Tag Archives: maintenance

Efficient Urban Transportation in a Zip

February 24, 2017 by

Living in a technologically advanced world has its advantages, like convenience and fiscal recompenses we never could have envisioned.

As a Los Angeles native who paid car insurance the price of a mortgage in some places, one new convenience I can appreciate is Zipcar.

The program has graced Omaha with its presence for seven years. Zipcar was founded in 2000 by Antje Danielson, current director of education at MIT Energy Initiative, and  Robin Chase, co-founder of French chartering service Buzzcar. The pair created Zipcar to provide a more efficient, affordable method of driving in the city.

Zipcar P.R. manager Lindsay Wester, who is based in Boston, explains that Zipcar is as simple as join, reserve, and drive.

Business customers begin by signing up online, where they pay a one-time setup fee of $75 and annual membership dues of $35 for each driver. This membership covers fuel, insurance, mileage, parking, and maintenance. Individuals can pay a $25 one-time setup fee annual dues of $70, or a monthly fee of $7 plus the one-time setup fee.

The Omaha fleet includes two Honda Civics and a Ford Escape. The Hondas and the Ford cost $8.50 per hour Monday through Thursday, or $69 per day. The Friday through Sunday rate is $9.50 per hour, or $77 per day for the Hondas and $83 per day for the Escape.  The other car available in Omaha is a Volkswagen Jetta, which costs $9 per hour or $69 daily at all times. The cars are parked on Creighton and UNMC’s campuses, downtown at 17th Street and Capitol Avenue, and at Mammel Hall near Aksarben Village.

Upon becoming a member, the company sends the user a Zipcard, which functions as an entry key. The ignition key stays inside the vehicle. Each user gets one card with their membership, which gives them access to Zipcar’s nationwide fleet. Upon reserving a car, the company digitally connects the Zipcard to the specific car reserved. The user gains access to the vehicle by holding the card to the card reader placed in the windshield. After scanning in with the Zipcard, a user’s smartphone can be a backup to the Zipcard for locking or unlocking the car doors throughout a reservation.

The company first brought their concept to Omaha in 2010, launching at Creighton University, followed by University of Nebraska in 2012, then the Medical Center in October 2015. In Omaha, the target market has been students, but Zipcars also are useful for travelers.

Melanie Stewart, sustainability manager at UNMC and Nebraska Medicine, is in charge of UNMC’s program.

“Last year we had a visiting professor come in, and they had a friend in Lincoln, so they used a Zipcar to visit their friend while in Omaha,” Stewart says.

The Zipcars are also used by visitors of patients who may need to purchase supplies or just take a break from being at the hospital.

Patrick Lin, a 21-year-old Omaha resident, says, “I used Zipcar roughly four to six hours every week during my sophomore year. I first heard about it from some friends in California because they couldn’t have cars during their first year at college.”

Lin enjoys the ability to use a car when needed without the expense of owning it. “Personally, it allows a lot more to get done compared to other services. The only restraint I have is that since there is a time limit, you must plan your activities accordingly. But the per-mile usage you can get when a trip is planned right is entirely worth the time constraints,” he says.

Wester says that Zipcar has remained successful and growing for more than a decade and a half. And as city dwellers become more disenchanted with the idea of owning cars, their success should continue to accelerate.

Visit zipcar.com for more information.

This article was printed in the Spring 2017 edition of B2B.

Underdogs and Frontrunners in the Omaha Mayoral Race

February 21, 2017 by
Photography by Christopher Geary photos by Bill Sitzmann, all others contributed

Running for the office of Omaha mayor seems surprisingly accessible for any registered voter age 25 or older who is an Omaha resident of six months or more: Pay a $100 filing fee, complete a notarized candidate filing form and a statement of financial interests form, and submit a petition signed by 1,000 registered Omaha voters.

As the March/April issue of Omaha Magazine went to press, 10 individuals had taken out paperwork from the Douglas County Election Commission (the first step to getting on the ballot in hopes of being elected to the nonpartisan office that pays $102,312 annually for a four-year term starting in June). But in the months before the election, only about half of the potential candidates had developed and promoted detailed campaign platforms through polished websites, social media channels, and savvy media relations efforts. Several of those receiving less pronounced media attention have articulated core issues that range from legalizing marijuana, to improving the lives of local lower- and middle-income families, to touting free speech.

