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Mayor Jean Stothert | City of Omaha

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(September 10, 2018)

Mayor Jean Stothert will hold her annual series of Town Hall meetings this fall beginning September 17th.

“I have held 35 Town Hall meetings since my first election in 2013,” said Mayor Stothert.  “Personal interaction with our citizens is the best way to provide accurate information, listen to citizen feedback and concerns and offer solutions.  I always look forward to our Town Halls.”

All meetings begin at 6:00 p.m.

 

September 17                                                         

City Council District 6     Omaha Public Library Millard Branch       13214 Westwood Lane

                                                           

October 4                                                                 

City Council District 1     Camelot Community Center                      9270 Cady Avenue                                                          

 

October 11                                                               

City Council District 3      Belle Ryan Elementary School                1807 S. 60th Street                                                        1

 

October 18           

City Council District 4      Spring Lake Elementary School                4215 S. 20th Street

 

October 22  

City Council District 5      Mockingbird Hills Community Center         10242 Mockingbird Drive           

 

October 29

City Council District 2      The Venue at Highlander North                  2120 N. 30th Street 

 

November 5                

City Council District 7       Joslyn Elementary School                          11220 Blondo

 

(August 29, 2018)

The 2018 City of Omaha fiscal year is trending toward a year-end surplus at the end of the second quarter.

The projected surplus is smaller than previous years, estimated now at slightly under $200,000.

“A year-end carryover is always important as we plan for future budgets,” said Mayor Jean Stothert.  “We expect the 2018 carryover to grow in the second half of the year with positive revenue growth and managing our expenses.”

The second quarter report (January-June) released today shows revenue is slightly under budget, however sales tax revenue for the months of May and June, which includes sales tax collected during the College World Series and Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting had not yet been reported by the State of Nebraska. (That information has now been received and shows sales tax revenue is currently approximately $400,000 over budget projections.)

The report also shows most city departments are under budget.  The Fire Department, Human Rights and Relations, Human Resources and Public Works were all over budget at the end of the June.   

2nd Quarter Expense highlights:

  • Omaha Fire - $384,658 over
  • Human Rights and Relations - $105,013 over
  • Human Resources - $12,759 over
  • Public Works - $14,037 over
  • Omaha Police – $563,189 under
  • Planning - $303,356 under
  • Law - $187,833 under
  • City Clerk - $146,456 under
  • Health Care Savings - $2,078,439
  • All other departments are expected to be at or under budget

2nd Quarter Revenue highlights:

  • Rescue squad fees (GEMT) - $4.3 million under
  • Rural Fire District reimbursement - $1.5 million under
  • Utility Occupation taxes - $1.5 million under
  • Sales and Use Tax - $0.9 million under
  • Motor vehicle taxes - $0.7 million over

The expense overrun in the Fire Department is due to call back pay, worker’s compensation and vehicle maintenance; HRR is over budget due to the addition of the Assistant Director position.   

The 2018 budget includes $4 million in federal reimbursement for ambulance fees that will not be paid this year.  In 2017, the Nebraska Legislature passed LB 578, the Ground Emergency Medical Transport Act (GEMT), however the State of Nebraska did not implement it.  The bill increased Medicaid reimbursement for ambulance fees which are currently paid at a lower rate than billed by cities. 

“Cities are missing out on millions of dollars the federal government will reimburse as a Certified Public Expenditure” said Finance Director Steve Curtiss. “The State of Nebraska should implement this bill or the Legislature should revise it next year, so Omaha and other cities can be paid for the services provided by our first responders.”

As required by the City Charter, an end-of-year surplus must be carried over to the 2020 budget or used for cash reserve. 

(August 7, 2018)

One of the city’s most frequently used websites has a new look and more features to improve customer service.

The redesigned site, www.wasteline.org provides the latest information on the city’s solid waste services in a more user-friendly format. It includes tips to reduce waste, increase recycling and stop illegal dumping, all of which have economic and environmental consequences for Omaha.

“In 2017, Omaha citizens recycled more than 17,000 tons of material, but we can and need to do better,” said Mayor Jean Stothert. “Our goal with this relaunch is to encourage everyone to do their part in making Omaha a cleaner, greener city.”

The site is organized around the solid waste program’s four main service areas: garbage, recycling, yard waste and special waste. In the months ahead, additional content, including news features and videos designed to encourage residents to adopt new practices that lead to reducing the amount of material that goes to the landfill.

"More than 132,850 tons of waste went into the landfill in 2017, which cost taxpayers more than $3.4 million," Stothert said. "We need to work together to decrease this amount and help protect our natural resources. The time to start is now."

Residents can also use the site to sign up for free e-updates.  

www.wasteline.org will be the go-to resource for the latest information on the next solid waste collection contract. The current contract with Waste Management expires in 2020. The Request for Bids is expected to be released in mid-September.

Comments on the revamped site are welcome. Visitors can use an online contact form to submit feedback.

(July 27, 2018)

Mayor Jean Stothert and the Professional Firefighters Association of Omaha, Local 385, are pleased to announce a tentative five-year extension of the Health Care Trust they originally negotiated in 2015. 

