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City Hall: Police bust wild parties, but no tickets written for violating Lincoln's directed health measure

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Lincoln police didn't write any tickets for a violation of Lancaster County's directed health measure, according to city officials.

City Attorney Jeff Kirkpatrick said he knew of a couple cases where health department staff did follow up with a business or individuals on what was allowed under the restrictions.

"I'm not aware of any (case) where we came anywhere close to writing a ticket," Kirkpatrick said.

That holds to the sentiment from Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird and interim Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department Director Pat Lopez, who throughout the pandemic have said they would focus on education to ensure compliance with the restrictions.

On Monday, the health department joined the state in easing the restrictions in Lancaster County on certain businesses that were limited or closed by the directed health measure issued March 25.

Restaurants that could only offer takeout and delivery now can host half the diners their establishment can hold, and barbers, nail and hair salons, tattoo parlors and massage therapy studios can reopen, provided everyone inside wears a mask.

A 10-person limit on gatherings remains in effect in the new restrictions, which run through June 30.

Lincoln police spokeswoman Officer Erin Spilker said the department may not have written tickets for violating the directed health measure, but officers still broke up several wild parties, issuing tickets for a disorderly house in some cases. 

But numbers were fewer than prior years, likely a result of people's behavior change and the exodus of college students from town to quarantine with their families after campuses closed.

In the absence of public health restrictions during the first three weeks of March, Lincoln police responded to 19 wild parties, slightly more than they had during the same time frame the previous two years. 

From the day the first public health measure was announced March 25 to May 8, police responded to 23 wild parties. 

That's the lowest number of party calls for that stretch in the last six years.

A new DHM, but still no council 

The Lincoln City Council will stick to its prior plan to resume meeting in person in June.

Even as restrictions eased at businesses across the city, five council members during Monday's virtual council meeting said the continued rise in cases makes them cautious, and they believe it's best to wait until June 1 to reconvene at City Hall. 

Councilman Richard Meginnis participated in a virtual meeting for the first time, but two councilmen, Bennie Shobe and Roy Christensen, continue to skip the virtual meetings as they have since the pandemic began. 

They've skipped the meetings on the advice of Kirkpatrick, who concluded that the city is not exempt from requirements of state open-meetings laws during the pandemic despite an executive order from Gov. Pete Ricketts allowing virtual meetings.

The four council members who had been proponents of the virtual meetings to keep city business moving forward had initially linked plans to reconvene meetings at City Hall to the new directed health measure, which Monday allowed some businesses to reopen and restaurants to resume dining room service. 

But they'll meet again via videoconference next Monday. The council does not meet on May 25 in observance of Memorial Day.

A handful of masked residents addressed the council on a computer monitor in Council Chambers during the virtual meeting Monday. 

Lincoln's Finance Director Brandon Kauffman asked the council to delay the public hearing on two bond measures until June 1. 

Fast takes

Two — The number of tax-increment financing projects that fully returned to the county tax rolls last year. Liberty Village, a housing project at 24th and Vine streets, completed its TIF journey after 14 years of property tax generated over the capped value of the development going toward improvements to it. And the Verizon Wireless Call Center in the Highlands, which closed in 2017, also ended its TIF collection after 12 years. Excess tax funds from both projects were returned to the Lancaster County Treasurer, according to the city's 2019 report on TIF projects.

Quotable: "This is going to be a summer for heroic sacrifice. We're really asking people to mask up, more than we're asking them to suit up" — Gaylor Baird said of the summer ahead following the governor's announcement of plans to allow youth sports to resume in June.

Reach the writer at 402-473-2657 or

On Twitter @LJSRileyJohnson.


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