Big changes are coming for Omaha residents used to taking any trash can or bag to the curb and seeing the contents get hauled away.
Those little green bins for recycling also are going by the wayside.
No bidders were interested in keeping Omaha's trash collection status quo, the city says. So city residents in 2021 will see big changes, including new large, covered plastic carts.
It's a change that trash companies have pushed cities elsewhere to make. Many cities made the switch more than a decade ago.
Under Omaha's new trash contract, most Omaha residents will be issued two 96-gallon trash carts. One will hold trash and yard waste, to be picked up weekly. The other will be reserved for recycling, to be picked up every other week.
The Omaha City Council on Tuesday approved a new 10-year, $24.2 million agreement with FCC Environmental of Spain, set to start in 2021.
People have peppered The World-Herald with questions in recent months about how the city's next trash contract will work.
Here are some answers to the most frequently asked questions, based on World-Herald reporting and responses from the city's Public Works Department.
Q: When will people get their new, 96-gallon trash carts?
A: The carts will arrive during the second half of 2020, up to 90 days before the contract starts. The contract's official start date is Jan. 1, 2021, though the city and contractor could negotiate to move up the date.
Q: If those carts are too big, can
people request smaller carts?
A: Yes. After 90 days with the larger carts, people can apply to get a smaller cart. The elderly and the disabled can request the smaller carts right away if they qualify for the city's special collections program. The specifics of that program are discussed below.
Q: How big are the big and small carts?
A: The 96-gallon carts are 29.75 inches wide, 35.5 inches deep and 43.5 inches tall. Each one should hold about eight typical 13-gallon bags of trash.
The 48-gallon carts are 23.5 inches wide, 28.75 inches deep and 37.5 inches tall. Each one should hold about four typical 13-gallon bags of trash.
Q: What if someone can't physically wheel the carts to the curb?
A: Public Works has a special collection program. People age 70 and older and those with a doctor-verified medical need can have collection happen closer to their property. People can visit the city's trash information website, www.wasteline.org, or call 402-444-5238, for more information.
Q: Who is eligible for a third cart at city cost?
A: Households of five or more can apply. The city is developing a process for that now.
Q: When should people get rid of their old trash cans?
A: They should hold onto them until FCC starts collecting waste in the new trash carts.
Q: How can people dispose of their old trash cans and green recycling bins?
A: FCC is developing a plan with Public Works so people can drop off old trash cans and recycling bins. Cans and bins that can be recycled will be. Others will be disposed of.
Q: What happens if someone has more trash than fits in a single 96-gallon bin? Can they still put garbage bags at the curb?
A: Garbage bags and other items set at the curb outside of the carts will not be collected. Only what's placed in the cart will be hauled away. Hold onto that extra bag until the following week.
Q: What if someone wants another cart but doesn't qualify for the extra cart based on the size of their household?
A: Residents can lease an additional trash and yard waste cart directly from FCC for $91 a year. An extra recycling cart will cost $45.50 a year.
Q: How will recycling work under the new contract?
A: People will receive a 96-gallon covered cart for recycling, to be picked up every other week. Residents should no longer have to separate and bag up items to keep them from blowing away.
Q: What can be recycled in the new bins?
A: Omaha will recycle the same materials it does now: aluminum cans, steel cans, plastic bottles and packaging, milk and juice cartons, soup boxes and paper, including newspaper.
Residents who use the Hefty EnergyBag program for nonrecyclable plastic — think straws, plastic bags, toothpaste tubes and more — will place the items in their familiar orange bags and put them in the new recycling bins.
Q: Where will people put yard waste under the new contract?
A: Most of the year, it will go in the same cart as trash. Unlimited yard waste will be picked up during a set time frame each spring and fall.
Q: How will people know the weeks for the unlimited spring and fall yard waste pickup?
A: Public Works is required to notify FCC 90 days before the unlimited yard waste pickup periods begin. Each year, the city will set the weeks for the spring by Jan. 1 and for the fall by June 15.
Q: What if a resident has more yard waste than fits in a trash cart during other times of the year?
A: People will be able to purchase a $2 sticker for each extra yard waste bag placed at the curb outside the seasonal unlimited yard waste pickup periods.
Q: When will yard waste be composted at OmaGro, the city's composting facility, and when will it not?
A: Yard waste collected during seasonal unlimited yard waste pickup will be taken to OmaGro and made into compost. Yard waste collected the rest of the year will be taken to the landfill.
Q: What if I don't want my yard waste taken to the landfill?
A: People still will be able to haul their own yard waste to the OmaGro facility in Bellevue and have it made into compost, once flood-related repairs are finished. Private companies also offer composting alternatives, including for food waste. More information is available online at www.omagro.com.
Alcohol consumption has bedeviled colleges for decades.
