Beatrice residents will once again be able to unload their unwanted large items during the annual clean city week.
The city has held clean city week since 1989, allowing residents to put their large items near the curb for the street department to haul away to the landfill at no charge.
The event will be April 16-18, and Street Superintendent Jason Moore is reminding people that only qualifying items will be picked up.
“Clean city started out as a large-item pickup and over the last eight to 10 years it really changed and turned into ‘you sit it at the curb and we’ll pick it up,’” he said. “It was never intended to be that. Last year we really went back to what it was supposed to be, large items. It’s a good program where the city gives residents a chance to get rid of those large items they would otherwise not be able to get rid of or have to take to the landfill themselves.”
Some of the acceptable items for the program include couches, loveseats, recliners, stoves, refrigerators, washers, dryers, water heaters and exercise equipment.
Moore said the general rule to follow is that if an able-bodied person could pick the item up by him or herself, that item should be disposed of through a garbage service.
“If you can stick it at the curb and one able person can lift it up, the garbage man will take it,” he said. “We get calls about TVs all the time. If it’s 12 inches we’re going to leave it on the curb because the garbage company is going to pick it up.”
One exception is mattresses and box springs, which will not be picked up during clean city week due to previous concerns regarding bed bugs and sanitation issues.
Moore said a roll-off dumpster will be placed at First and Ella streets in Beatrice where these items can be taken and the department will haul the load to the landfill, but the street department will not pick mattresses or box springs up from the curb.
Brush, logs, leaves, tree stumps, grass, garbage, tires, batteries, ashes, paint, chemicals, lumber, wood pallets, drywall, shingles, concrete blocks, gas cans, propane tanks, or bagged items will not be picked up.
The schedule is as follows:
Monday: Everything East of Sixth Street, South of Dorsey Street, North of Court Street, and West of 19th Street.
Tuesday: Hoyles Trailer Park and Everything West of Sixth Street.
Wednesday: Everything South of Court Street, East of Sixth Street, and East of 19th Street.
This marks the second year the event will be held Monday through Wednesday instead of all five weekdays. Moore said the department was able to condense clean city week in part because of the more strict regulations.
Additionally, residents wanting an item must register their address with the city prior to 6 a.m. on the day of pickup. Registration can be found on the city’s website. For more information, contact the Board of Public Works at 402-228-5211.
Around 300 people packed into the banquet hall at the Holiday Inn Express on Wednesday to help out kids and to eat plenty of soup.
The 11th annual Empty Bowls Luncheon began at lunchtime on Wednesday and attendees got to sample 16 different kinds of soup from area businesses and organizations, all while keeping hungry kids well fed.
The Empty Bowls luncheon is the big, yearly fundraiser for the Beatrice Backpack Program which, each week, provides 100 Beatrice kids and their families with nutritious food to get them through the weekend. The time around the luncheon is when the organization brings in about 90 percent of its funding for the year through ticket sales and sponsorships.
The $25 tickets gave entrants an chance to sample as many soups as they wanted and to take home one of 300 hand-thrown ceramic bowls made by local artisans from the Beatrice High School pottery class, the Southeast Community College pottery class, Ervin Dixon of Cedar Creek Pottery, Patrick McKinney of Flowing Stone Pottery or Kathleen Grossman of Down Under Pottery from Lincoln.
“Part of what I like about this job is you get to see everybody's bowls go through and they're all eclectic,” said Merry Coffey, who was putting out new bowls just about as fast as they were being picked up. “Everybody has different color choices, size choices, styles. There were a lot of really, really good ones this year. Although there is every year.”
While eating soup directly from the ceramic bowls wasn’t recommended, many visitors grabbed as many small soup cups as they could hold and brought them back to their tables to judge. Empty Bowls patrons got a card with the 16 different soups and the group that brought them and could vote for their favorite, which will be announced at next year’s luncheon.
Last year’s winner, announced by Scott Young, executive director of the Food Bank of Lincoln, was Farm Credit Services who took home a hand-made plate and bragging rights.
A lot of this year’s entries were hearty, potato-based soups, with some chili, cheesy, creamy and meaty soups as well. This year, the soups were provided by Valentino’s, The Black Crow, Risky’s, Classic’s, Shanghai Inn, Colleen’s Catering, Beatrice Community Hospital, Farm Credit Services, Knights of Columbus, 4one8 Bar and Grill, First State Bank, Tri County Board of Realtors, Pinnacle Bank, the Beatrice High School culinary class and Mosaic.
“We believe in the backpack program,” said Connie Hartig, who was ladling out wild rice potato bacon soup for the Tri-County Board of Realtors.
