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Mayor Jean Stothert | City of Omaha

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(September 16, 2019)

The City of Omaha plans to purchase land in South Omaha to build a new fire station to replace Station 31. The move will improve emergency response coverage in the south Omaha area.  The City expects to break ground for the new station in 2020.

An analysis of Omaha Fire Department station locations completed in 2016 identified the need to replace Station 31, currently located at 25th and L. 

“We are constantly evaluating community needs and our response plans,” said Mayor Jean Stothert.   “The new location will improve our emergency coverage to the neighborhoods and businesses of South Omaha.”  

The new station will be built at 3404 Q, the property  is owned by Miami Partners, LLC. The purchase price is $730,000. Funding for the land purchase and station construction is included in the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP).

The purchase agreement is on the September 17 City Council agenda for first reading.

“The modern station will be designed for efficiency and with the best interests of firefighter wellness and safety in mind. We look forward to the completion of this project,” said Chief Dan Olsen.

The 2016 analysis also recommended moving Station 53 at 80th and Dodge to a location between Dodge and Cass on 72nd Street. A site search is underway.

The Omaha Fire Department operates 24 fire stations.  The last new construction was Station 3 at 3126 S. 16th Street, which opened in 2001.

   

(September 16, 2019) – Mayor Jean Stothert will hold her annual series of Town Hall meetings this fall beginning September 24th.  In the last six years, Mayor Stothert has hosted 46 Town Hall meetings.           

“Town Halls give taxpayers the opportunity to learn about important city issues, offer input and ask questions,” said Mayor Stothert.  “This year, we will be talking a lot about developing a long-term strategy to improve and maintain our roads and the transition to the new trash collection system in 2021.  It’s so important to meet people personally so we can work together on issues that affect all of us.”

 

SEPTEMBER 24 -  City Council District 2                                                                                       

Adams Park Community Center                                      

3230 John A Creighton Blvd                                                            

6:00-7:30pm                                                               

                                                           

SEPTEMBER 30 - City Council District 6                                               

Montclair Community Center                                    

2304 S. 135 Avenue                                                         

6:00-7:30pm                                                               

           

OCTOBER 3 - City Council District 4                                                                                                       

Our Lady of Guadalupe Hall                                        

23rd & O                                                                           

6:00-7:30pm

                                                                       

OCTOBER 7 - City Council District 1           

Laura Dodge Elementary School

3520 Maplewood Blvd

6:00-7:30pm

 

OCTOBER 22 - City Council District 7

Sunny Slope Elementary School

10828 Old Maple Road

6:00-7:30pm         

 

NOVEMBER 18 - City Council District 3

Subby Anzaldo Columbus Park Community Center

1515 S. 24th Street

6:00-7:30pm         

 

NOVEMBER 21 - City Council District 5

Sandoz Elementary School

5959 Oak Hills Drive

6:45-8:00pm         

(September 16, 2019)

A Vision Zero coordinator will be hired in 2020 to implement recommendations made by the Vision Zero Task Force. Mayor Jean Stothert created the task force to study Vision Zero strategies to reduce and eliminate traffic deaths in Omaha.

Traffic fatalities and serious injury crashes are trending upward in Omaha, recently surpassing homicides. In 2019, Omaha police report 12 homicides, 18 crash fatalities and 115 serious injury crashes (through 9/9/19).

In 2018, OPD investigated 37 fatalities and 137 serious injury crashes.

