Tag Archives: system

What a Load of Garbage

April 20, 2017 by

When you hear the words “garbage collection,” you might think of a truck rolling into the neighborhood and a couple of guys hopping off to pick up your waiting bin(s).

It turns out that the Omaha metro area is one of the last places in this country where trash is collected that way.

Omaha mayor Jean Stothert wrote in a March 2016 press release, “I feel like our current service is way outdated.”

Efforts to modernize have been underway for some time now, according to an email from Justin Vetsch, 30, the Omaha senior district manager for Waste Management. Waste Management is the company that handles the City of Omaha’s garbage collection services.

“Back in November of 2016, upon the city’s request, Waste Management implemented a pilot program which showcases what a modernized collection system would look like, with automated trucks and standardized 96-gallon carts for trash and recycle,” Vetsch says. “This pilot program will conclude in April. The feedback and comments that Waste Management has received from residents indicates the pilot area is going well.”

Mike Shrader, 57, is the owner/manager of Premier Waste Solutions, a private company servicing Sarpy County, northern Cass County, and western Douglas County. He has been in the waste-collection industry since 1975 and hopes the city’s new system works as well as it has for his company.

“The vast majority of municipalities across the country use some form of a carted system,” Shrader says. The old model of collection, in which employees rode on the back of the truck and picked up the trash, has not been viable since the 1990s. “It’s hard to find individuals who are willing to do that kind of work, week in, week out.”

The Shrader family, looking for a different model, was introduced to an automated pickup system in Arizona, in which the garbage trucks use mechanical arms to pick up 96-gallon carts. What used to be a two- or three-person job now only needs a driver, and the carts hold about three times as much waste as a residential garbage can and can be wheeled around instead of lifted.

With the exceptions of the city of Omaha, Bellevue, Carter Lake, and Ralston, every other community in the area is what Shrader called a “carted community,” though there’s a pilot program underway now in Bellevue that is similar to the one in Omaha.

Overhauling the system is expensive, Shrader says, which is why it has not happened yet, but changing to this automated system brings with it a number of advantages.

Safety

“Not only is it more efficient for the hauler, in a sense of one-man crews, it’s also safer,” Shrader says. “When we look at the injuries across the nation … it’s usually the second or third person that’s on the truck.”

Aesthetics

When everyone in the neighborhood has the same carts, Shrader and Vetsch say, it gives the neighborhoods a sense of uniformity.

“A modernized system would also include easy wheeling, and standardized covered carts with lids, which are more aesthetically pleasing to have lined down neighborhoods versus loose bags and individually selected cans,” Vetsch says.

Environment

If you have ever had your trash can tip over in a stiff wind, then you know it is a hassle to retrieve trash strewn about your curb and lawn.

“The lids are attached, and they’re on wheels,” Shrader says. “They do a better job of withstanding some of the wind.”

The carts will still fall if the wind is strong enough, but they have an easier time remaining upright, and the lids help make them more “critter-proof,” Shrader says.

Vetsch pointed out that having fewer trucks on the road is good for the environment as well.

“As part of the current pilot, Waste Management is collecting the recycling in 96-gallon carts every other week,” he says. “With recycling collection every other week, it reduces truck traffic in the city’s residential neighborhoods, along with reduced emissions from fewer vehicles.”

Recycling

“Going with a cart system for the recycling is probably the bigger plus,” Shrader says. “Not only do you have a lid on your recycling cart, but you have the capacity of 95 gallons versus 18.”

“In most cases, the ability to have a cart with a lid for recycling dramatically improves recycling participation, as a household may be currently limited due to the recycling bin’s size,” Vetsch says.

The future of Omaha’s garbage collection has yet to be determined, of course. Like any new system, Vetsch says, there will probably be a sense of hesitation.

“I really hope this pilot program works for them,” Shrader says. “It’s like coming out of the Dark Ages.

“If the city would accept that program, I think they’re going to be very, very happy with that for a long, long time.”

Visit wasteline.org for more information.

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

Project Everlast

April 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The first time Akeeme Halliburton was placed in foster care, he was in middle school. His infant brother had been born with drugs in his system, so he and his siblings were removed from their mother’s care and taken into protective custody until alternate care was found. He and his younger brother jumped between foster homes for a few years before they were allowed to return home. But when Halliburton was attending Central High School, his mom became physically abusive, so he called Child Protective Services, who placed him and his siblings back into the system.

