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Mayor Jean Stothert | City of Omaha

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(June 5, 2018)

Omaha, NE – After four years of stable sewer use fees, Mayor Jean Stothert will ask the City Council to approve a new rate ordinance that will increase customer rates, but at a significantly lower increase than forecasted.

The ordinance increases rates by 5.25% annually for five years (2019-2023), down from the projected increase of 9%. The increase applies to all users; residential, commercial, industrial and wholesale. Wholesale customers are surrounding cities: Bennington, Boys Town, Ralston, Carter Lake, Gretna, La Vista, Papillion, and Bellevue.

The increase for a typical residential user will be approximately $2.50 per month in 2019, increasing to approximately $3.00 per month by 2023.

Sewer use fees fund a portion of the City’s bond debt on the Clean Solutions for Omaha (CSO) program, and the operation, maintenance and capital improvements for the City’s wastewater collection and treatment system. A Wastewater Facilities Master Plan is being developed to further refine the improvements needed due to ongoing regulatory requirements and future growth of the City. 

The Environmental Bonds approved last month by voters are not related to these projects.  Environmental bonds are used to pay for flood control and levee projects, erosion control and storm sewers.

“Five years ago, I asked our project team to thoroughly analyze the CSO program and identify savings for our citizens,” said Mayor Jean Stothert. “While this ordinance does increase costs for everyone, citizens can be confident we are managing the program to keep costs as low as possible and still remain in compliance with the federal mandate. We will continue to evaluate every project for savings.”

The reduced rate increase is attributed to a number of factors:

  • A 10-year extension of the Consent Agreement with NE Department of Environmental Quality*
  • EPA WIFIA loan to help fund the Saddle Creek High Rate Treatment Facility
  • Over $2 million in grant funding from the Nebraska Environmental Trust
  • Approximately $5 million in grant funding from the State of Nebraska Water Sustainability Fund
  • $70 million in low-interest loans through Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality State revolving Loan Fund.
  • Better than expected interest rates on sewer bonds
  • Strategies identified by independent assessment of CSO program by MWH to ensure that best practices are being used for program management and cost control measures are in place.
  • Projected savings through program optimization, resulting in over $200 million in reduced costs
  • Cooperative efforts with the Parks Department to construct Green Infrastructure improvements that add community benefits while reducing overall costs (Fontenelle Park, Adams Park, Spring Lake Park, Elmwood Park)

The ordinance also includes a Stormwater Fee to pay costs associated with administering the City’s Stormwater permit. In 2019, the fee for residential customers will be 80 cents per month; and $1.29 for commercial and industrial users. 

Citizens who meet income guidelines may be eligible for financial assistance through the Sewer Rate Assistance Program, created by the City in 2011. Citizens qualify for the program if they currently receive Low Income Heat and Energy Assistance. Since 2011, the City has paid $7.6 million to eligible citizens.

The rate ordinance was developed by the Finance and Public Works Departments and the City’s rate consultant Stantec.  It is scheduled for first reading on the City Council agenda on June 19, public hearing on June 26 and the final vote on July 10. The City Council passed the last rate ordinance unanimously in 2014.

Rate increases are expected to continue beyond 2023. Current forecasts indicate that future rate increases should return to levels closer to the rate on inflation prior to completion of the CSO Program in 2037.

Omaha is one of more than 800 communities in the United States required to carry out the unfunded federal mandate to meet the Federal Clean Water Act standards.  The total projected cost of the Clean Solutions for Omaha Program is estimated at $2 billion dollars.  The City is currently in the 8th year of construction.

SEWER RATE HISTORY

2006      Ordinance passed increasing rates 9% annually from 2007-2010

2010      Ordinance passed increasing rates between 20-25% annually from 2011-2014

2014      Ordinance passed increasing rates 8-13% annually from 2015-2018

2018      Ordinance proposed increasing rates 5.25% annually from 2019-2023     

*The CSO program was initially scheduled to be completed in 2024.  The City received a three-year extension after the 2011 flood, revising the completion date to 2027.  Recently, the City and NDEQ negotiated an additional 10-year extension through 2037, giving the City additional time to identify further cost savings and to monitor projects as they are completed.