The Task Force has presented a series of recommendations to the Mayor in five categories:

Enforcement/Safety
Design/Construction
Legislation
Public awareness and education
Data Collection
Recommendations:

ENFORCEMENT/SAFETY

  • Increase enforcement during periods of highest fatal and serious injury crashes
  • Nebraska Department of Transportation (NDOT) data (2010-2017) shows most fatal crashes occur between 9:00 pm and 2:59 am (40%).  Most serious injury crashes between 3:00 pm and 9:00 pm (39%) Identify priority safety corridors for safety improvements where the most harmful crashes occur. 50% of the fatal and serious injury crashes in Omaha occur on just 6% of roads

DESIGN/CONSTRUCTION

  • Incorporate speed reduction and other safety features as part of the Complete Streets review process 
  • Amend the Transportation Master Plan to include priority safety corridors and review other local plans to coordinate planned investments along these corridors
  • Prioritize improvements to sidewalks and other active transportation facilities on corridors with high crash rates involving vulnerable users and along transit corridors
  • Expand scope and amount of local safety funds in the CIP for safety-related projects and improvements on priority safety corridors

LEGISLATION

  • Support state legislation for primary enforcement for seat belt use and distracted driving and requirement for back seat passengers to wear seat belts (LB39 & 40, introduced by Sen. Hilkemann. Transportation and Telecommunications Committee took no action in 2019)

EDUCATION/AWARENESS

  • Improve coordination between safety campaigns, branding under “Vision Zero Omaha”.
  • Focus on impaired driving (alcohol, drugs, distracted) and vulnerable users (motorcyclists, pedestrians, bicyclists

DATA

  • Update crash reporting standards and co-ordination including a city-wide database and annual reporting mechanism
  • Disaggregate data for traffic fatalities and serious injuries by race and ethnicity to allow for better analysis and to improve the ability to address potential equity concerns

“The task force has made thoughtful, appropriate recommendations and we will evaluate each one to determine effective next steps to improve the safety of everyone who uses our roads, and ultimately reach the goals of vision zero,” said Mayor Stothert.

In addition to the recommendations, the task force suggested a Vision Zero Coordinator develop an action plan, coordinate actions between city departments, develop an implementation timeline and be the liaison with neighborhood groups, school districts, health care providers and other stakeholders. That new position is included in the 2020 budget.

“The key to reducing deaths through Vision Zero is community involvement. This means every citizen, whether a motorist, passenger, cyclist, or pedestrian, commits to practice behaviors on and along roadways that work to prevent needless deaths and injuries,“ said Task Force Chairman Tom Everson. “Our personal actions complemented by creating an infrastructure that works to reduce the effects of crashes, along with stepped-up enforcement in high-crash corridors will go a long way towards the goal of zero deaths and serious injuries on Omaha streets."

Sweden created the Vision Zero model in 1997. Vision Zero cities meet four minimum criteria:

  • A clear goal of eliminating traffic fatalities and severe injuries
  • Mayor’s commitment to Vision Zero
  • A Vision Zero plan or strategy is in place, or a timeline for implementation
  • Key city departments (including police, transportation, and public health) are engaged.

Mayor Stothert’s Active Living Advisory Committee encouraged the mayor to consider Vision Zero and name the task force. The group met monthly beginning in March 2018.

“Vision Zero is a common-sense goal we should strive for,” said Mayor Jean Stothert. “Public safety is our primary responsibility and priority. The only acceptable goal is zero deaths."

 

VISION ZERO TASK FORCE MEMBERS:

Tom Everson, Executive Director, Keep Kids Alive Drive 25

Mike Helgersen, MAPA Transportation and Data Manager

Andy Wessel, Douglas County Health Department, Community Health Planner

Pell Duvall, Duvall Consulting

Eric Koeppe, President and CEO National Safety Council of Nebraska

Rob Reynolds  C.A.R. Alliance for Safer Teen Driving

Kevin Carder City Planner (Transportation & Data), Long Range Planning Division, City of Omaha

Derek Miller, Long Range & Mobility Planning Manager, City of Omaha

Nick Gordon, Traffic Operations Engineer, Omaha Public Works

Ryan Wiesen, Assistant City Attorney

Kathy Bossman, Assistant Omaha Fire Chief

Sgt. Jason Menning, Omaha Police Department Traffic Division

Steve Scarpello, Omaha City Council Staff Assistant

 

 

(September 11, 2019)

Following a crash that seriously injured a 9-year old riding a scooter, scooter companies Lime and Spin will be required to take additional safety precautions and improve public education.

