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City Hall: Lincoln's recycling site overhaul and the tricks of consolidating free collection spots
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City Hall: Lincoln's recycling site overhaul and the tricks of consolidating free collection spots

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The city opened its first consolidated recycling collection site last week as it works to winnow down its free, public recycling program from 19 sites to a handful.

The fenced-off, 12 roll-off bin site at 5101 N. 48th St. — near the North 48th Street landfill — will replace a host of north Lincoln sites, including the already-closed North Star High School site and a site in University Place slated for decommissioning later this year. 

“The opening of the first expanded site will provide an accessible and easy way for residents to recycle,” said Donna Garden, Lincoln Transportation and Utilities assistant director. “We are committed to continue to provide this essential service to residents of Lincoln with these new sites.”

The crash of the international recyclables market, combined with closure of the city's recycling contractor last year, led the city to rethink its approach to the public recycling sites. 

To save $2 million annually, city officials decided to cut the number of sites to four or five.

Officials sought to streamline the service, using more uniform bin sizes that wouldn't require three different style trucks to service the locations, they said. 

The new sites will sit on at least an acre and contain 14 to 18 bins. 

After the announcement in June, officials began to decommission sites. 

Initially, the Air Park Recreation Center site was slated for closure, and it drew the concern of City Councilwoman Tammy Ward, who worried about Air Park residents being disconnected from a free government service by virtue of their geographic isolation from the rest of the city. 

Erika Hill, spokeswoman for Lincoln Transportation and Utilities, said the department will keep the Air Park site open until a cost-effective way to serve west Lincoln residents is developed. 

Ward said she hopes a consolidated site could be co-located with the new high school Lincoln Public Schools will build at Northwest 48th and Holdrege streets.

Recycle Collection Site 9.13

Joyce Beach drops off old newspapers in the new public recyclables collection site in northeast Lincoln. The fenced site along North 48th Street offers 12 roll-off bins that hold up to 40 cubic yards of material each. Surveillance cameras will monitor for illegal dumping at the site.

Another site set for closure, the Lewis Ball Fields site near Capitol Parkway and J Street, will remain open for now, a news release said. 

Work on the second consolidated site, at Seacrest Field, will begin this fall. 

2 Lincoln recycling sites close, 2 more slated for closure this month

Lincoln Transportation and Utilities has eyed a swath of land on the western edge of Porter Park just off 27th Street and Tamarin Ridge Road as the third site. 

Some residents of the Porter Ridge neighborhood lobbied members of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board last week to ensure lighting, noise and aesthetics of the site don't become a problem. 

The site would be fenced-off, Johnson said, but neighbors asked that the city take more measures and the advisory board agreed to recommend them if Lincoln Transportation and Utilities selects the location.

Funding Lincoln recycling program as it is would drive up trash bills, city says

Johnson said berms or landscaping could be considered to conceal view of the site. Construction could begin this fall.  

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Along with the potential location of a northwest Lincoln recycling center, the city is still considering where it would put one in central Lincoln, officials said.

For more information on recycling site consolidation, visit: recycle.lincoln.ne.gov.

Ambulance fees raised 

Lincoln City Council members Monday unanimously approved a 5% increase to ambulance fees, a move sold as a way to recoup more of the service's cost while staving off the need for the city to subsidize the service. 

The cost of a basic life-support transport will increase from $981 to $1,030. 

Emergency Medical Service Division Chief Roger Bonin told council members Lincoln Fire & Rescue's request seeks to keep up with the actual costs of the service.

Fees patients pay for ambulance transportation in Lincoln have solely funded LFR's  ambulance service since it took over from private providers in 2001. 

Nearly 60% of patients transported by LFR are Medicare or Medicaid patients, and for many years, the federal government's reimbursement rate for Medicaid patients transported via ambulance has remained low, about 30% of the actual cost, interim LFR Chief Micheal Despain said.

Finding funds to ease strain on Lincoln's overworked paramedics is challenge, fire officials say

That has required the city to raise its rate and cost-shift, with privately insured patients making up the difference, Despain said.

A legislative bill seeking to increase the Medicaid reimbursement rate for ambulance trips in Nebraska did not advance.

Bonin said this year's rate change aligns with 5% hikes last year and in 2017. 

Fire chief search resuming

Lincoln Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird has resumed her search for a permanent fire chief after the pandemic put it on hold following Despain's retirement. 

Interviews will begin next week, she said. 

Despain retired in February and worked for about 100 days as interim chief in Rocklin, California, before returning to the helm of LFR on July 15.

He will serve until a new permanent chief has been hired, according to his consultant contract with the city.

Under the agreement, Despain will receive $84,000 for his service as interim chief. He was paid about $146,000 last year. 

Fast takes

* 65 — The number of trains a day running on the BNSF line along Cornhusker Highway, according to local railroad officials. "We seem to manage OK," Councilman Roy Christensen said Monday, comparing it to plans to run an average of two trains per day on the tracks along Nebraska 2. The rail line in north Lincoln features above- or below-grade crossings that the south Lincoln line doesn't have. Railroad Transportation Safety District officials are working with BNSF on plans for when trains begin running in 2021.

* 21% — The decline in circulation of Lincoln City Libraries books, DVDs and CDs in August compared with August 2019, according to Libraries Director Pat Leach. But interest in downloadable materials climbed, with circulation up 21%. 

Reach the writer at 402-473-2657 or rjohnson@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSRileyJohnson.

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