Annual CSO reports, project summaries and other program information is available at: http://www.omahacso.com

 

(June 4, 2018)

Mayor Jean Stothert and  Police Chief Todd Schmaderer invited Omaha residents and guests to come downtown after a Saturday night shooting in the busy Old Market District that left a young woman dead and seven others injured. The Chief said all were “innocent bystanders”. 

“The Old Market is an amazing destination and you should enjoy it. If you want to take advantage of coming down, I would encourage it as the Chief of Police,” said Chief Schmaderer.

Chief Schmaderer provided a detailed chronology of the events Saturday night and outlined additional actions for public safety.

A larger than typical crowd was downtown Saturday night for the Taste of Omaha festival. Approximately 20 juveniles were involved in a fight as that event broke up around 11:00 p.m.  Officers used pepper balls to break up the fight.  As that crowd moved on, officers heard shots fired and were on the scene near 12th and Farnam “instantly”.  Schmaderer described the shooting as two rival gangs, one group walking west on Farnam, the other walking east, both groups on the sidewalk. As they fired, 20-year old Jasmine Harris was shot in the back and killed.

No one has been arrested yet, however, Schmaderer said there are several persons of interest. He said the shooting is a continuation of a pattern of increased shootings during the month of May, when 21 shootings occurred.

“We believe this is the work of two or three individuals who are willing to fire guns in this manner,” said Chief Schmaderer.  “What we are asking for is the public’s help. It is imperative we get these shooters off the street. ”

“Chief Schmaderer and his team will continue to work with our community and partners to identify those responsible for violent crime and make our city a safe place for everyone,” said Mayor Jean Stothert.

The Omaha Police Department is taking numerous immediate steps including additional police presence in the Old Market. “Often there will be thirty officers in the Old Market on the weekend, but that doesn’t preclude something from happening spontaneously,” said Schmaderer. OPD will temporarily assign additional officers to the Gang Unit. More uniform patrol officers will also be assigned to both the Old Market and the riverfront. OPD is also working with its law enforcement and community partners.

Schmaderer provided updated crime statistics for 2018 that show an 18% reduction in violent crime and a 9% reduction in property crimes. To date, Omaha Police have investigated 10 homicides. 

Several months ago the Omaha Police Department asked the City Law Department to look into a youth curfew. Chief Schmaderer said that research is underway. “Curfews are generally not the solution,” he said.

Crime Stoppers pays $10,000 for information that leads to an arrest in a shooting investigation and  $25,000 for homicide. Call 402-444-STOP or submit a tip at http://www.omahacrimestoppers.org.

(May 29, 2018)

Omaha neighborhoods planning National Night Out events may be eligible to apply for a mini-grant to fund Night Out events. National Night Out is an annual event to promote police-community relationships.   National Night Out is Tuesday August 7, 2018.

Mayor Jean Stothert is offering grants to neighborhood associations that plan events and register with the Omaha Police Department.  Hundreds of parties are held each year.

“National Night Out is an opportunity to make personal connections with the police officers and firefighters who work in your neighborhood,” said Mayor Jean Stothert.  “We hope this grant opportunity will encourage even more neighborhoods to participate.”

The mini-grants are part of the Mayor’s annual neighborhood grants program. Grants up to $200 will be awarded to qualifying associations. The application deadline is June 18, 2018.

Click here to download the 2018 National Night Out Mini-Grants Overview which explains the Eligibility and Program Requirements.

Click here to download the fillable PDF for the 2018 Mayor's Neighborhood Grants Application.

Click here to register your National Night Event with the Omaha Police Department.