According to the 2015 agreement, the Firefighters Union created the Trust to assume sole responsibility for the management of health care for its covered members and retirees.  The City agreed to advance a loan to the Trust for its startup costs, and to make monthly premium contributions for ongoing medical claims.  Firefighters also make monthly premium contributions to the Trust. That agreement froze the City's premium contributions for four years, from 2015 through the end of 2018.

Recently, the City and the union negotiated a five-year extension to their original health care agreement.  The new agreement defines and limits the City's premium increases from 2019 through 2023, and provides for final repayment terms for the City's startup loan to the Trust.

Specific details of the parties new five year health care agreement will be released after union members and the City Council have been briefed.  Mayor Stothert and Local 385 President Steve LeClair support the tentative agreement.  Both agree their negotiations were collaborative, provide fiscally responsible terms for taxpayers, and long term affordable health care protection for the Firefighters.

(July 19, 2018)

Mayor Jean Stothert and Police Chief Todd Schmaderer will break ground July 25th for the West Police Precinct building, located at 209th & Cumberland in Elkhorn.

In March 2017, Mayor Jean Stothert and Police Chief Todd Schmaderer announced plans to build the 5th precinct and expand the number of Omaha police officers to 900. Current precinct boundaries will be adjusted when the precinct building opens in July 2019. The Traffic Unit, Bomb Squad and Emergency Response Unit will also move to the new precinct building.

“Adding a new precinct and reaching 900 officers is part of our strategic plan to provide the resources our police department needs to provide excellent services throughout the City,” said Mayor Jean Stothert. “A single building designed to be the home of multiple units is a great example of how we are meeting our goals to run OPD more efficiently while being good stewards of the taxpayer dollars.”

“The new West Precinct will not only provide for even police coverage of the city, it also give us economy of scale as it will house three police units; uniform patrol, Emergency Response and the Traffic Unit. I am excited about this project,” said Chief

The construction contract will be on the July 24 City Council agenda for approval. Bids ranged from $9.1 million to lowest bid of $8,816,400 from ConStruct, Inc.  Project costs will be paid with Public Facilities bonds included in the 2019 Capital Improvement Plan. 

Leo A Daly is the project architect. The design creates a highly functional, secure facility for a wide range of police functions while maintaining a welcoming civic expression to the community.

“We really wanted our design to be as functional and safe as possible for the officers, while keeping a friendly, inviting feeling for the public,” said Architect Stacy Feit. “Our design includes all the necessities for the day to day life of the officers.  At the same time, we wanted to create a warm, inviting space for the public to use.” 

The groundbreaking ceremony will be held Wednesday July 25th at 11:30am at 209th & Cumberland.

Omaha West Precinct Building Information - Leo A Daly

The building is positioned centrally on the site which sets up the organizational structure of the building’s internal layout. The foreground of the building consists of public parking and an entry plaza. The plaza is made up of functional landscape that integrates protective barriers, benches, site walls and shade trees to form an outdoor “room” as an extension of the public lobby. A gated “secure perimeter” surrounds the rear portion of the site and provides a secure outdoor space for police vehicle circulation.

The functional zones of the building are reinforced through the expression of material and form. The front of the building creates a lantern effect that is intended to invite the public into the building and to encourage community member and police collaboration. The building features a meeting room available for public use. The secure police functions are emphasized on the exterior with more functional materials including architectural metal panel cladding and brick.

Inside, a north/south circulation spine provides a clear circulation path within the building, connecting the various divisions and centrally located shared spaces. The treatment of these interior spaces emphasizes functionality, security, durability, and construction economy.

(July 17, 2018) – Mayor Jean Stothert presented a $400 million General Fund budget to the Omaha City Council Tuesday, maintaining a low property tax rate and increasing funding for public safety, street repair and the City’s savings accounts.

The budget is a 3.5% increase over 2018.

Expense Highlights:

  • Increase the number of police officers from 880 to 900 (Two more officers will be added when the annexation package is approved to be assigned as School Resource Officers at Millard West High School)
  • Expenses associated with opening of the 5th police precinct scheduled for July 2019
  • Increase 911 budget from $6 million to $6.7 million for additional dispatchers and call-takers
  • Purchase of 36 SUVs for Omaha Police
  • $500,000 increase to street resurfacing budget to $12.3 million ($11.8 budgeted for 2018)
  • $600,000 budgeted for brick street repair
  • Increase the number of Public Works employees for street and sewer maintenance divisions for snow removal, street repair, maintenance of medians and inspection and maintenance of sewer systems
  • Maintain demolition budget at $1.1 million
  • Increase Omaha Library Public Library total budget to $16.1 million (2.4% increase)
  • 9 ½% increase in health care costs for current employees and retirees
  • $6.6 million budgeted for qualifying community service programs that support the Mayor’s strategic priorities including job training and workforce development, public safety, economic development and neighborhood improvement

The 2019 recommended budget maintains the current property tax levy of 47.922 cents per $100 valuation.