Colleges and universities have fought back with training programs, education and enforcement, and many officials say these strategies make a difference. But a wild party on Aug. 23 in a neighborhood near Creighton University shows that college-age drinking remains a serious challenge.
A new Husker football season begins today with Nebraska hosting South Alabama, and it may test the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s and law enforcement’s ability to combat the drinking phenomenon. Off-campus drinking is particularly hard to monitor.
And off-campus parties have the potential to get out of hand in part because of the influence of social media.
“All it takes is somebody posting (a party announcement) on Snapchat, Twitter and Instagram,” said Susanne Williams, coordinator for alcohol and other drug prevention at UNL. Then people pour in.
Iowa State discontinued its weeklong VEISHEA celebration in 2014 because of inebriation and rioting in and around the university. An Iowa State analysis at the time said social media “contributed to the rapid assembly of crowds” and spread word of parties “within seconds to thousands of people.”
A Creighton junior who lives in the Gifford Park house that was at the center of the party admitted this week that the turnout exceeded expectations. She apologized.
Nevertheless, she said, the so-called Denim Party at the start of the Creighton school year has been going on for a while. “It’s kind of a tradition,” said the young woman, who declined to give her name.
Years of house parties in the Gifford Park neighborhood have turned neighbors sour. “It’s kind of like we’re trapped in our own neighborhood,” said Brittney Rubek, who has an 8-year-old daughter.
Rubek said the neighborhood is gradually being taken over by landlords who pack Creighton students into rental houses.
Creighton spokeswoman Cindy Workman said late this week: “Creighton takes seriously the need to educate students about the importance of making good choices regarding alcohol. Our efforts are aimed at reducing high-risk drinking and encouraging students to abandon binge drinking behaviors.”
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UNL knows about off-campus parties. The North Bottoms neighborhood, just north of Memorial Stadium, has been a haven for house parties for a long time. A couple of years ago, one or more huge parties attracted considerable law enforcement and neighbor complaints.
Lincoln Police Department spokeswoman Angela Sands said she believes the North Bottoms parties have been suppressed somewhat. Sands attributed part of that to intensive patrolling of the North Bottoms. She also said the Lincoln Police Department uses social media to its advantage by warning potential partyers that the police have their eyes on them.
And the Lincoln police have partnerships, she said, with landlords and homeowners.
The Lincoln Police Department’s northwest team, which covers the North Bottoms, focuses heavily on enforcement on football Saturdays. By early October of last year, the northwest police team had given 18 citations, or tickets, for minor in possession, 92 for illegal parking and three for public urination; in addition, 38 vehicles had been towed.
Kearney Police Capt. Mike Young said progress has been made in halting big off-campus parties near the University of Nebraska at Kearney. They haven’t all disappeared, he said, but for the most part, the day of 400-person parties and collapsing floors (that happened once) have ceased.
Young spoke vaguely of the effectiveness of a 1992 disorderly house ordinance and working closely with the university.
UNK spokesman Todd Gottula said his college doesn’t ignore troublesome situations.
“We’re in regular contact with the police department,” Gottula said.
UNL’s Williams said universities have gained knowledge about what works in curbing heavy alcohol consumption. This has led to creation of programs such as Step-Up. That national student training program promotes bystander intervention, in which a student encourages a drunken classmate to get food and water, and calls 911 if necessary.
“The program works,” Williams said.
“I think there’s still the perception that it’s a rite of passage,” she said of college drinking. Williams and others said many students think that just about one drinks heavily at college. That’s a misconception that alcohol awareness programs try to correct.
Many universities across the country, including Creighton and Iowa State, use an online program for students called AlcoholEdu. The prevention program, in use at more than 400 colleges, uses various methods to teach students about the harm of drinking, such as showing the impact of alcohol on the brain.
“It’s not like this is the one thing” that works, said Brian Vanderheyden, assistant director of student wellness at Iowa State. He said it takes a combination of strategies.
Lindsey Hanlon, prevention manager at the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, said declines in drinking have been gradual.
A survey of Nebraskans 19 to 25 years old indicated 65% binge drank in 2010. That had dropped to 52% by last year, Hanlon said. Binge drinking involves consuming four or five drinks in a couple of hours.
Peyton Walker, a UNL junior who hopes to go to law school, said drinking “surrounds us at a very young age.” That includes booze in movies, on TV and in songs.
“That’s what you expect when you come to college,” said Walker, of Fort Collins, Colorado. She said it’s been easier than she expected to find communities at UNL that have nothing to do with drinking, such as the honors program and church.
College students, she said, want to fit in and don’t want to miss out. “They want to seem cool,” she said.
Chris Wagner of Project Extra Mile in Omaha said his organization receives grants from a government behavioral health agency. He would like to direct some of that money to the Omaha Police Department, Wagner said, to increase staffing for Gifford Park party enforcement.