Douglas County Election Commissioner Brian W. Kruse says it’s unlikely all 10 will make it to the ballot for the April 4 primary based on precedent: Although seven candidates qualified for the 2013 primary, there were just five in 2009, only two in both 2005 and 2001, and three in 1997. (The two candidates with the highest number of votes advance to the general election, May 9 this cycle.) Self-promotion isn’t the only challenge for potential candidates, Kruse says.

“Especially with the mayoral candidates, we do hear quite a bit how hard it is to get 1,000 signatures that are accepted. It takes work, you know?” he says. Some well-meaning signers are discovered during the painstaking verification process to not be registered to vote or not registered in the correct jurisdiction, he explains. Candidates are encouraged to obtain extra signatures and complete paperwork well before the March 3 filing deadline. If time allows, they can correct paperwork errors or omissions or even gather more signatures if they come up short or cut it close.

“We would feel terrible if someone turned theirs in on March 3 and they had 995 signatures, because there’s nothing they can do at that point,” he says. “In our office, we will certify to 110 percent. We try to turn them around pretty quickly; the mayor (incumbent Jean Stothert) turned her signatures in on a Wednesday, and we were done by Friday afternoon. Often candidates will call and check with us on how it’s going, and we’ll give them updates. We try to be as customer service-friendly as possible … We’re here to serve the voters and the citizens of Douglas County.”

Christopher Geary, a martial arts teacher/studio owner and former Marine, is a newcomer to the mayoral race. He and the current mayor were the first to meet the credentials needed to appear on the ballot, receiving confirmation from the commission Jan. 6.

 

“I feel that service to others is not only something people should do, but it’s an obligation we all should embrace. I have run for office before and I feel that now is the perfect time to serve the City of Omaha, which has been my home for three decades … Omaha is an awesome city with a fantastic history and people. The diversity of communities and how we come together in hard times is really inspiring,” Geary says. “I have a vision for Omaha that brings government, business, and citizens together to improve living conditions for everyone by increasing job opportunities, helping businesses grow and prosper, and provide training for those seeking employment.”

Geary has made the unusual decision to not accept campaign contributions. “I think a candidate for any office should be free and clear of anyone or any group that would try to manipulate them once they are in office,” he says.

He also will not participate in debates, he adds. “Political debates end up being personal attacks on one another and rarely stay on point. Candidates will only say what people want to hear with memorized speeches and can easily stump the other candidates with facts they don’t have access to. Voters that watch or listen to these debates will not receive the necessary information to make informed decisions regarding his or her candidate.”

Mayoral candidate Taylor Royal

Another mayoral hopeful, certified public accountant Taylor Royal, is entirely new to politics.

“I have always had the heart to serve the public and make my hometown better for everyone, but the urgency to run for mayor originated when I moved back to Omaha two years ago,” he says, explaining that he was impressed with the business climate and other opportunities in Dallas, where he lived for four years as he earned his master’s degree and launched his career.

“Moving back to Omaha in 2015 was a different story. The same old problems that plagued our city when I was growing up were still prevalent, and new problems were surfacing,” Royal says. “I want to be mayor of Omaha to create a more business-friendly and community-friendly Omaha. I believe my new vision for Omaha will join our community together to solve our challenges and make Omaha the place to be for families and businesses.”

Royal received early media attention for his proposal to build a football stadium and bring an NFL team to Omaha, but his platform also includes unlocking new sources of revenue, looking for strategic opportunities to outsource, improving street maintenance, and revitalizing North Omaha. Citizens have been receptive, he says.

“My campaign experience to date has been a confirmation of what I already knew about the people in Omaha,” he says. “Omaha is a city filled with people who display unmatched hospitality and incredible diversity, and my candidacy has received a warm welcome from the residents.”

Candidate Heath Mello, who comes into the mayoral race fresh from two terms in the Nebraska Legislature, says engagement is key to winning an election.

“Looking back, I was probably most surprised by how important it was to spend more time knocking on doors and meeting with voters than doing anything else. Spending quality time with people in their homes, churches, and senior centers proved to be so much more meaningful to me throughout the campaign than any speech, fundraiser, meeting, or parade,” he says, estimating that he knocked on more than 12,000 doors in his first race alone.