(May 9, 2017)

Neighborhood gardens, citizen patrol equipment, a summer internship program and park improvements are some of the projects that will be funded with neighborhood grants awarded today by Mayor Jean Stothert.

Mayor Stothert and Parks Director Brook Bench presented grants to 32 organizations for a total of $75,000, many to groups that support the work of the Parks, Recreation, and Public Property Department.

“Our city parks provide free entertainment for everyone,” said Mayor Stothert. “Whether you want to play golf, basketball or tennis, hike, camp, swim, skate or bike, our city parks and playgrounds offer many recreation options. By providing grants to organizations that partner with and support the Parks Department we are creating important partnerships to improve our public spaces.”

Neighborhood grants are awarded each spring to qualifying organizations.  To be eligible, the association must be registered and listed in the City of Omaha Neighborhood Association Directory.  This year, 50 eligible grant applications were received.

“Partnerships make our parks better for everyone,” said Parks Director Brook Bench.  “Every year, we make improvements to parks to make recreation and entertainment available in neighborhoods across the city.  Our neighborhood partners will help us add new and unique features to many parks.”

Grant applications are reviewed by a committee and recommended to the Mayor.  The committee includes representatives from the Planning, Parks, Public Works and Police Departments, the City of Omaha grants team and Julie Smith, One Omaha Program Manager.

 

GRANT AWARDS:

AkSarBen Elmwood Park Neighborhood Association - $1,400   Installation of grills at Schroeder-Vogel Park

Armbrust Acres Homeowners Association - $880  Citizen Patrol equipment

Bemis Park Neighborhood Association - $250  Baseball diamond set for Walnut Hill Park

Blackstone Neighborhood Association - $1,500  Removal of tree stumps in public right-of-ways between 36th & 40th Streets, Harney to Jones

Cherry Hills Neighborhood Association - $129  Citizen Patrol equipment

City Sprouts - $2,500  One-year funding for two interns-Urban Farming Summer Internship Program

Dundee-Memorial Park Association - $1,295   Removal of tree stumps in public right-of-ways along Farnam Street between Happy Hollow Blvd and 50th Street.

Eldorado II Homeowners Association - $2,000   38 tree plantings (project total: 132 trees)

Elmwood Park Neighborhood Association - $375  A Little Free Library on South 67th Street between Leavenworth and Mason Streets

Field Club Homeowners League - $3,750  25 tree plantings in public right-of-ways in the Field Club neighborhood

Florence Futures, Inc - $5,000  Installation of a wrought iron fence to replace a decaying wood fence at the Florence History Garden

Florence Citizen Patrol - $2,080  Equipment

Gifford Park Neighborhood Association - $3,993   Supplies for youth garden, soccer and tennis camps

Global Leadership Group (a program of Life Connections Omaha) - $3,100   Supplies to build 15 raised garden beds in the Neighborhood Action and Fact area at 3118 N. 24th St

Hanscom Park Neighborhood Association - $4,477   9-hole disc golf course; coordinated with Omaha Parks, Omaha Metro Disc Golf Assn, and inCommon Community Development

Logan Fontenelle Residence Alumni Association -$1,200   Supplies and dumpster rental for neighborhood cleanups, 24th to 26th Streets, Lake to Parker

Maple Village Neighborhood Association - $5,000   Construction of picnic shelter at Maple Village Park

Metcalfe-Harrison Neighborhood Association - $3,001   Projector and sound system for neighborhood events at Metcalfe Park

Mission Park Homeowners Association - $2,082   Replace a chain link fence and repaint park shelter at Mission Park

Morton Meadows Neighborhood Association -$3,600    Removal of tree stumps, tree and bush plantings, dog waste stations along Twin Ridge Blvd.