Among the problems associated with these types of parties, Wagner said, are underage drinking and the risk of teen pregnancy, drunken driving, violence and sexual assault.
Omaha City Councilman Chris Jerram, who represents Gifford Park, noted that the police said they didn’t ticket any of the partyers on Aug. 23. Apparently, only two officers responded at the scene.
Given the longtime party problems in that neighborhood, Jerram said, the time for gentle reminders has passed. Nothing compels a person to be a good citizen quite like a trip before a judge at 9 a.m. on a Monday, Jerram said.
Chris Foster of the Gifford Park Neighborhood Association board said he thinks zoning enforcement, police presence and other factors can help. “I think the strategy is multi-threaded, and it’s got to be a team effort,” Foster said.
Omaha Police Capt. Mark Matuza told Jerram and Foster by email late this week that his northeast precinct was on other calls, so the southeast precinct responded to the Gifford Park calls.
“My lieutenants are aware that zero tolerance will be the mindset going forward from here,” Matuza said.
Foster said he drove slowly through a slew of partyers near 34th and Davenport Streets that Friday evening. “Just bad things can happen, and in a hurry, and then you put a lot of people at risk.”
He said he considered taking video of the scene. But sitting in his car surrounded by chaos, he said, he didn’t feel safe pointing a camera at the revelers.
DES MOINES (AP) — Democrats' plans for virtual presidential caucuses in Iowa and Nevada are effectively dead as the national party chairman said Friday that the results would be vulnerable to hacking and abuse.
Tom Perez, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, declared his opposition to plans for telephone voting submitted by the key early voting states of Iowa and Nevada, envisioned as part of the national party's efforts to increase participation in the 2020 nominating fight.
"We concur with the advice of the DNC's security experts that there is no tele-caucus system available that meets our standard of security and liability," Perez said in a statement joined by the co-chairs of the party's Rules and Bylaws Committee.
The Iowa and Nevada parties had planned to allow some voters to cast caucus votes over the telephone in February 2020 instead of showing up at traditional caucus meetings.
The powerful rules committee, which must approve all states' primary and caucus plans, still must meet in the coming weeks to make the final decision, but Friday's statement makes clear that will be a formality. The decision removes a potential cause of a flawed count on caucus night that could undermine the integrity of a process that has been criticized even in its traditional form.
The decision leaves the Iowa and Nevada state parties in limbo, without clarity on how they'll meet the national party's requirements to expand access to the caucuses. Iowa Democratic Party Chair Troy Price said he would comply with the DNC's decision, but that he wouldn't speculate on any potential alternatives to the plan the party had originally put in place.
"We're going to take the time we need to explore the options available to us, recognizing we still have five months till the caucuses," he said.
Price also expressed confidence that Iowa would not have to scrap the caucuses overall, or lose its status as the first state in the nation to express a presidential preference.
It's unclear how exactly the elimination of the tele-caucus option will affect candidate strategy. Conversations with campaign aides in Iowa and Nevada suggested most campaigns hadn't done much planning around the virtual caucus yet because the exact processes hadn't yet been approved by the DNC. But at least one candidate, former Housing Secretary Julian Castro, called the DNC's decision to scrap the virtual caucus an "affront to the principles of our democracy."
William McCurdy II, the Nevada Democratic Party chairman, expressed disappointment in the outcome but noted that his state still will have early caucus voting "to provide Nevada Democrats additional opportunities to participate in an important process that will have lasting effects on our country."
Nevada's plan to offer early, in-person caucusing is expected to meet the DNC's requirement that states offer some alternate means of participating in traditional neighborhood meetings.
The party has planned to offer four early nights where voters may show up at a location and fill out forms listing their preferred candidate and at least one alternate. The DNC has not given final approval to that plan, but Artie Blanco, a DNC rules and bylaws committee member from Nevada, said Friday that she had not heard any security concerns about the early caucusing plan.
Blanco said plans for the tele-caucus involved creating new technology that doesn't yet exist. The states had hoped to work with the DNC to develop the telephone-based voting system but questions about how secure the system could be were raised back in a June DNC meeting. She said she's hopeful that Democrats will work to create it by 2024.
"I'm disappointed that we're not going to try to build this system this year. The unfortunate thing is we're less than six months out," Blanco said. "We attempted to do this process to allow for others to participate and I'm hopeful that the DNC will work with the states to develop the technology."
Democrats with knowledge of the deliberations said the DNC's findings on the virtual caucuses came after a test of the planned systems revealed vulnerability to hacking. The party already is sensitive to hacking after Russian operatives infiltrated DNC servers during the 2016 election campaign, and Democrats say they could not abide having the Iowa and Nevada results delegitimized after the fact.