"The injury to the child is a very unfortunate incident and we wish him a speedy recovery," said Mayor Jean Stothert. "This is an important reminder to parents and adults that the use of scooters by minors is strictly prohibited. Riders must be 18-years-old and have a valid driver’s license. This is part of the contract all riders agree to when they use the app and participate in this pilot."

The pilot will determine if scooters will be allowed in Omaha at the conclusion of the pilot.

As a further precaution to prevent underage riding, users must now scan their driver's license; Spin has already added that requirement, Lime will start tomorrow. Both companies will be required to increase public education so all riders understand the safety and age requirements, and where and how to ride. The maximum speed may also be reduced from the current 15mph. These changes would be implemented for the remainder of the six-month pilot which ends November 15.

One of the criteria of the pilot is the scooter companies must show that scooters provide healthy and safe transportation options.

After discussing the pilot today with Chief Schmaderer and Chief Olsen, the city attorney, planning director and manager of parking and mobility, Mayor Stothert said all agree the pilot should be completed. An evaluation of all citizen feedback, injury reports, law enforcement concerns, and data about the use of scooters will be used to prepare a public report and determine if long-term scooter program will be implemented, with city ordinances that must be followed.

(August 27, 2019)

The City Council unanimously approved Mayor Stothert’s recommended $1.1 billion 2020 budget, including the $419.6 million General Fund.  The budget maintains a low property tax rate and prioritizes public safety and street repair. City department spending will increase only 2.2%. 

The current property tax levy is 47.922 cents per $100 valuation.

“This is the seventh consecutive budget that our property tax rate was either lowered or left unchanged. I am very proud of this record,” said Mayor Stothert.

Council members proposed four budget amendments. Mayor Stothert signed three of the amendments, to increase funding for PACE, Keep Omaha Beautiful’s Trees for Omaha program and an additional housing inspector.  She sent the fourth amendment for the Nebraska Center for Workforce Development and Education back to the Council unsigned because the organization did not complete the required application process that all non-profit organizations must complete to be considered for community service funds. That application requires a budget, a list of the organization’s officers and benchmarks for the program.

2020 Department Expense Highlights:

  • Increase the Omaha Police Department budget to $159.5 million
  • Increase the Omaha Fire Department budget to $110.1 million
  • Increase street resurfacing budget to $12.6 million
  • Add employees in street maintenance, sewer maintenance and housing inspections
  • Add funding for new Fall Cleanup and expanded Spring Cleanup and begin the public education and outreach program to prepare for changes in solid waste collection that will begin in January 2021
  • Maintain financial commitments to employment and job training programs; Step-Up, Way to Work and Heartland Workforce Solutions
  • Funding for qualifying community service programs that support Mayor Stothert’s strategic priorities including job training and workforce development, public safety, economic development and neighborhood improvement

“We have a very good budget that everybody agrees with,” said Mayor Stothert.

 

(August 27, 2019)

The Omaha City Council has approved Mayor Jean Stothert’s recommendation to hire FCC Environmental to provide solid waste collection services for the City of Omaha beginning in 2021.

The vote was  4-3, council members Harding, Melton, Gray and Palermo voted for the FCC contract, council members  Pahls, Jerram and Festersen voted against it.

“A very important decision was made today,” said Mayor Stothert. “This contract will be in place at least ten years and up to 20. I want to thank all the companies that bid on this contract and for wanting to work in the City of Omaha.”

Mayor Stothert signed the ordinance accepting the FCC bid tonight; the next step will be to sign the contract with the company.

FCC will provide two 96-gallon carts, one for weekly solid waste and yard waste combined, the second for bi-weekly recycling collection, plus unlimited curbside collection of yard waste during the spring and fall peak seasons.  Citizens who prefer a smaller cart can exchange the 96-gallon cart after a 90-day trial. 