“There were good memories and also some bad,” Halliburton, now 20, says of his years in foster care. “When I was younger, I was more of a rebel. I didn’t know why I was in foster care, and I just wanted to go home. When I was older, I just wanted to make a good impression so I could find a better home.”

Halliburton was placed with a foster mom the first time, though their relationship was often strained. “I volunteered at Creighton [Hospital] a lot and always got home pretty late, so she called the cops on me.”

The second time was with a foster dad, who let him volunteer and have more freedom, but Halliburton only received one meal a day, never had proper clothing for winter, and spent a lot of his time alone.

Fortunately, the last foster home he was in was with a woman who provided quality care. “She understood and listened,” he says. “I was a lot more obedient, too, because of the good environment. She didn’t just want me there for money; she cared about me.” But, eventually, Halliburton grew old enough that he was no longer able to remain in foster care.

“When I was younger, I was more of a rebel. I didn’t know why I was in foster care, and I just wanted to go home. When I was older, I just wanted to make a good impression so I could find a better home.” – Akeeme Halliburton, former foster child

While there is always concern for children within the foster care system, there has been a surprising lack of concern in what happens to the youth who age out of foster care when they turn 19. It’s a frightening thought for many former foster care youth, who no longer have a home, steady income, emotional support, medical care, transportation, or education. Worse, the statistics are against them. One in five young people who age out of foster care will be homeless before age 21.

Fortunately, Halliburton heard about Project Everlast, a grassroots effort that promotes community resources to improve a youth’s opportunities and networks for housing, transportation, and health care during the transition to adulthood.

Project Everlast formed in 2007, when the Nebraska Children & Families Foundation met with a steering committee of Omaha youth, the Nebraska Department of Health & Human Services, the Sherwood Foundation, and the William and Ruth Scott Family Foundation. Together, the youth and the representatives of the organizations developed an innovative plan to help aged-out foster care youth with resources for housing, transportation, health care, education, employment, personal and community engagement, and daily living.

Now, with youth-driven councils all across Nebraska—in Omaha, Lincoln, Norfolk, Grand Island, North Platte, Scottsbluff, Geneva, and Kearney—Project Everlast is able to provide a source of peer-to-peer support and mentoring to members, as well as allow foster care youth to have a voice in advocating for changes in agencies and systems, locally and statewide. The councils are open to any youth or young adult with foster care experience between the ages of 14-24 and are supported by a Youth Advisor, who provides training and support.

Project Everlast also has several community partners in Omaha that work with them to create a network of support for youth in transition, including Family Housing Advisory Services, Child Saving Institute, Central Plains Center for Services, Omaha Home for Boys, Lutheran Family Services, Heartland Family Service, and Youth Emergency Services.

“Foster care can be a very isolating experience, and decreasing that isolation is a vitally important part of our work.” – Rosey Higgs, associate vice president of Project Everlast

“My foster mom told me about [Project Everlast],” Halliburton says. “I didn’t know what it was, but I had seen some fliers outside of my school. We went to a group one day, and after that, I just started going more often and getting more involved. They gave me all kinds of numbers to call for help and resources on how to age out of foster care. If I hadn’t found them, I wouldn’t have aged out with as many benefits.”

“Our work is guided by young people in foster care and alumni of foster care,” says Rosey Higgs, associate vice president of Project Everlast.

Higgs, who has undergraduate and graduate degrees in social work from the University of Nebraska-Omaha, had some past experience in launching new initiatives for domestic violence, homelessness, and HIV prevention. When she heard about Project Everlast, she jumped at the chance to be a part of it and add child welfare into her career expertise. “I was instantly drawn to its philosophy and was really energized by the amazing group of young people who were involved,” she adds.

Although she provides oversight and direction to the Project Everlast initiative of the Nebraska Children & Families Foundation, Higgs’ primary responsibility is to convene with community members, nonprofit agencies, the government, and young people to address barriers faced by youth in transition from foster care to adulthood.

“While there is still work to be done, we are well on our way to creating a culture that seeks out and honors the inputs of [those with foster care familiarity] in administering services for youth in foster care and alumni…People who have experienced foster care have important insight to share as we write child welfare policy and create new programs.”

Other organizations focused on foster care often talk about transitioning foster care youth to adulthood through achievements of independence, but Higgs thinks that’s inaccurate. “Hardly anyone lives independently,” she states. “Most people have a network of trusted friends and family that they depend on for advice from time to time or even just for a social outlet. Foster care can be a very isolating experience, and decreasing that isolation is a vitally important part of our work.”