The Beatrice Backpack Program uses funds from ticket sales and sponsorships to purchase food from the Lincoln Food Bank, who were in attendance Wednesday. In addition to its work with the Beatrice Backpack Program, the Food Bank of Lincoln does a lot of work around Gage County, Young said.
“In fiscal year 2017, the food bank distributed 250,931 pounds of food down here,” Young said. “That's 125 tons of food in Gage County that the food bank put down here.”
Organizers Patty Kaufman and Kristy Thies were a part of the Leadership Beatrice class that launched the Beatrice Backpack program 10 years ago and were busy on Wednesday selling and taking tickets at the door.
Kaufman said she wasn’t sure how many tickets they’d sold that day, but it was right around the 300 or so people who usually attend the event.
“It's a very easy program to support, because we're feeding hungry kids,” she said. “We have great sponsors, we have great volunteers in there serving and doing all the stuff for us. So, we're really happy with the turnout.”
Jason and Christy Moore were trying out some of the soups before their 12 p.m. volunteering shift at the Empty Bowls Luncheon started. They’ve been volunteering at the event for several years now—this year he’d be picking up garbage and she’d be serving tea and water—and said the Beatrice Backpack Program is a great cause to support.
“It's a super program, it really is,” Jason said. “You really couldn't pick a better cause. Any time you're dealing with kids. It's funny how whenever you mention kids, everybody, no matter who they are is willing to come out and help.”
“And the benefit is, you get to try some new soups,” Christy added.
Gage County is transferring $60,000 in additional funds to the jail budget in the wake of a budget shortfall.
The County Board of Supervisors approved the transfer from the miscellaneous general fund to the sheriff’s department jail budget on Wednesday.
Corrections Lt. Anthony Shepardson said the shortfall was driven by the high number of inmates Gage County is responsible for.
“Pretty much the driving force on this, as you can see, is medical and housing,” he said. “That’s what we’re really over on. I was hoping the medical issue wouldn’t be as much as it was last year but we can’t predict it and we have to provide the service.”
Planning for this fiscal year’s jail budget also took into account contracts the board approved last September to house inmates in other jails.
The two contracts reserve 10 beds in Washington County, Kan. and five beds in Dawson County.
Both contracts were for one-year periods and at a rate of $45 per bed, per day, whether or not they are being used.
That amounts to $675 per day, or $246,000 per year to house inmates in other jails.
Overpopulation at the jail prompted these contracts as the number of inmates climbed to double the jail’s capacity.
Due to the high numbers, inmates were previously being housed at up to seven different counties at one time, causing transportation problems for jail workers.
Shepardson said the number of inmates arrested for drug offenses is also contributing to the high cost of housing because of the associated medical bills.
“Drug enforcement has also driven up our medical because they’re coming in and we end up having to take them to the hospital,” he said. ‘We don’t want anything to happen to them in jail. That has also increased our medical costs.”
While the contracts total a high annual dollar amount, board member Terry Jurgens said they are saving the county money, given the number of inmates it’s responsible for.
“The way I look at it, approving those contracts saved us money,” he said. “It’s the population that’s killing us.”
County Board member Gary Lytle said the county will likely need to budget more for the jail to start with for the next fiscal year, and that he wouldn’t be surprised if another transfer is required in the coming months.
“We need to sit down and I think we’re definitely going to have to look at the budget for the jail being higher moving forward,” he said. “We knew this going in when we agreed to these contracts that we’re going to be a fairly large amount over for the jail just because we’re housing so many people. I fully expect see another request.”
South winds helping to bump up temperatures in Lincoln on Wednesday are also ushering in smoke from controlled burns in Kansas.
The National Weather Service posted a special statement Wednesday morning, warning of potentially unhealthy air quality over portions of Southeast Nebraska.
On Wednesday morning, the air quality was rated as unhealthy in the Omaha area. Moderate air quality concerns were reported in Lincoln.
The Kansas Flint Hills and the Osage Hills of northern Oklahoma are a massive area of tallgrass prairie. Burning the prairie keeps invasive species, such as cedar trees, at bay. It also clears out brush and dead grass that otherwise could fuel wildfires. And the fires fertilize the Plains, packing grass with nutrients to help cattle put on weight.
As complaints have grown louder in recent years regarding air quality issues, Lincoln Mayor Chris Beutler and others have called on Kansas ranchers to spread their burns throughout the year rather than concentrating them in the spring.
After getting complaints from Nebraska in 2014, Kansas officials added air monitors in Lincoln and Omaha to its model and increased efforts to warn Nebraska, Lincoln and Omaha officials when smoke is blowing north.
Wednesday is expected to be mostly sunny in Lincoln -- depending on the haze -- with temperatures climbing to near 80.
Thursday's high should reach 77 before a storm system arrives Friday with the potential for thunderstorms and weekend snow.