Families that want or need three carts are eligible to get a third cart at city expense if there are five or more persons in the household.  The Council approved a change in city ordinance reducing the number of residents from eight to five so more families can qualify. Smaller families can also request a third cart, at their expense.

“This will be something different. Change is hard but once people get used to it, they will like it,” said Mayor Stothert.

FCC must begin collection service on January 1, 2021.  The City’s contract with the current provider, Waste Management, expires December 31, 2020. 

“I have every confidence that FCC will be ready and it will be a very smooth transition,” said Mayor Stothert.

“We’ve done this in many communities,” said FCC CEO Inigo Sanz.

Four companies bid on the collection contract, FCC Environmental, West Central Sanitation, Waste Management and Waste Connections.

A Public Works review committee analyzed the bids and made the recommendation to Mayor Stothert to choose FCC.  Mayor Stothert then made the recommendation to the City Council. 

(August 14, 2019)

A significant and unexpected increase in sales tax refunds accounts for a loss of projected revenue in the 2019 2nd Quarter Financial Report.

Payment of sales tax refunds to qualifying businesses is required by the Employment and Investment Growth Act (LB775) passed by the Nebraska Legislature in 1987 and the Nebraska Advantage Act (LB312) passed in 2005. Both are tax incentive programs offered to businesses to expand and/or increase employment in the State of Nebraska.

In the first eight months of 2019, the City has paid $12.6 million in refunds, higher than any year dating back ten years.  Based on the refund payment history since 2009, the 2019 budget includes $8.5 million in refunds, which has already been exceeded.

“This incentive program is an economic development tool that has been successful for business growth in the state, but it comes at a cost,” said Mayor Jean Stothert.  “When refunds are high, we benefit from new investment and new jobs in Omaha, but we also lose revenue that we count on to provide services for our citizens.”

In the 2019 legislative session, Sen. John McCollister introduced LB441 on behalf of the City of Omaha to require the state to provide notice of companies that plan to apply for refunds in the next calendar year.  The bill did not advance, however the Nebraska Imagine Act (LB720) does include that notification for future incentives.  LB720 is expected to be debated in the 2020 legislative session.

“We introduced LB441 to give us the ability to budget an agreed upon amount and then true up any differences in the next budget”, said Finance Director Steve Curtiss.  “A process to appropriately plan and budget provides more certainty for our taxpayers.”

In addition to higher refunds, sales tax projections are down $2.4 million.  Total revenue to date is under budget by $4 million. 

After six months, all city departments are under budget, with the exception of Omaha Police. The OPD budget is expected to balance over the rest of the year.

The second quarter report shows total revenue is $4 million under projections, expenses are $702,019 under budget and health care savings is expected to reach $9.0 million, $4.8 million for active employees, and $4.2 for retirees, resulting in a projected $1.6 million end-of-year carryover.

The second quarter revenue report shows:

  • Motor Vehicle Taxes - $972,113 surplus
  • Other Revenue and Fees - $4 million surplus (This is the $4.4 million payment Freestone Capital makes to the City for the Hilton Hotel, the city then pays the bondholders.  This is a pass-through, listed in the budget for the first time)
  • City Sales and Use Tax - $6.8 million under projection (includes the sales tax refunds)
  • Restaurant Tax-$95,878 under projection
  • Building licenses and permits - $802,299 under projection

The second quarter expense report shows:

  • Omaha Police Department - $0.7 million over budget
  • Planning Department - $391,005 under budget
  • Public Works - $354,160 under budget
  • Finance-$297,031 under budget
  • Human Resources-$369,810 under budget

(July 31, 2019)

Two companies submitted bids Wednesday for seasonal yard waste collection with costs ranging from $1 million to $12 million annually.

FCC Environmental and West Central Sanitation responded to the Request for Bids (RFB).  Both companies also bid on the solid waste collection contract which will take effect in January 2021.

