A number of free recycling sites across the city were overwhelmed by cardboard this past weekend.
There were Facebook posts and pictures sent by email of cardboard spilling across parking lots at multiple recycling sites. Councilman Bennie Shobe got some calls and asked about the problem at a pre-council meeting this week.
Leta Powell Drake, retired local television personality, suggested a title for her picture of cardboard covering the ground at a west Lincoln site, "Bin There, Done That."
After several months with few complaints about city recycling sites, clearly something had gone wrong.
It was one of the first warm weekends in a very long winter, and people were likely clearing out cardboard from garages and basements.
Several neighborhoods also had spring cleanup programs in place for the first weekend in April, so there was more cardboard hauled to city recycling sites.
And Von Busch and Sons Refuse, who has the contract for the city recycling sites, had problems with one of the trucks that picks up and replaces the large 8-yard boxes used for cardboard at the city's largest sites, said Donna Garden, assistant director for the Lincoln Transportation and Utilities Department.
The city's eight largest sites have pickup service every day, Garden said.
The drivers of the other trucks attempted to transfer cardboard material from the front load boxes into their rear load trucks, and did what they could by hand, Garden said.
Stepping off the curb
The city freshened up the paint along 13th Street soon after a Journal Star story pointed out the dangerous situation with faded lane markings.
And the city has bid the job of putting in permanent markings.
But the lane markings are not the only dangerous issue on 13th Street, according to some people who live in the area.
Trying to cross the street, even with flashing warning signals, can be frustrating and frightening because cars do not stop for people waiting to cross.
The pedestrian warning signals, where pedestrians push a button and yellow lights begin flashing, at 13th and F and at 13th and D are a great idea but not very useful, according to Jeff Heerspink, pastor at the F Street Neighborhood Church.
Heerspink said he watches homeless people, moms with kids, children, people in wheelchairs and others press the button to activate the flashing yellow lights and then stand there waiting as traffic continues to cruise by, unfazed by the signals.
Heerspink said he was prompted to write an email about the situation after watching a police officer drive through the flashing lights at 13th and D, as a mother and her child sought to cross.
Driving on by is perfectly legal, according to police.
State law and local ordinance require the pedestrian to step into the street before a vehicle is required to stop at these Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacons, or RRFBs, according to police.
Heerspink finds this interpretation a bit strange. "If you push the button, that means you want to cross the street," he said.
What mom with kids in tow is going to step out into a street of moving cars?
But Heerspink is grateful to have the flashing beacons at busy neighborhood intersections. And he's also appreciative of the electronic signs put up after his initial email to the city, reminding drivers to stop for pedestrians.
Making room for mayor's staff
At least one member of retiring Mayor Chris Beutler’s staff has found a position with another department.
Denise Pearce, an assistant to the mayor, has been hired as a special-projects administrator with the Parks and Recreation Department, a new position with a just-less than $100,000-a-year salary. It's a job where the employee is protected from being fired without cause.
Pearce is one of five at-will employees in the mayor’s office whose employment is dependent on the mayor.
Those people, as well as many department heads, can be replaced by a new mayor.
Five other staffers in the mayor’s office have what are called classified positions. Their city employment is protected. They may not stay on as staff for a new mayor, but they can move to positions in other city departments.
A number of Republicans say they believe the mayor is trying to make sure his at-will employees get protected city positions. They believe the Parks and Recreation position that Pearce will fill was created specifically for a member of the mayor’s staff.
But Parks and Recreation Director Lynn Johnson said neither the mayor nor his staff intervened and his department is lucky to get Pearce, who will begin her work in May.
When Jerry Shorney, assistant director of operations, retired 18 months ago, the Parks and Recreation Department advertised for his position but didn’t find anyone it wanted, Johnson said.
Staff decided to reorganize the leadership structure and see if they could get by with one less person. Recently, they decided to create a position to handle some of the duties that were not getting done, Johnson said.
Early this year, the department advertised for that position internally for about a week, had four candidates, and interviewed three of them, Johnson said.
Johnson said he knew Pearce was looking for a position and he talked to her about whether she would apply.
“My responsibility is building a team,” Johnson said.
The mayor did not approach him about creating a position for Pearce nor hiring her. “She had to compete for that position like any other city employee,” Johnson said.
No protest over basketball floor
The company which lost out on the Pinnacle Bank Arena floor contract has decided not to protest the bid, said Bob Walla, city purchasing agent.
The company that had the lowest bid had contacted Walla shortly before the group that oversees the arena was set to accept a $123,751 contract from Robbins Sports Surfaces for a new, removable basketball floor to replace the original 5-year-old court.
The three West Haymarket Joint Public Agency members decided to wait on a decision pending the potential protest. The JPA will likely vote to accept that bid from Robbins in a meeting later this month, Walla said.