Questions of the Week — Readers ask about county K-9 funding, sharpening services, York park varieties

The following questions were recently submitted by inquiring readers:


Q: Last year after the sheriff’s department’s K9 Nitro was killed in the line of duty, the community raised money to replace the dog and for future needs for the K9 program. In an article Sheriff Vrbka is quoted as saying, “These generous donations will be used to support our program which has three dogs now. We can use the funds for medical and training expenses, emergency treatments and even replacements.” He also quoted as saying, “These generous donations will help us keep the county’s canine program going strong and be a nest egg when and if we need to bring in another dog while maintaining the dogs we have.” He further went onto say, “These generous monetary donations will go a long way in caring for these animals while ensuring our law enforcement canine program is strong and effective.”

On the April 18 live stream of the commissioners’ meeting (but it is not in the meeting minutes) it was agreed upon to take the remaining $27,408 from the funds that the public donated for the care of the dogs and the K9 program to help pay for a new cruiser that was already budgeted for. Why is that? Doesn’t the county have insurance for that? Not the dog though. I feel the public is owed an explanation as to why our money was spent on a cruiser and not the K9 program like it was intended for. 

A: We spoke with York County Sheriff Paul Vrbka about this question and in fact, the money was used for the K9 program, as it was intended.

He explained how some of that money was used for equipment and the installation of that equipment into a new cruiser which is used for one of the county’s drug dogs. It was not used to pay for the cruiser itself, but rather for the equipment needed/required for a drug dog to be transported and cared for in the line of duty. The rest of that money was in fact used for equipment, training, toys and other items needed to support the county’s K9 program.

So yes, the money was used for exactly what was intended – to support the K9 program.

In another note about the county’s K9 program, Sheriff Vrbka said there have been 45 deployments of York County K9s in the last year alone. And in the last two years, they have provided 50 drug dog demonstrations at local schools, businesses and for special/organizational events. He added that if someone would like to have a drug dog demonstration, they just need to call his department and they will make that happen.


Q: How many varieties of plants/trees are in Foster Park? Does anyone know? I want to purchase a memorial brick as a Christmas present for someone and would love to tell them how many varieties are there, as they are avid gardeners/landscape/tree lovers.

A: This writer actually tried to count them all the other afternoon and it is literally in the dozens. Local Boy Scouts researched all the varieties planted there, as to what they were, and created nameplates identifying them. We will reach out to see if they have a tally.

As far as the independent count which was done by personnel – we aren’t even going to provide it because we are pretty sure a bunch were missed since a dog was also present during the endeavor who got the writer off track on several occasions.


Q: Do any local businesses sharpen scissors?

A: The answer is yes! The Quilt Basket provides that service. Thank you to readers for reaching out with the answer! Oh, and the Quilt Basket also sharpens knives.


Q: Am I right in understanding the state’s minimum wage will be going up in January?

A: Yes. According to Statute 48-1203, the minimum wage goes up to $12 per hour on Jan. 1, which will last through December 31.

Then on Jan. 1, 2025, the minimum wage will go to $13 an hour. That will last through the year of 2025.

The state’s minimum wage will go to $15 an hour on Jan. 1, 2026, and will last at that level until Dec. 31, 2026.


Q: A few months ago, there was an interesting article on your website about the amount of population that is over 65. So that got me to thinking about what are the percentages of other age groups in York?

A: In York, currently, according to 2023 calculations, the following is the break-down of age groups in the City of York:

  • 19 and under: 24%
  • 20-34: 20%
  • 35-44: 11%
  • 45-64: 23%
  • 65 and older: 23%


Q: So much has been said in recent months – really, years even – about housing in the City of York. About the availability, about the costs, about the variety. My question is what is the median home value in York at this time?

A: Statistics provided by the city (with credit given to the York County Development Corporation, on the city’s website) show the current median home value in York is $147,928.

Other interesting figures provided by the city:

  • Total housing units: 3,814
  • Owner occupied units: 2,224
  • Renter occupied units: 1,160
  • Vacant units: 430


Q: How many people sit on the York County Commissioner Board?

A: There are five commissioner seats in York County. Currently, the commissioners are Randy Obermier, Daniel Grotz, Stan Boehr, Woody Ziegler and Jack Sikes.


Q: My aunt used to fill her house with the most beautiful smells during the holidays – in the years far before we could just go to the store and spend a bunch of money on candles or air fresheners. She put something in a pot – not food – and it worked like a potpourri pot of sorts. Is there some sort of old-fashioned potion people used to make in their kitchen to make the house smell like Christmas? I think it would be especially good to know if there is someone in the household who has allergies which might be affected by the use of air fresheners.

