Questions of the Week – Readers ask about Sip N Stroll money, algae, paying for soccer fields

The following questions were asked this past week by inquiring readers;


Q: Where do the proceeds go from the Sip N Stroll event? 

A: Madonna Mogul, director of the York Area Chamber of Commerce, said, “What funds we do make just offset staff time to execute the event. We typically have just a modest gain after all expenses are recorded.”

She also noted, “Also good to know is the intent of sip and stroll is to have a fun environment where individuals and small groups can casually engage with service providers and retail locations.”


Q: Do York residents need to be worried about the algae building up in Beaver Creek near the Harrison Park basketball courts?

A: We asked Cheree Folts, parks and recreation director for York, and she said the city doesn’t handle the waterways in town.

So we asked the Upper Big Blue Natural Resource District.

The NRD’s spokesperson, Chrystal Houston, said, “The Upper Big Blue NRD is not involved in monitoring or maintenance of surface water in the district other than at our recreation areas, so we cannot say if Beaver Creek is impaired with an algal bloom. However, the short answer is, if there is a concern about the water quality, stay out of the water. According to the EPA, ‘Algal blooms can be toxic. Keep people and pets away from water that is green, scummy or smells bad.'”

Houston said, “The Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy tests lakes across the state for harmful algae and e. coli from May to September through their Beach Watch program. They have a lot of information available about water quality concerns on their website:

“Additional information from NDEE can be found at”
She also provided the following information:
What is a Harmful Algal Bloom Health Alert?
The Health Alert designation for Harmful Algal Blooms (also referred to as “toxic blue-green algae”) means that the state has determined that the level of toxins in the water make it potentially unsafe for full-body recreational activities, such as swimming. The toxin being measured is microcystin, which is generated from certain strains of blue-green algae.
During a Health Alert at a public lake, signs will be posted advising the public to use caution. Affected swimming beaches will be closed. Boating and other recreational activities will be allowed, but the public will be advised to use caution and avoid prolonged exposure to the water, particularly avoiding any activity that could lead to swallowing the water.
Starting in the 2020 recreational season, the level to trigger a Health Alert declaration is 8 parts per billion of the toxin microcystin. This is a lower threshold than previous years, based on recommendations issued in 2019 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Previously, the State of Nebraska had set a limit of 20 ppb, but adopted the new limits after concluding that the new EPA threshold is based on the best scientific evidence available, and is protective of public health.What is a Harmful Algal Bloom?

Harmful Algal Blooms (HAB), also known as toxic blue-green algae, refer to certain strains of cyanobacteria that produce toxins. HABs often are a distinct blue-green color but may also appear to be green, brown or red. The toxins associated with HABs have been found in a number of Nebraska lakes sampled.

HABs can dominate the algal populations of a lake under the right combinations of water temperature, low water depths, and nutrients (such as high nitrogen and phosphorus concentrations from wastewater discharges and runoff from agricultural land and communities).

What should I look for to avoid Harmful Algal Blooms?

HABs usually have heavy surface growths of pea-green colored clumps, scum or streaks, with a disagreeable odor. It can have a thickness similar to motor oil and often looks like thick paint in the water. Algae blooms usually accumulate near the shoreline where pets and toddlers have easy access and the water is shallow and more stagnant. It is important to keep a watchful eye on children and pets so that they do not enter the water. Aspects to watch out for include:

  • Water that has a neon green, pea green, blue-green or reddish-brown color.
  • Water that has a bad odor.
  • Foam, scum or a thick paint-like appearance on the water surface.
  • Green or blue-green streaks on the surface.
  • Areas with algae that look like grass clippings floating in the water.
  • When algal blooms are present at a lake, avoid protected bays and shorelines on the windward side of the lake. These are areas that generally have higher concentrations of algae, and potentially toxins.

What are the risks and symptoms?

Pets and farm animals have died from drinking water containing an HAB (or licking their wet hair/fur/paws after they have been in the water). Toxins produced by HABs have been known to persist in water for up to 14 days after the bloom has disappeared.

The risks to humans come from external exposure (prolonged contact with skin) and from swallowing the water. Symptoms from external exposure are skin rashes, lesions and blisters. More severe cases can include mouth ulcers, ulcers inside the nose, eye and/or ear irritation and blistering of the lips. Symptoms from ingestion can include headaches, nausea, muscular pains, central abdominal pain, diarrhea and vomiting. Severe cases could include seizures, liver failure, respiratory arrest – even death, although this is rare. The severity of the illness is related to the amount of water ingested, and the concentrations of the toxins.

Are some people more at risk?

Yes. Some people are at a greater risk from HABs than the general population. Those at greater risk include:

  • Children enjoy playing along the shoreline of lakes, but may have less awareness about potentially hazardous conditions, causing for greater opportunity for exposure. Based on body weight, children tend to swallow a higher percentage of water than adults, and therefore could be at greater risk.
  • Individuals with liver disease or kidney damage and those with weakened immune systems.

Here are some tips on what you can do, and things to avoid:

  • Be aware of areas with thick clumps of algae and keep animals and children away from the water.
  • Don’t wade or swim in water containing visible algae. Avoid direct contact with algae.
  • Make sure children are supervised at all times when they are near water. Drowning, not exposure to algae, remains the greatest hazard of water recreation.
  • If you do come in contact with the algae, rinse off with fresh water as soon as possible.
  • Don’t boat or water ski through algal blooms.
  • Don’t drink the water, and avoid any situation that could lead to swallowing the water.


Q: Has the man who killed his wife, here in York, been sentenced yet?

A: No. The sentencing for Bart Beutler is still pending.


Q: How are the improvements at the soccer complex going to be paid for?

A: The city will utilize LB 357 funds for this project. The funds are generated by a special ½-percent local sales tax.