Engagement then transfers to successfully serving the public, he adds.

“I worked hard for eight years as a state senator to keep that kind of personal engagement through town halls, neighborhood roundtables, knocking on doors, and proactively connecting with neighbors,” he says. And he’s taking that approach through his bid for Omaha mayor with a platform that includes plans to reduce crime, improve city services, create jobs, and foster collaboration.

“From Belvedere to Deer Park, Blackstone to Elkhorn, and everywhere in between, I am continuing to knock on doors and visit with small businesses to learn more about how Omahans want to help shape our great city for the next 20 years and how we can collectively create a smarter, more innovative city.”

Incumbent Stothert emphasizes safety of Omaha’s citizens as her top priority in her bid for re-election. “There is no issue we work harder on than reducing crime and apprehending and prosecuting those who commit crimes. I am proud of our police department and our work with community partners to make Omaha a safer community.”

Her motivation for running again is simple: “I love my job, and it is a privilege to serve as mayor.” Stothert notes, however, that running for re-election has both advantages and challenges.

“During the past 3 1/2 years, we have provided leadership, accomplished priorities, and worked with partners on community projects. This experience provides me the opportunity to highlight what we have accomplished, something you can’t provide as a first-time candidate,” she says. On the other hand, “Four years ago, I could spend most my time campaigning by meeting voters throughout the city and visiting people in their homes. While I am doing that again during this election, I also know my work and commitments as mayor must come first. Even though I have less time to campaign, I believe the best politics is doing a good job so we work hard to make sure Omaha is on the right track.”

Information on the election process or candidates is readily available, Kruse says, and he’s hoping for a good turnout for both the primary and general elections with 182 polling places open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Visit votedouglascounty.com or call 402-444-VOTE to reach the Douglas County Election Commission for more information.

TEN MAYORAL HOPEFULS

As of press time, 10 prospective candidates had begun the paperwork process to enter the mayoral race. To appear on the ballot, they must obtain and file 1,000 signatures from registered voters who reside in Omaha by March 3. Contact information is based on Douglas County Election Commission public records and online information (listed alphabetically by surname).

Bernard Choping

  • Phone: 402-917-5149

Mark Elworth

  • Phone: 402-812-1600
  • E-mail: markelworthjr@aol.com
  • Twitter: @markjr4gov

Christopher Geary

  • Phone: 402-905-6865
  • Website: geary2017.com
  • E-mail: christophergeary@gmail.com

J.B. Medlock

  • Phone: 402-302-0000 and 402-213-2095

Heath Mello

  • Website: heathmello.com
  • E-mail: info@heathmello.com
  • Twitter: @heathmello

Ean Mikale

  • Website: mikaleformayor.com
  • Twitter: @mikaleformayor

Taylor Royal

  • Website: taylorjroyal.com
  • E-mail: royalformayor@gmail.com

Jean Stothert

  • Phone: 402-506-6623
    Website: jeanstothert.com
  • E-mail: info@jeanstothert.com
  • Twitter: @jean_stothert

Mort Sullivan

  • Website: mortsullivan.com
  • E-mail: mdsullivan@cisusa.info

Jerome Wallace

  • Phone: 314-495-0545

This article was printed in the March/April 2017 edition of Omaha Magazine.

 

Greener Days Ahead

January 18, 2014 by

It is in the throes of winter that memories of summer are the most persistent. Even though your lawnmower is now snoring away for the season, there is still plenty of work to be done to ensure that your property enters greener times at its blooming best.

 The Basics

Just like the icicles hanging from your eaves, your lawn becomes brittle during its winter slumber. Keep foot traffic to a minimum during the colder months. And it’s never too late to apply an insulating blanket of mulch to a depth of at least three inches around plants and shrubs.

Watering

For maximum root nourishment, don’t forget that watering is a 12-month task. “Any time that the temperature climbs above 40 degrees, it’s a good time to water,” says John Fech, an extension educator at the University of Nebraska Extension Division in Douglas and Sarpy Counties. “This is particularly important for new plantings of any kind.”

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Evergreens

Unlike trees that drop foliage in the fall, evergreens continue to transpire year-round, meaning that moisture absorbed through the soil is lost through leaves and needles.