“Young people aging out of foster care require ongoing support so they can reach their full potential and take advantage of the opportunities Nebraska offers to other children their age,” says Mary Jo Pankoke, president of the Nebraska Children & Families Foundation.

Pankoke, who holds an undergraduate degree in education and a graduate degree in psychology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, has been with the foundation from the beginning of its creation in the 1990s. “We bring public and private sectors together throughout the state to prevent problems that threaten the well-being of our children. It’s a wonderful mission that motivates me every day.”

“Young people aging out of foster care require ongoing support so they can reach their full potential and take advantage of the opportunities Nebraska offers to other children their age.” – Mary Jo Pankoke, president of Nebraska Children & Families Foundation.

Having seen the results of Project Everlast’s work, Pankoke knows the initiative is going in the right direction. “In just two years, measuring success in Omaha, more youth received a high school diploma or GED and went on for more training…the number of youth with a paying job [went] from 55 percent before Project Everlast to 68 percent…[and] an increase in youth having full-time, stable employment [went] from 26 percent to 53 percent.”

Higgs and Pankoke both believe that it’s in everyone’s best interest to ensure that all youth have a fair shot at becoming successful adults.

“I always encourage people to think about how they support their own children as they prepare for adulthood—youth in transition from foster care need exactly the same things,” says Higgs.

“We all win if youth can receive a high school diploma, prepare for meaningful work, find emotional support and connection when they need it, and have a safety net when money or housing becomes an issue,” says Pankoke.

As for Halliburton, his time in foster care and with Project Everlast has left quite the impression. He’s currently looking at colleges where he could study sociology and social work. “[Project Everlast] has been phenomenal,” he says. “Everything they’re doing is for the good of foster care…Any kids aging out of foster care should really think about coming in and getting involved because it’s a great asset.”

For more information, visit projecteverlastomaha.org.

Keep Your Lawn Sprinkler System Running Efficiently

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.

Choosing a Sound System for Your Outdoor Space

February 25, 2013 by

Wanna be able to crank the tunes at your summer backyard bash? Or enjoy some soothing jazz with a glass of wine on your patio after a long day at work? Then investing in a quality outdoor sound system should be on your to-do list.

There are a number of factors to consider before selecting an outdoor speaker package. First, the level of performance or sound quality that you are looking for. Let’s assume that only one pair of outdoor speakers is needed for adequate coverage of your deck or patio area. You can probably find models from $119 for a pair, but if your want good quality sound and years of enjoyment, don’t cut corners here. Plan on spending between $400-600 for a pair and you’ll be a lot happier with your purchase. If your outdoor space is larger, you might want to invest in additional speakers strategically placed throughout.

Outdoor speakers are usually offered in either a black or white finish, with the white finish being paintable to match exterior colors. They typically offer the ability to tilt or slant the speaker to aim the sound closer to or further away from your home. This is handy when neighbor’s homes are nearby and you want to avoid blasting sound into their backyard.

If you’re mounting the speakers under an eave or on an exterior wall, rely on a good quality 14-gauge wire. Make sure it’s CL3 rated to meet fire code, since you’ll most likely be running the wire through the walls of your home. Most CL3 wires are paintable to match your home color. In new home construction, the wires can be run ahead of time, allowing them to be hidden and eliminating the need to paint them later.

Something else to consider is controlling the volume. You could just run the wires directly to the speakers from the stereo receiver, but then you’d have to run back inside to where the equipment is located every time you wish to adjust the volume. Using a local volume control is preferable. While weatherproof outdoor volume controls are available, we generally prefer to locate the volume control just inside the deck/patio door to avoid another opportunity for cold air and moisture to enter the home through the exterior wall’s vapor barrier.

When choosing a stereo receiver, be aware that most outdoor speakers are efficient enough that 40 to 100 watts is more than enough to drive a pair. So wattage is not usually an issue, unless you’re running more than one pair of speakers at a time. Odds are that you will never be driving the speakers at the higher wattage range, unless you’re prepared to invite the entire neighborhood over for beer and iced tea.

On the subject of the so-called wireless speakers…There is a bit of a misnomer here. They will require a transmitter, usually located near your equipment rack, that sends the signal to the wireless speakers. All speakers require power to drive them. Regular outdoor speakers get their power from the wires connected to the receiver’s speaker terminals. Even wireless speakers will require power of some sort, probably a 12-volt adapter that will need to be plugged into an outlet nearby. This approach is not very conducive to Nebraska and Iowa’s inclement weather and is therefore not recommended.

