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

Gameday, 9/29

Fans gather in the Railyard to watch the Nebraska-Purdue football game in 2018. 

Not everyone downtown likes the big football party at the Railyard in the West Haymarket when the Railyard customers are allowed to spill out into Canopy Street.

It’s unfair competition, according to some of the other downtown bars and restaurants.

Representatives from several businesses, one in the Haymarket and one in the downtown area, told City Council members they had a noticeable drop in customers Sept. 29, the Saturday the Railyard got a special license that allowed customers to party in the street. 

The businesses had staffed for the time of the Nebraska game (2:30 p.m.) and the weather (cold and rainy). When there's bad weather, most football fans move inside the bars, said Councilman Roy Christensen, reporting on his conversations with bar owners.

However, for the Purdue game that day, the businesses were overstaffed, he said.

But was it competition from the Railyard or just a dismal turnout in general that hurt the bars that day? 

Councilman Carl Eskridge noted the Bridge, the city's detox unit, was also overstaffed and had fewer clients than anticipated for that football Saturday.

City police also reported the crowd at the Railyard itself was not what they expected.

"It was a cold and dreary day," said City Council Chairman Bennie Shobe.

Straight talk on state prison system

The man who runs the Lancaster County jail believes the state needs to build another prison.

"In my opinion, they need to build a new prison. And they need to build it in the Sarpy County area," where the state will be better able to recruit employees, said Brad Johnson, Lancaster County jail director. 

Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson, Director of Corrections, Lancaster County

In addition, the Tecumseh prison should be changed from a maximum-security to minimum-security facility, because of problems recruiting people to work in a maximum-security prison in a rural area, he told Lancaster County commissioners during a recent discussion.

"You asked for my opinion," he said.

“They (the state) just needs to bite the bullet and build," he said. Almost all the problems stem from the overcrowding, a system that is 1,900 inmates over capacity, he said. 

You can’t legislate your way out of those problems, he suggested, referring to LB605, a state law intended to reduce prison population by reducing some offenses from felonies to misdemeanors, using probation for more people, and providing for additional supervision. County jails, including Lancaster County, have complained that more people are ending up in county jails as a result of LB605. 

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The county jail, on West O Street, does not have the same overcrowding problems as the state prison system.  

Johnson said he expects there will be a need for county jail expansion in the future but not likely during his tenure. Eventually, he expects the county will need to build a specialized unit for the mentally ill or for women.

The trolleys are here

The first of Lincoln’s two trolleys arrived Friday. The second is coming this week.

But you won’t be seeing either on the downtown streets until early December.

StarTran staff are getting the trolleys ready for their maiden voyages, installing fare boxes and automatic vehicle-location equipment and doing inspections.


The city of Lincoln has received two trolleys, which it expects to begin using Dec. 7. 

The city expects to begin using the red-and-gray trolleys Dec. 7, the same night downtown lights will be turned on for the Christmas season.

The trolleys have been a long time coming. Two trolleys arrived in the spring of 2017 but had to be returned for some fixes.

In the meantime, the trolley company changed ownership or, more specifically, the assets of National Bus Sales were purchased by another company.

But the paperwork for Lincoln's trolleys didn’t get transferred. So they were never returned and the city never paid for them.

The new trolleys are slightly different from the earlier ones. The biggest change is they have a ramp for wheelchairs, said Mike Davis, StarTran manager.

Downtown glue vandalism costly

A 19-year-old man has been arrested for allegedly throwing a 15-gallon barrel of roofing glue off the roof and onto the sidewalk of South Canopy Street.

The spill ended up being more than a nuisance.

The glue covered the sidewalk, in about a 14½-foot-by-18½-foot area. The cost for replacing the sidewalk — about $8,300 — makes the crime felony criminal mischief.

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

On Twitter @LJSNancyHicks.


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