MTPG Neighborhood Association - $480    Dog waste stations in Trendwood Park and neighborhood trails   (Montclair, Trendwood, Parkside, Georgetown)

Neighborhood Action and Fact Association - $2,100   Removal of tree stumps and tree plantings, N. 24th Street, Wirt to Ames

OIC Neighborhood Association - $3,897   Purchase screen, speakers, projector and movie licenses for neighborhood movie nights

Pacific Heights-Shaker Heights Neighborhood Association - $2,908   Neighborhood event signs, mailing, postal fees

Park Avenue Neighborhood Association -$798   Postcards, postage, translation services

Prospect Village Neighborhood Association - $5,000   Mural project celebrating the neighborhood and Wesley House

Saddle Creek Corridor Neighborhood Association - $689   Little Free Library and Little Free Pantry, Saddle Creek & Farnam and 46th & Cass

Skylark/Cryer Neighborhood Association - $4,000   “Butterfly Bistro” butterfly/pollinator garden at Cryer Park, coordinated with Omaha Parks Department, Nebraska Arboretum, Moore’s Landscaping and Nursery 

South Omaha Neighborhood Alliance - $1,950  Promotional materials, award plaques and venue rental for 2018 South Omaha banquet 

Spring Lake Park Team - $3,050   Professional landscape design, plants, soil, hardscape materials for “I” to “K” Streets, 13th – 14th   

Westside Neighborhood Association - $1,585   August 2018 Neighborhood Summer Party

Westwood Heights Neighborhood Association - $931  Citizen Patrol equipment

(May 3, 2018)

The City of Omaha 2017 fiscal year will end with a budget surplus.  The preliminary year-end summary shows a $9 million General Fund surplus.  This will be the fifth consecutive budget surplus.

“Annual budget surpluses help expand the services that are most important to taxpayers, especially public safety and street repairs,” said Mayor Jean Stothert.  “We have more police officers than ever before and we have increased the budget for street resurfacing to a record high level. We have hired more firefighters, purchased new fire engines, medic units, snow plows and other equipment and increased our budget to demolish unsafe structures in neighborhoods. One of the main reasons we are able to fund all of this is the additional revenue from the surplus.”

Revenue highlights of the 2017 year-end report include:

  • Sales tax revenue: $2.5 million over budget
  • Motor vehicle tax revenue: $1.4 million over budget
  • Restaurant tax: $785,000 over budget
  • Property tax revenue: $688,800 over budget
  • Building Development Licenses and Permits: $1.3 over budget
  • Utility occupation taxes:  $4.2 million under budget 

Telephone Occupation Tax revenue was $4 million lower than projected, due to continuing reductions in telephone landline use.  

Expense highlights of the 2015 report:

  • Omaha Fire Department $167,330 over budget
  • Omaha Public Works $126,088 over budget
  • Omaha Police Department: $47,450 under budget
  • Parks Department: $7,119 under budget
  • Planning Department: $554,729 under budget
  • Omaha Public Library $86,874 under budget

The Fire Department went over budget due to firefighter injuries and workers compensation claims.

In June, 2017, a tornado hit the City’s compost facility at the Wastewater Treatment Plant causing significant damage. Repairs at this location and other facility repairs resulted in the slight overage in the Public Works budget.

The year-end summary also shows $3.4 million in lapsed encumbrances which was the money set aside in the Wage Adjustment Account for wages and benefit increases pending the outcome of the 2017 contract negotiations with the Omaha Police Officers Association.  The money budgeted exceeded the negotiated increases. 

Our bond rating companies, Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s have consistently recognized Omaha for strong budget management, good financial policies, conservative budgeting, and annual surpluses,” said Finance Director Steve Curtiss. “We will continue the management practices that have improved the city’s financial performance.”

As required by the City Charter, the 2017 surplus will be carried over to the 2019 budget, which is being developed now and will be submitted to the City Council for approval in July.

(April 25, 2018)

Mayor Jean Stothert has signed an Executive Order creating a Sexual Harassment Policy for City employees.

