Questions of the Week — Readers ask about auditorium storm shelter, public works director, bike accident

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The following questions were asked this week by inquiring readers:


Q: I know last year, city officials said they wanted to do something to make the city auditorium a storm shelter for those who don’t have anywhere to go, in the event of a tornado warning. Did that happen?

A: Yes, the city auditorium in York is a storm shelter for anyone who does not have shelter during a situation such as a tornado warning.

Great efforts were made during renovations and since, by the administration, to make that happen.


Q: I think that James Paul is doing a great job as York’s public works director. There have been a lot of things happening and going on, and he seems like he really has his stuff together. I can’t remember – when was he hired by the city and what is his background?

A: James Paul was hired as the city’s public works director in 2021.

He graduated from Iowa State University with a bachelor’s degree from the Agricultural and Bio-Systems Engineering Department in 2007. Prior to taking this position with the city, he was the environmental health and safety manager at Flint Hills Resources in Fairmont. Prior to that, he worked in the same capacity at Cargill Beef at Schuyler. He also worked as the technical safety manager and regulatory safety manager at that Cargill facility.

In 2015, he became a certified emergency manager. In 2014, he was named the Platte County Emergency Manager Volunteer of the Year and from 2013-2015 he was the Platte County emergency management training officer.

Since he became part of the city team, he has been certified in a number of capacities and continues to oversee the water, wastewater, landfill, street and other departments.


Q: There was an accident by Midwest Bank last week, but I haven’t seen anything written about the situation. Can you tell us more about it? It looked pretty serious.

A: Captain Russ Coffey with the York Police Department said this particular accident happened at 10:17 a.m., on May 26, as a bicyclist turned into a pickup in that area of South Lincoln Avenue, and was subsequently run over by the pickup.

He said a pickup driven by Isiac Cruz of York was moving southbound on South Lincoln Avenue. Captain Coffey said the bicyclist, Gerald Freeman of York, made a lefthand turn in front of the pickup.

Captain Coffey said the bicyclist sustained life threatening injuries. He was taken by York Fire and Rescue to York General Hospital and then was taken by helicopter to a Lincoln hospital. Captain Coffey said it is his understanding the bicyclist is still hospitalized in Lincoln “as he sustained substantial injuries.”


Q: What is going into the property east of Nebraska Public Power District operations center? There are these weird structures being put up, but I really don’t have any idea of what they might be. It’s the area right off Highway 34 – to the south – and east of NPPD.

A:  This will be the $8 million data mining venture.

In early 2022, BginUSA selected the City of York has the location for their next date mining complex.

It will bring approximately 30 units of computer servers and an office to the north end of that plot which the company purchased from the city.

As explained earlier by Lisa Hurley, director of the York County Development Corporation, “data mining development fits York well because it brings sizable new revenues and new investments to the community without competing for workers in this tight job market.”

At the time the land purchase was made, Mayor Barry Redfern said, “BginUSA’s purchase of the city’s industrial lot to develop their date mining business provides an opportunity for the city to move into a cutting-edge technological industry.”

The property will involve a number of “pods” in which the technology will take place.


 Q: Can you tell us the specifics of what will happen next year, during the elections, as far as the new voter ID requirement? What kind of photos will be accepted as photo IDs?

A: LB514 implements the constitutional amendment requiring qualified voters to present valid photo ID before they can cast a ballot.

The requirement will be in effect prior to the Primary Election next May – so that means next year’s election cycle will include this requirement of voters.

The following photo IDs will be accepted: those issued by the federal government (passports), the State of Nebraska (driver’s licenses), local governments or Nebraska colleges – just as long as they include the person’s name as well. Military and veteran IDs, tribal IDs, and residents of hospitals, nursing homes and assisted living centers would be able to use patient documents that include a photo.


Q: I remember, many years ago as a kid, we’d hear what the folks called “sonic booms” when military aircraft would be in training sessions over where we farmed. I haven’t heard about a sonic boom in the longest time – until this week when they were talking about the one over Washington/Virginia this past weekend. Can you tell us what exactly is a sonic boom?

A: A sonic boom is an incredible noise when airplanes overhead fly faster than the speed of sound.

According to NASA, as the plane “speeds through the air, the air reacts like fluid. Molecules are pushed aside with great force and this forms a shock wave, much like a boat creates a wake in water.” The result is a very, very loud noise.


Q: I’ve seen stories about people being Master Gardeners. How does one go about doing that? I would love to know the information as I’m really interested.

A: According to Nebraska Extension, applications to in the Nebraska Extension Master Gardener Program is closed for the 2023 training season.

Applications for the 2024 training season will open in late February of 2024.

Classes are held once a year, beginning sometime between January and May. Everyone who is interested is asked to contact their extension office for the location nearest to them.

As a Master Gardener intern, attendance is required for 40 hours of education. Volunteers are are considered Master Gardener Trainees after completing the 40 hours of educational training and passing an open-book test with a 70% or better, according to Nebraska Extension. Participants become volunteers in the Nebraska Extension Master Gardener Program after completing 40 hours of volunteer activities. This title is retained until the training sessions begin the following year again.

Returning Master Gardeners must complete a minimum of 10 hours of continuing education and 20 volunteer activities each year to remain active.

Q: I saw the old Pizza Hut/Mexican restaurant property along South Lincoln Avenue has a sold sign in front of it. Do you know what is going to go in there?

A: We asked several sources and haven’t yet found that information.

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