.

Shorney and his wife, Patty, are big golfers, so the trees are going to the Holmes Golf Course, said Christie Dionisopoulos, executive director of the parks foundation.

The Holmes Golf Course clubhouse has a beautiful view of the Capitol. The new trees will line that view, Dionisopoulos said.

Options for Trabert Hall  

Lancaster County is trying to provide options for the redevelopment of Trabert Hall, which was once the nursing dorm for the old St. Elizabeth Hospital and more recently housed adult probation offices.

The building at 2202 S. 11th St. will be zoned residential, with a historic landmark designation. That will allow a future buyer to use the property for apartments or offices or a combination of both, with a special permit.

A historic designation offers the potential for tax incentives on rehab work and provides for a special permit process so a building can be used for something other than a single family home or duplex.

The landmark designation does not prohibit tearing down the building, if that’s what a new owner wants. But it does make demolishing a building more difficult.

If the city’s Historic Preservation Commission disagrees with a new use that would require demolishing the building, the owner must wait six months before moving ahead with plans.

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In 1972, the county named the building Trabert Hall after J. Earle Trabert, then the Lancaster County Welfare Department director.

Trabert had spent 27 years with the state welfare department before heading the county department. He retired in 1973.

The building was once part of a complex of red brick buildings stretching over 400 feet along South Street.

The nurses home was added to the St. Elizabeth campus in 1928 at an estimated cost of $170,000. It was originally connected to the main hospital building by a 300-foot tunnel/corridor.

The original buildings — except for the chapel, now St. Francis Church, and the nursing dorm — were demolished in 1994, based on information supplied by Ed Zimmer, city planner.

Teen banned; dad wants $10,000

A Lincoln father asked the city for $10,000 after his teenage son was banned from a city swimming pool.

The dad, through an attorney, claimed his son suffered from embarrassment and mental anguish after pool staff thought he was drinking alcohol from a bottle at the pool and banned him in July.

The orange bottle had Gatorade, and a test for alcohol consumption indicated the son had no alcohol in his system, according to the attorney's letter to the city. 

The father sought the money for damage sustained as a result of "unlawful and intrusive and embarrassing confrontation and detention by employees of the city." 

The council denied the claim on the advice of the city attorney, who said employees were not negligent.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7250 or nhicks@journalstar.com

On Twitter @LJSNancyHicks.

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Nancy Hicks reports on Lincoln city government, but she’s been following the leaders of local and state government for more than 40 years.

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