“Inappropriate sexual conduct and behaviors can never be tolerated. Every employee has the right and expectation to work in a safe environment,” said Mayor Stothert. “This Executive Order demonstrates the seriousness of workplace harassment.  Every complaint will be investigated and there are consequences for violations of this policy.”

The policy defines sexual harassment, procedures to report alleged harassment or misconduct, and the potential disciplinary actions the City may take following an investigation.

Any employee has the right to make a confidential complaint. Investigations of complaints will be conducted by the Labor Relations Division.  Employees who violate the policy can be terminated.  If an investigation uncovers criminal behavior, the City will report the allegation to law enforcement.

The Executive Order has been reviewed with all City department directors. The City will require all employee supervisors to attend training to recognize inappropriate workplace conduct and understand their responsibilities as supervisors.  This policy will also be included in the new employee orientation and will be covered in regular training programs for current employees.

“Sexual harassment in the workplace is a topic of national importance.  Fortunately, we do not have a pattern of misconduct in City government. A specific policy that holds us all accountable will help us maintain a culture of respect for all of our employees,” said Mayor Stothert.

In 2017, the Human Resources Department investigated three claims of sexual harassment.

The Executive Order is in addition to Executive Order S-21-13 signed by Mayor Stothert in 2013 that affirmed the City’s zero tolerance policy for racism and discrimination.

All Executive Orders are listed on the Mayor’s website and also on the Human Resources Department site:

https://mayors-office.cityofomaha.org

https://hr.cityofomaha.org/public-documents/executive-orders

(April 11, 2018)

Play Ball!

A worn, but well-loved baseball field at Miller Park will be rebuilt this summer, in memory of Omaha Police Officer Kerrie Orozco. 

Officer Orozco coached youth baseball for PACE, Police Athletics for Community Engagement.

“I never thought that losing Kerrie would get us here today,” said Omaha Police Sergeant Ken Fox and co-founder of the Black Police Officers Association. “She was a special person, there’s not many other people in the world that can bring us together like this.”

“I know Kerrie made a difference,” said Mayor Jean Stothert. “This baseball field will make a difference too; for all the young players who will step up to bat, for the coaches who will teach them, and the fans who will cheer.   Can’t you picture Kerrie on the sideline, encouraging her players and teaching the important lessons of sportsmanship?”

The renovation includes a turf field, scoreboard, bleachers, field fencing, concessions lights, dugouts and batting cages. Private donations will pay for the new complex.

“We are humbled to partner in this amazing project,” said Parks Director Brook Bench. We are excited for the future of this community, for Miller Park, for Omaha, and for the countless lives this field will impact.”

Officer Orozco was killed May 20, 2015.  Police Chief Todd Schmaderer called it one of the darkest hours in the city.  “But it rose our city up, our community relationships skyrocketed, Kerrie would be proud,” he said.

“This field will be a lasting tribute to Kerrie’s legacy of kindness and giving,” said Mayor Stothert.

I am proud of her service to our city and proud of the example our city has set; a community that supports and respects our police department.”

The ballfield was renamed in Officer Orozco’s memory after her death.  The renovations are scheduled to be completed later this year.

(April 6, 2018)

Mayor Jean Stothert has authorized additional funds to be spent on street repair this summer.

Approximately $3 million will be added to the current budget for new projects, bringing the current total to $18.5 million.  Budget projections for 2018 show the additional funds are available in the Public Works budget. These projects will be primarily concrete panel repairs throughout the city. The locations are being determined now.

In the State of the City speech in February, Mayor Stothert announced 58 initial street resurfacing projects for 2018 at a cost of $15.5 million.  Contracts have already been awarded for 15 projects at a cost of $3.9 million. Work will begin in a few weeks. 

This month, the City Council will consider a contract for residential and major street resurfacing which includes 24 projects, total cost $5.8 million. 

A third package (see attached map MAPA-5044(7) Major Street Resurfacing) will be bid later in the year.