Q: Wondering where one could get rid of some concrete clumps? As the trash company does not take them.

A: York Public Works Director James Paul says, “The landfill does accept concrete debris to be placed in the landfill construction and demolition (C&D) area.”


Q: It seems like the time change is later this year. When will the time change this year?

A: It’ll be time to turn back the clocks on Sunday, Nov. 5.


Q: Do dogs like to eat sweet potatoes? Are they safe for them?

A: Yes, dogs like sweet potatoes and they are safe.

According to many sources, “Sweet potato is a safe, healthy and natural treat for dogs, offering a range of health benefits (and a sweet flavor they’ll likely love). For example, sweet potatoes support a healthy digestive system thanks to their high dietary fiber content. They’re also low in fat and contain essential vitamins like B6, C and A.”


Q: My grandma, many years ago, used to make this very simple butternut squash soup which I remember just loving as a kid. I think it was partly because no one I knew, except for Grandma, made it so it was something special we always had at her house in the fall. I know you have found old-fashioned recipes in old cookbooks before and wondered if you could look for this one as well. I know there are many online but they add all these weird ingredients that Grandma just didn’t have back in the day. I just want the old-fashioned version. She’s been gone for a long time so I can’t ask her about the secret to why it was so good.

A: We found this one in an old cookbook from a Catholic parish in northeast Nebraska. So maybe it’s close.

It says to simply take a medium-sized butternut squash, about three pounds – peel it and cube it. Then in a pretty big kettle, saute some finely grated garlic and diced onion for about a minute. Add the raw squash and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Saute until the squash starts to soften. Now, add about two cups of chicken broth. Simmer the concoction until the squash cooks through and is completely softened.

Now, run the entire batch through the blender until it’s really smooth. When it is completely blended and smooth, pour it back into the kettle and bring it back to warm, on low heat. When it is up to the temperature you like, pour in some heavy cream or Half and Half, until it is the consistency you like.

There it is, old fashioned butternut squash soup. Of course, you can add toasted pumpkin seeds and other toppings of your choice, but here is the base for an old favorite.

We hope it is close to Grandma’s.

But we think the reader is probably correct in that the true secret was probably it was so good because it was an exclusive recipe belonging to her grandma.


Q: Was there really a horse-drawn trolley which carried people from place to place in downtown York, back in the old days? I think that is so cool, if it was true. Where did it run?

A: We found a passage in a York County history book about York’s trolley service. There was also a picture of the trolley and the caption indicated one of the drivers was Buell Charlton.

In a short story, written by Blaine Charlton 1988, it was said: “The trolley went from the Reece Hotel, just across the street south of the Burlington depot to the Blodgett House, where Super Value (Grand Central) is now. The North Western depot was across the street. It also delivered people to the Le Grande Hotel on the corner of Seventh and Lincoln, now the York State Bank. Buell Charlton would stop at every corner. The charge was 5 cents a ride.”


Q: How many governors has Nebraska had in its history?

A: There have been 41 governors in Nebraska.

They have been: David Butler, Robert Wilkinson Furnas, Silas Garber, Albinus Nance, James Dawes, John Milton Thayer, James Boyd, Lorenzo Crounse, Silas Holcomb, William Poynter, Charles Dietrich, Ezra Savage, John Mickey, George Sheldon, Ashton Shallenberger, Chester Aldrich, John H. Morehead, Keith Neville, Samuel McKelvie, Charles Bryan, Adam McMullen, Arthur Weaver, Charles Bryan, Robert Leroy Cochran, Dwight Griswold, Val Peterson, Robert Crosby, Victor Anderson, Ralph Brooks, Dwight Burney, Frank Morrison, Norbert Tiemann, J. James Exon, Charles Thone, J. Robert Kerrey, Kay Orr, Ben Nelson, Mike Johanns, Dave Heineman, Pete Ricketts and Jim Pillen.


Q: When I moved to York, I marveled at how many wonderful parks there are here. Which of the parks in York is the oldest?

A: According to history books, the oldest park in York is Harrison Park. In the beginning, this park had a pond where boat rides were taken and there was a pavilion where families held large gatherings. This park was the site of the early Chautauqua shows. The municipal outdoor pool was also initially located at Harrison.


Q: I have new neighbors and it appears they have been burning their garbage in a barrel in the back yard. Isn’t that illegal in York?

A: According to Section 16-7 of the York Municipal Code, it is “unlawful for any person to burn garbage or refuse within the corporate limits of the city.”

If this is a problem, the reader should probably contact the local police.


Q: Why do we carve pumpkins? Where did that tradition come from?

A: The jack-o-lantern has a long history associated with Halloween.

The origin, according to Encyclopedia Britannica, “comes from an Irish myth about Stingy Jack, who tricked the devil for his own monetary gain. When Jack died, he wasn’t allowed into heaven or hell, so he was sentenced to roam the earth for eternity. In Ireland, people started to carve faces out of turnips to frighten away Jack’s wandering soul. When Irish immigrants moved to the United States, they began carving jack-o-lanterns from pumpkins, as these were native to the region.

“They became associated with Halloween in this way – Halloween is based on the Celtic festival, Samhain, a celebration in ancient Britan and Ireland which marked the end of summer and the beginning of the new year on Nov. 1. The folklore about Stingy Jack was incorporated into Halloween and there has been carving of pumpkins ever since.”


Q: Does the Speaker of the House have to be a member of Congress?

A: According to CBS and many other sources, “As Republicans in the House of Representatives debate who should lead the lower chamber, it’s notable that the House Speaker — who is second in line for the presidency — doesn’t have to be a member of Congress. The House has never been led by a non-member in its 234 years of existence, according to the Congressional Research Service, and experts say a non-member speaker is still unlikely. But it is possible.”








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