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Reporter

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

Fire Station 10

The Lower Platte South Natural Resources District is interested in buying Fire Station 10 at the corner of Adams and Portia streets when the station moves to a new building. 

The Lower Platte South Natural Resources District is interested in buying one of the Lincoln fire stations that will be vacated as new stations are built.

Fire Station 10, 1440 Adams St., is next door to the NRD headquarters and would provide land for future building or parking expansion, said general manager Paul Zillig.

Initially, the NRD would use the building for storage, and the parking “will come in handy when we have larger public meetings,” Zillig said.

The city will relocate to a new station on North 24th Street in the spring. That station is one of four new stations funded through a three-year, quarter-cent sales tax that also paid for a new emergency radio system.

The city has started the process to declare the property surplus so it can be sold at the appraised value to the NRD.

The NRD is a political subdivision with a locally elected board of directors that constructs, operates and maintains projects related to flood control, groundwater management, soil conservation, erosion control, wildlife habitat, recreation and forestry.

Who controls traffic cameras?

Reporters are quick to check the city’s intersection cameras to figure out what might be going on when a crash occurs.

Sometimes the intersection camera moves around and zooms in on the crash scene. Sometimes the camera is focused on another part of the intersection, avoiding the scene, particularly if it is a gruesome one.

This is generally intentional.

Cameras auto pan, tilt and zoom, based on preset “tours” at each intersection. They will rotate on their own to each leg of the intersection, says Mark Lutjeharms, manager of traffic engineering.

However, city traffic staff, police and fire and rescue staff have access to the camera network and can take control of individual cameras to monitor traffic flow, projects or incidents for emergency response.

The city also screens private property from view, so people’s backyards are hidden by rectangular gray spots at various locations.

It's all about the weather

Once the roads are cleared and the temperature rises, there could be another weather-related road problem. 

"The ground moisture is 400 to 600 percent of normal. That is really wet," County Engineer Pam Dingman told Lancaster County commissioners Tuesday. 

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She's worried that if the temperature rises quickly, and the snow thaws, there will be a foot of mud on the county's 1,100 miles of gravel roads.  

"We could have a heck of a year." 

What’s TIF got to do with it?

The pipes carrying water and sewage in downtown Lincoln are old — beyond-retirement-age old.

More than 75 percent of the downtown sewer pipes are 50 years and older. Sixty-five percent of them are 75 years and older, David Landis, Urban Development Department director, told the City Council recently.

About 62 percent of the downtown water mains are more than 50 years old and 36 percent are more than 100 years old, Landis said as he provided reasons for why downtown, with all its new buildings, should still be considered blighted.

The council can remove the blight designation if it wants. But Landis suggested the underground water and sewer system in downtown Lincoln is still blighted. And tax-increment financing funds from downtown projects can be used to help replace old water mains and sewer pipes, he pointed out.

TIF on the Color Court Building was used for water main replacement almost a decade ago. However, TIF funds have generally been used for above-the-ground amenities, including helping a developer pay for the land, or a prettier façade, or better heating and cooling equipment or an enhanced city streetscape.

TIF is funded by the taxes property owners pay on the increase in property value created by the redevelopment.

Benefit for county taxpayers

The Lancaster County commissioners are among those who want the state to move forward quickly on broadening Medicaid coverage, as required by a voter-approved initiative in November.

Providing Medicaid to people now receiving medical care through the county’s general-assistance program will save local property taxpayers more than $2.41 million a year, the money the county spends on medical needs for general-assistance clients.

The county is responsible for the medical needs of very poor residents who don’t qualify for the federal- and state-funded Medicaid program.

That’s about 400 people a year.

The general-assistance program pays for necessary medical care, but provides no preventative care.

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

On Twitter @LJSNancyHicks

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