“We have made street repair a priority,” said Mayor Stothert.  “We will continue to look for opportunities to increase funding for effective, long-term repairs.”

Resurfacing projects are selected based on traffic volume, history of maintenance and related costs, current or upcoming utility work, and the condition of the street using the PASER (Pavement Surface Evaluation and Rating) rating system.  PASER is a national average developed by the University of Wisconsin-Madison Transportation Information Center.  PASER uses a 1-10 scale to rate the street condition, 1=failed, 10=excellent.  The average PASER rating is 7.8 for major, secondary and connector streets in Omaha.  Streets with a PASER rating of 4 or lower are prioritized for resurfacing.

In addition to asphalt resurfacing, Mayor Stothert has budgeted $600,000 to continue the brick street repair program.

Maps of the first 58 resurfacing projects are at this link:https://www.cityofomaha.org/latest-news/454-street-resurfacing-to-begin-in-april

(April 6, 2018)

Mayor Jean Stothert has authorized additional funds to be spent on street repair this summer.

Approximately $3 million will be added to the current budget for new projects, bringing the current total to $18.5 million.  Budget projections for 2018 show the additional funds are available in the Public Works budget. These projects will be primarily concrete panel repairs throughout the city. The locations are being determined now.

In the State of the City speech in February, Mayor Stothert announced 58 initial street resurfacing projects for 2018 at a cost of $15.5 million.  Contracts have already been awarded for 15 projects at a cost of $3.9 million. Work will begin in a few weeks. 

This month, the City Council will consider a contract for residential and major street resurfacing which includes 24 projects, total cost $5.8 million. 

A third package (see attached map MAPA-5044(7) Major Street Resurfacing) will be bid later in the year.

“We have made street repair a priority,” said Mayor Stothert.  “We will continue to look for opportunities to increase funding for effective, long-term repairs.”

Resurfacing projects are selected based on traffic volume, history of maintenance and related costs, current or upcoming utility work, and the condition of the street using the PASER (Pavement Surface Evaluation and Rating) rating system.  PASER is a national average developed by the University of Wisconsin-Madison Transportation Information Center.  PASER uses a 1-10 scale to rate the street condition, 1=failed, 10=excellent.  The average PASER rating is 7.8 for major, secondary and connector streets in Omaha.  Streets with a PASER rating of 4 or lower are prioritized for resurfacing.

In addition to asphalt resurfacing, Mayor Stothert has budgeted $600,000 to continue the brick street repair program.

Maps of the first 58 resurfacing projects are at this link:https://www.cityofomaha.org/latest-news/454-street-resurfacing-to-begin-in-april

(March 30, 2018)


Waste Management will begin separate collection of yard waste in April.

Separate collections will begin in neighborhoods east of 72nd Street on April 2.  Waste Management plans to expand separate collections to neighborhoods west of 72nd Street May 7.

There are currently no limits on the amount of yard waste that will be picked up at the curb.

The City’s contract with Waste Management requires separate solid waste and recyclable collections for each residential customer; and from late spring through early fall, separate yard waste pickup.  Waste Management currently operates 69 daily routes for collection of solid waste and recyclables.  Separate yard waste collection will add additional trucks and employees.  Waste Management plans to expand its current staff of 84 drivers to 97 to provide separate collection throughout the city. 

Mayor Jean Stothert has approved Waste Management’s plans to phase in separate collection over the next month to ensure all daily collections are completed on schedule.  “We expect Waste Management to provide the services required under the current contract,” said Mayor Stothert.  “Waste Management’s hiring and training program is underway and we anticipate they will be in full compliance in a few weeks, in time for the spring growing season.”     

Yard waste collected separately will be taken to the compost plant. In the areas where solid waste and yard waste are collected together, both will be taken to the Pheasant Point Landfill.

Waste Management collects solid waste, yard waste and recyclables from over 140,000 Omaha households each week.