Mayor Jean Stothert and Public Works Director Bob Stubbe have recommended awarding the 2021 contract to FCC to provide a two-cart collection service; one cart for solid waste and yard waste combined and a second cart for recycling. Responding to questions and concerns about limits on yard waste, Mayor Stothert directed the Public Works Department to develop the RFB as a value added service to the two-cart collection service.

“This option provides unlimited, free yard waste collection at the times of year citizens need it,” said Mayor Stothert.

The RFB required companies to bid on weekly, curbside collection of yard weekly waste on regular pickup days during peak periods in the spring and fall, and for three quantities of yard waste: 10 bags, 20 bags and unlimited.

Bids received:

                                            FCC ENVIRONMENTAL                  WEST CENTRAL SANITATION:

10 bags weekly                 $1,044,000                                          $12,006,000

20 bags weekly                 $1,314,000                                          $12,384,000

Unlimited                           $1,494,000                                          $12,744,000

Companies could also submit alternative bids; FCC submitted three alternatives, West Central submitted one. Public Works will evaluate the bids and alternatives and present the findings to Mayor Stothert.

The Omaha City Council will hold a public hearing on the solid waste contract on August 13th and is scheduled to vote on the award of that contract on August 20th.  

The award of this seasonal yard waste contract is dependent on the outcome of the award of that contract.

 

 

(July 23, 2019)

Mayor Jean Stothert presented a General Fund budget to the Omaha City Council Tuesday that maintains a low property tax rate and prioritizes public safety and street repair. City department spending will increase only 2.2%. 

“The 2020 budget is the seventh budget I have prepared and recommended to the City Council for approval,” said Mayor Jean Stothert.  “We will continue to prioritize spending for the most important services we provide to the citizens of Omaha; public safety, infrastructure repair and maintenance, economic and workforce development.”

The General Fund budget is $419.6 million.  The All Fund budget is $1.1 billion.

The budget maintains the current property tax levy of 47.922 cents per $100 valuation.

“This is the seventh consecutive budget that our property tax rate was either lowered or left unchanged. I am very proud of this record,” said Mayor Stothert.

2020 Department Expense Highlights:

  • Increase the Omaha Police Department budget to $159.5 million
  • Increase the Omaha Fire Department budget to $110.1 million
  • Increase street resurfacing budget to $12.6 million
  • Add employees in street maintenance, sewer maintenance and housing inspections
  • Add funding for new Fall Cleanup and expanded Spring Cleanup and begin the public education and outreach program to prepare for changes in solid waste collection that will begin in January 2021
  • Maintain financial commitments to employment and job training programs; Step-Up, Way to Work and Heartland Workforce Solutions
  • Funding for qualifying community service programs that support Mayor Stothert’s strategic priorities including job training and workforce development, public safety, economic development and neighborhood improvement

The total General Fund budget will increase 4.58%.  This includes an accounting change required by the sale of the city-owned Omaha Hilton and the first year contribution to the Riverfront Revitalization.

The total cost of the Riverfront Revitalization is approximately $300 million.  Philanthropic donations will pay $250 million of the cost; the city’s contribution is $50 million, which will be paid in lease-purchase bonds over three years beginning in 2020.

The budget includes $1.1 million for the first year of debt service on those bonds, and the annual contribution of $4.1 million for park maintenance and operations budget, approved by the City Council in 2018. 

“We will get a great return on our investment,” said Mayor Stothert.

The accounting change resulting from the 2018 agreement for the long-term lease and sale of the Hilton Hotel to Freestone Capital is not new spending, and the taxpayers have no additional financial obligations.  Freestone pays the City $4.4 million dollars annually for the remaining bond payments on the hotel; the city in turn pays the bondholders.  This is a pass-through, listed in the budget for the first time.

The Planning Department will hire one additional housing inspector in 2020, which will increase the number of inspectors to ten.  Additional inspectors will be hired in 2021 and 2022 when proactive housing inspections required in the new rental registration and inspection ordinance begin. 