The only wireless speakers that we do recommend are ones that work with Apple’s Airplay™. The technology allows you to send music from a Mac or PC running iTunes, or an iOS device, directly to the speakers and control it from those devices. There are also third-party applications that can add AirPlay functionality to Android devices for a price. Some of these types of speakers will work standalone, but many require them to be connected to a Wi-Fi network in the home. Some may also have rechargeable batteries in them, so they can be more portable for use at parties and such, or to bring sound to other parts of the home. The best performance usually comes from the speakers that require a connection to AC power. They will always have power and you don’t have to worry about the battery running down at an inopportune moment.

For more information on outdoor sound systems for your patio/outdoor space, visit customelectronics.tv or call 402-397-4434.

Can you tell me how to get to…?

If you are a frequent reader of this magazine or this column, you probably know your way around Downtown Omaha. However, the thousands of visitors, the special occasion locals, and even some of the in-and-out employees don’t necessarily know their way around downtown or all that we have to offer. A new Downtown Vehicular and Pedestrian Wayfinding Signage System will help with that!

In total, 88 new signs will highlight 27 downtown attractions, and direct drivers and pedestrians to their desired destinations. It’s like an on-street GPS system that not only directs you where you want to go, but suggests the many other museums, theaters, event venues, and shopping districts that make Downtown Omaha what it is.

Just like every other project that has transformed Downtown Omaha, this could not have happened without a wide variety of partners and supporters. The Downtown Improvement District is proud to lead and contribute to this effort and thanks the City of Omaha, the Convention & Visitors Bureau, the Peter Kiewit Foundation, Midtown Crossing, the Mutual of Omaha Foundation, the William and Ruth Scott Foundation, HDR, First National Bank, Creighton University, the Downtown Omaha Inc. Foundation, RDG Planning & Design, Poblacki Sign Solutions, Vic Gutman & Associates, and former mayor Mike Fahey for their contributions to this effort.

So, venture out, let the signs be your guide, and enjoy Downtown Omaha!

This column is part of a series detailing the activities and efforts of the Omaha Downtown Improvement District (DID) to further strengthen Downtown Omaha.

Keeping Your Home Safe

November 25, 2012 by

Did you know a break-in occurs in the US nearly every 16 seconds? Omaha break-ins are also on the rise, making local homeowners take action in securing their homes. Here are some ways you can keep you and your home safe.

Be aware of who is in your neighborhood. Vehicles driving around at night without lights, unfamiliar cars parked and occupied at unusual hours, strangers going door-to-door or loitering around houses where residents may not be home—these are all signs that a burglar could be working your neighborhood. Burglars and other criminals often strike neighborhoods where residents keep to themselves. Getting to know your neighbors and implementing a Neighborhood Watch programs can deter crime in your area.

  • Take precautions when you leave your home. The risk of a break-in is greatest when a homeowner is away. Sgt. Erin Dumont of Omaha’s Crime Prevention Unit says, “Daytime break-ins seem to be the most active.” Dumont also has some tips on keeping your home secure while you are away:
  • Make it appear as if someone is home by leaving a TV and light on (or have them on timers, if you’re worried about your electrical bill).
  • If you are away for an extended period, let your neighbors know; ask them to pick up your mail, newspapers, or even mow and shovel snow.
  • Avoid announcing your vacations on Facebook and social media sites. If you have kids, make sure you know what they’re posting, too.
  • A car break-in can lead to a home break-in. Be cautious while you are out; thieves can snatch a garage door opener and registration, which may have your address on it, making your home their next target.
  • Don’t make it easy for burglars. Leaving a window open for fresh air is an invitation to a burglar. Always make sure to lock all windows and doors before you leave. Never allow strangers in your home to use the telephone or bathroom. Don’t leave valuable items outside, like bicycles. Leaving a spare key out or “hidden” will make it almost effortless for someone to have access to your house; instead, leave it with a neighbor you trust.
  • Protect your home at night. Keep your blinds closed. You don’t want to let burglars get a peek inside at any of your valuables. Simple things like a barking dog, a security system sign in the yard, or a pair of men’s shoes by the front door is sometimes enough to discourage a break-in. The panic button on your car keys can act as an alarm. Keep them by your bedside, and press the button if you hear suspicious noise outside or someone trying to break-in. A well-lit neighborhood can deter criminal activity. Ask neighbors to keep their exterior lights on at night and consider installing motion-sensing lights to illuminate exterior walls.