“Apply an anti-desiccant spray on days above freezing,” Fech says. “This will protect against damage from the wind and cold.” Fech recommends a rotation of three applications. “A good memory-jogger to use here is to think in terms of spraying on New Year’s Day, Valentines Day, and Easter,” or as close to those days as the weather allows.

A loose wrapping of burlap around shrubs provides extra protection against the elements while still allowing the plant to breathe.

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Snip-Snip

Pruning, especially for fruit trees, ensures that any given plant doesn’t have to work too hard to feed itself. For a host of videos on this and other topics, Fech recommends visiting the YouTube channel of Backyard Farmer, the NET television program produced by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

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To Salt or Not to Salt?

“There needs to be a balance between traction safety and plant safety,” Fech says. De-icing products are great for what they are designed to do, but you pay a price when neighboring shrubs, ground covers, trees, and grass absorb all that salt.

“Nobody likes the brown-outs that these products can cause,” Fech says, “especially because the plant materials can take until mid-summer to recover, if at all—so use 
them sparingly.”

For more information on sustainable horticulture, visit the University of Nebraska Extension Division in Douglas and Sarpy Counties’ website at douglas-sarpy.unl.edu.

Choosing a Roofer

August 29, 2013 by

As Dorothy said in The Wizard of Oz said, “There’s no place like home.” For most of us, our house is our most expensive investment, as well as our pride and joy. Therefore, when choosing a contractor to remove and replace your roof, it’s essential to do some research first.

Following the Omaha hailstorm on April 9 this year, many of us were barraged with phone calls, doorknockers, and direct mailers from roofing companies. It can be overwhelming. Here are a few pieces of good advice to follow when selecting a roofing company for repairs:

  • Take your time and try not to feel pressured into making a rash decision. Remember, you are the customer, and you pay your insurance premiums.
  • Check the yellow pages. Many contractors (sometimes known as storm chasers) come from various places (Texas or Colorado, for example) to set up shop temporarily to get your business. They create a phone number with the local area code, and they would NOT be in the Yellow Pages.
  • Ask lots of questions. Where are they from? Where is their office located?
  • Ask your insurance adjuster, friends, family, and neighbors who they recommend. There are advantages of using a local roofing company, such as creating relationships among neighbors to help build the community. By using local products, local companies do their part to build the local economy.
  • Most importantly, a roofer is not going to guarantee another roofer’s craftsmanship. By having a local roofer, not only will you be supporting your local community, you will save time, money, and headaches if something was done wrong and/or needs to be repaired. The level of customer service is at a much higher standard because of proximity.

For more information or an estimate, visit SosMyRoof.com or call 402-830-0449.

Keep Your Lawn Sprinkler System Running Efficiently

April 25, 2013 by

Just because you have a sprinkler system doesn’t mean it is being utilized properly. Oftentimes, the controller is set incorrectly by the previous homeowner, the lawn guy, the genius father-in-law, or even worse, the know-it-all neighbor. Depending on the season, it needs to be reprogrammed on a regular basis.

We suggest watering 1-2 times per week in the spring and fall for 25 minutes per station on the smaller pop-up spray heads, and 45-50 minutes per station on the larger rotor heads. This will give your lawn approximately one-half inch of water every time you run it. In the summer, it may be necessary to water 3-5 days per week depending on the weather conditions. Avoid the method of watering every day for 10-15 minutes per station. Short, frequent watering will promote a shallow root system and damage your lawn’s ability to withstand heat, drought, insects, and fungus.

Another common problem we see on our service route is dry patches along the edges of the turf. We suggest watering beyond the edge of the grass and onto the concrete at least 12-24” to cool the concrete and allow for the wind. Many people get too concerned about “wasting” water and watching it run down the sidewalk or drive. However, in order to get the edges properly watered, this is a necessary evil. After all, the concrete gets wet when it rains, right? As your landscape matures and your lawn area changes, the sprinkler heads need to be adjusted or moved to prevent blockage from plants and trees. I can’t tell you how many dry spots we see that are caused by a shrub or tree that has grown over the top of a sprinkler head. Oftentimes, the system is running in the middle of the night, and the owner is unaware of the problem.