The demolition budget will be reduced to $800,000 in 2020, down from $1.1 million in 2019.  “We have made significant progress to improve neighborhood safety by tearing down condemned property, said Mayor Stothert.  “We have enough money to demo the properties that we estimate will remain on the list next year.”

There are currently 133 structures on the list, approximately 60 are expected to be torn down before the end of 2019.

Another area of significant savings is health care. Costs for active employees and retirees will be reduced by more than $1 million dollars next year.

“We are very close to achieving our goal of one city – one health care plan for active employees, with the exception of the Fire Trust,” said Mayor Stothert. 

The Fire Trust is the health care plan created and managed by the fire union, Local 385.

Revenue Forecast Highlights:

  • Estimated sales tax revenue increase 2.1% to $172.1 million
  • Estimated property tax revenue increase 6.6.% to $181.4 million
  • Estimated restaurant tax increase 1.7% to $34.6 million
  • 2018 budget carryover $5.7 million

Mayor Stothert also presented the recommended 2020-2025 Capital Improvement Program, which includes $1.8 billion in capital projects planned for the next six years.

Highlights of the CIP include:

  • Years two and three of the 3-year commitment for redevelopment of the Gene Leahy Mall, Heartland of America Park and Lewis and Clark Landing
  • Fire apparatus replacement program
  • Fire Station 31
  • New Southwest Branch Library
  • $ 308 million in transportation projects (2020-2025) including these projects in 2020:

30th Street Cuming to Ames

78th Street Mercy Road to Pacific

Crown Point-72nd to Blair High Road

168th Street-West Center to Poppleton   

“The Capital Improvement Program identifies current and long-term priorities in public safety, transportation and economic development,” said Mayor Stothert.  “Managing these investments is one of the most critical responsibilities we have at city hall.”

The City Council will hold a public hearing on the budget and CIP on August 13 at 6:30pm in the Legislative Chambers.

 (July 9, 2019)

Mayor Jean Stothert will hold a series of Town Hall meetings this month to gather input to develop the city’s first long-term road maintenance and rehabilitation plan.

”These public meetings will give citizens the opportunity to participate in the development of a maintenance and improvement plan that will greatly improve the safety and longevity of our streets and reduce annual maintenance costs,” said Mayor Stothert.

The Town Hall series, “A Road Map to Better Streets” will provide an overview of infrastructure needs, repair and maintenance, major construction projects, and current and future funding options. 

“Street repair and resurfacing has been one of our top priorities since I was elected in 2013. Each year we have increased the street maintenance budget, but we need to do much more,” said Mayor Stothert. “Citizen input and buy-in will be an important part of our planning process.”

City budgets for the last 10 years show the annual budget increases in road resurfacing:

2010: $2.8 million                                          2015:  $7.3 million

2011: $3.9 million                                          2016: $8.7 million

2012: $5.6 million                                          2017: $10.7 million

2013: $6.6 million                                          2018:   $11.7 million

2014: $6.9 million                                          2019:   $12.2 million

Mayor Stothert’s 2020 budget, to be introduced to the City Council on July 23, will include another increase in the resurfacing budget. In addition, the 2019-2024 Capital Improvement Plan includes approximately $320 million over the next 6 years for transportation projects, $66 million in 2019. The CIP lists capital projects that are funded with bonds.

TOWN HALL SCHEDULE:

Tuesday July 16                4:30-6:00pm          Saddlebrook Community Center         14850 Laurel Ave

Thursday July 18              5:00-6:30pm          The Venue at Highlander 75 North     2112 N. 30th Street

Friday July 19                   11:00am-12:30      The Salvation Army Kroc Center          2825 Y Street

Monday July 22                6:30-8:00pm          The Barbara Weitz Community Engagement Center     6400 University Drive   (UNO Campus)

Since taking office in 2013, Mayor Stothert has held 42 Town Hall meetings, seven each year in September and October.  A Fall Town Hall series schedule will be announced in September.