A: This one we can answer because we’ve done it.

Just get a small crock pot and fill it about ¾ full of water (about four cups). Then layer in orange slices, fresh cranberries and cinnamon sticks. Turn the crockpot on for hours, just leave the lid off.

You can also make it on the stove top. Just put on simmer and make sure to watch it doesn’t burn dry. You can add water as you go along – and ingredients – to keep the brew going.

Your house will smell like heaven.

We learned the technique from relatives who called it a “simmer pot.” Back in the day, this writer’s grandmother used the simmer pot to diffuse the smell of Grandpa’s tobacco pipe. She used orange and grapefruit slices, ground cinnamon (like you would use in cooking) and fresh cranberries. And amazingly, when the day was over, she cooled down the concoction, put it in a pan and sat it in the chicken pen. We can’t vouch for whether the chickens drank it or not, but that’s where it ended up.


Q: Are there any rules about how long Christmas lights can be left turned on at night, in York?

A: We sure didn’t find any rules about having to turn off Christmas lights by a certain time in York. It doesn’t appear that’s the case.


Q: Will Santa be meeting with kids in the Santa Hut again this year, outside the library?

A: Yes, he certainly will be!

His schedule will be:

  • Thursday, Nov. 30, 5-7 p.m.
  • Saturday, Dec. 2, 11 a.m. until 1 p.m.
  • Thursday, Dec. 7, 5-7 p.m.
  • Saturday, Dec. 9, 11 a.m. until 1 p.m.
  • Thursday, Dec. 14, 5-7 p.m.
  • Saturday, Dec. 16, 11 a.m. until 1 p.m.
  • Thursday, Dec. 21, 5-7 p.m.
  • Saturday, Dec. 23, 11 a.m. until 1 p.m.

Santa will have Spanish-speaking helpers on Nov. 30, Dec. 7, Dec. 9, Dec. 14 and Dec. 16.

Kids can also drop off their letters to Santa in the mailbox at Santa’s Hut until Dec. 18.


Q: Have you ever heard of chess pie? I was talking with someone at Thanksgiving who said they used to make it years ago, when he was a cook in the military. If you can find a decent recipe that’s been tried by cooks before, can you pass it along? I had never heard of it before this. And the ingredients sounded really weird – because he said it has vinegar in it.  

A: We found a recipe for classic chess pie. It was published by Southern Living and it appears to be a very traditional southern pie.

Ingredients for filling:

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornmeal
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup butter
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten

Powdered sugar to dust on pie at the end

First, par-bake a pie crust – only four or five minutes in a 425-degree oven. Then allow it to cool.

Now make the filling. Combine the sugar, cornmeal, flour, salt, melted butter, milk, white vinegar and vanilla extract in a mixing bowl until blended. Add the eggs and combine.

Pour the filling into the cooled crust.

Baked the pie for about 50 minutes.

Cool the pie and then dust with powdered sugar.


Q: What date was the earliest measurable snowfall in Nebraska?

A: According to information from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the earliest measurable snowfall was on Sept. 29, 1985 when just under an inch of snow was on the ground.


Q: What is the biggest snowfall in Nebraska history, let’s say in a one-day period?

A: The biggest snowfall recorded in Nebraska in a 24-hour period was in Sheridan County in 1927 when they received one foot and nine inches in just a few hours.


Q: How long has the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade been held?

A: It’s been held since 1924. The famous parade is always held on Thanksgiving to mark the start of the holiday season.


Q: What is the most popular Christmas dinner entrée in America?

A: Most sources say Christmas dinner traditions in America mostly focus on basically the same menu as Thanksgiving – featuring turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy.

Also listed as most popular are prime rib and baked ham.


Q: How old is Taylor Swift?

A: She’s currently 33. She will turn 34 in December.


Q: Are poinsettias really poisonous, if kids or pets ingest a leaf?

A: According to Home and Garden Magazine, they are not poisonous or deadly but they sure taste terrible and might give a kid or animal a stomachache if they are ingested.

The best plan is to keep them out of reach from anyone or anything who may be curious.


Q: How many years ago was the Christmas Vacation movie with Chevy Chase created?

A: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is a 1989 American Christmas comedy film.

It is based on a short story, “Christmas 59,” which was published in National Lampoon Magazine.

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