Finally, check your system visually a few times a year or have a licensed contractor check it for you. Most irrigation companies in the metro have good techs that can spot and repair potential problems. You can expect to pay $60-90 for an hour’s work, but the pro can do in an hour what the amateur lawn guy can do in three hours. Don’t waste your money on the lawn guy who says he can fix it. Most likely, he doesn’t have the parts inventory with him, or the know-how to resolve the problem. We don’t mow lawns, trim shrubs, and spray trees. We fix sprinklers! Have a professional do the job correctly the first time and enjoy your beautiful lawn.

For more information on Controlled Rain Irrigation or to schedule service, visit controlledrainirrigation.com.

Spring Cleaning

March 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

It’s that time of year again. Spring cleaning not only applies to our homes but to our vehicles as well. After the long winter, it’s time to give your vehicle some TLC. After all, the best way to avoid having to spend a lot of money on your vehicle is by doing regular upkeep.

All of the sand, salt, and other chemicals that are thrown on the streets during the winter can really wreak havoc on your vehicle. To begin with, an extremely good wash is in order. This doesn’t just mean rolling through a carwash on your way home from work. That will not get the areas that are in desperate need of cleaning.

It’s extremely important to clean underneath your vehicle as well. That’s where the majority of all of the gunk is hanging out. Also, the wheel wells need to really be cleaned and scrubbed. This is a prime spot for rust to start. Open your doors and make sure that you clean the door jambs, where the hinges are, and the bottom of the interior door. This is another place that salt and chemicals hang out and can begin to create rust issues. Anything that can be done to prevent the beginning of rust needs to be done. Once it starts, there aren’t a lot of great options.

After giving your vehicle a good wash, paying close attention to all the “hot spots,” you should be in good shape to begin the spring. My last advice is that if you notice your vehicle driving a little funny, pulling one way or another, you may need an alignment. The potholes can create this issue very easily, and it’s better to get it taken care of right away than to drive around with your alignment off. One result of driving with your alignment off—it can wear your tires unevenly, possibly causing you to need new tires.

Vinyl Siding 101

February 25, 2013 by

Home improvement season is fast approaching! The warm weather pushes us to get outside and take care of those much-needed home improvement projects.

If your list of projects includes painting your house or updating the exterior of your home, vinyl siding could be your solution! There are many benefits to installing vinyl siding on your home:

  • Maintenance: Vinyl siding is virtually maintenance-free. It eliminates the task of painting your house year after year. It’s easy to maintain and clean, often with just soap or water.
  • Durability: Vinyl siding is durable and built to withstand the change in temperatures that Omaha experiences from season to season. It is manufactured to expand and contract with the changing weather conditions.
  • Appearance: Vinyl siding panels come in longer lengths to help give a more “seamless” look to your home. Vinyl siding comes in many different style and color options. Many manufacturers now have software that enables you to upload a photo of your home and allows you to change the style and color to envision what your home could look like.
  • Cost: Vinyl siding is a cost-effective way to improve the look of your home. It is also a means of reducing your energy costs. Many vinyl siding brands are pre-insulated to help with energy efficiency.

For more information about vinyl siding and other home improvement questions, call 402-502-9300 to request a FREE, no-obligation appointment with a Pyramid Roofing Inc. exteriors estimator.

Keep Your Furnace in Check

December 25, 2012 by

Regular furnace maintenance helps prevent costly breakdowns and keeps your heating system operating at peak efficiency. While a check in fall the ideal time for this service, a thorough check and cleaning now is still very beneficial as there’s still lots of work ahead for your furnace this winter. Here are a few tips you can follow at home to keep your HVAC working efficiently:

Change your furnace filter regularly. Preventing the passage of dust and dirt, furnace filters protect the coils, heat exchanger, and other HVAC components from excessive cycling and overheating due to dust buildup, ensuring maximum equipment life. Enhanced filtering capabilities can be added to your HVAC system to further protect your investment and to improve the quality of your home’s air.

Check for unrestricted airflow. Your furnace needs to “breathe” and access to plenty of clean air is necessary for your equipment to work properly. Be sure that the area around your registers and air-intake vents throughout your house are free of obstructions.

Use your HVAC system to make your home more comfortable in other ways. With a whole-house humidifier, your family will experience less static electricity and less skin, throat, and nose irritation. You can also combat “stale” indoor air, including bacteria, viruses, and odors by installing a UV light inside your home’s central heat and air system.

For more information on HVAC systems and service, visit aksarbenARS.com or call 402- 331-1233.