“Any chance we get to lower the tax burden, we’ll do it,” said Mayor Stothert. “Budgets are about priorities and I really want to focus on public safety and roads.  We are responding to what citizens tell us is most important.”

Revenue Forecast Highlights:

  • Estimated property tax revenue increase 4.% to $164.9 million
  • Estimated sales tax revenue increase 5.28% to $168.2 million
  • Estimated restaurant tax increase 2.2% to $33.9 million
  • 2017 budget carryover $11,347,628

The sales tax estimate includes $1 million in new sales tax collected from online purchases, following the recent decision from the United States Supreme Court that online retailers may be required to collect sales tax and assuming the State of Nebraska will adopt the change.

Mayor Stothert also presented the recommended 2019-2024 Capital Improvement Plan, which includes nearly $2 billion in capital projects planned for the next six years.

Highlights of the CIP include:

  • $50 million over 3 years (2019, 2020, 2021) for redevelopment of the Gene Leahy Mall, Heartland of America Park and Lewis and Clark Landing.
  • $15 million - new southwest Omaha public library
  • $ 20 million - replace existing downtown library
  • $9.6 million - 5th police precinct in Elkhorn
  • $10 million - replace two fire stations (Station 31 at 25th & L and Station 53 at 80th & Dodge)
  • Funding for unimproved Streets ($820,000, including $300,000 for unimproved streets in high   poverty areas-CIP funding is contingent on city council approval of a new cost-sharing policy)
  • $328 million in transportation projects including:

  Reconstruction of 156th Street from Pepperwood to Corby Street,

  26th & Q Street bridge replacement

  108th Street Reconstruction Q Street to Madison Street

  

“Our transparent and strategic approach to budgeting has resulted in five years of significant year-end balances, high savings account reserves, lower property tax rates, and efficiencies in how we manage resources,” said Mayor Stothert.  “Omaha’s well-managed finances will allow us to meet pressing  needs in the year ahead with the goal of making Omaha stronger and better.”

The City Council will hold a public hearing on the budget on July 31 at 6:30pm in the Legislative Chambers.

(July 13, 2018)

Waste Management will be fined for the second month in a row based on missed collections complaints.

The city received 1,609 complaints in June; 1,244 garbage and recyclable complaints and 365 yard waste complaints.  The City’s contract with Waste Management allows for “liquidated damages”, or fines, when the number of complaints exceed either 1,000 missed garbage and recyclable pickups or 700 reports of missed yard waste collections.  The City will assess a fine of $28,453.53.  

In June, the City assessed a $27,633.90 fine based on 1,875 complaints; 1,227 garbage and recycling and 648 yard waste complaints.

The fine is determined by a formula using the number of collection days in the month and the number of complaints.

In addition, the City will reduce its June payment to Waste Management by $44,000 for the company’s failure to provide separate collection of yard waste.  By contract, Waste Management is required to provide separate yard waste collection April-November. The company has informed the City due to a shortage of employees, it will not be able to fulfill that requirement.  The City will reduce its payment each month that Waste Management does not provide separate yard waste collection.

“We have a contract with Waste Management and we expect them to provide on-time and complete service,” said Mayor Jean Stothert.  “We will continue monthly reviews of service-related complaints and assess additional financial penalties as allowed by our contract.”

(June 28, 2018)

Responding to increasing complaints about fireworks, Mayor Jean Stothert is proposing to change the City ordinance that regulates the sale and use of consumer fireworks.

“Exactly one year ago, on June 28, I sent a letter to each member of the City Council, encouraging a change in the city ordinance.  The Council has not taken action to respond to our citizen’s concerns, so, I will,” said Mayor Stothert.

Mayor Stothert recommends changes to the current ordinance to reduce the time currently allowed for the use of fireworks from 10 days to five days, from June 30th through the Fourth of July only. The daily hours for discharging fireworks would also change from the current 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. to a new time of noon to 11:00 p.m. The exception would be the Fourth of July, when an 8:00 a.m. start time would be appropriate. Sales of fireworks would be allowed beginning June 29th through July fourth.

The City issues permits to non-profit organizations to sell fireworks; this year 50 organizations received those permits.

“I believe this is an appropriate compromise which will allow the celebration of Independence Day, while addressing citizen concerns about noise, fireworks injuries, the effects on persons with PTSD, property damage and the impact on pets,” said Mayor Stothert.

Members of the Mayor’s Military Service Advisory Board feel strongly that this ordinance needs to be changed to protect veterans who suffer from PTSD. Mayor Stothert said she agrees.

Ben Wormington served eight years in the United States Marine Corps after 9/11. He was deployed for three tours in Iraq. Ben’s service resulted in a service-connected disability.

“Things get a little tense for me around the Fourth of July,” said Wormington. “When you hear a mortar explode, it sounds like an IED. This ordinance is not designed to restrict your rights to celebrate our independence, but we live in a community and community means we consider how our actions impact others,” said Wormington.

Each year as the Fourth of July approaches, complaints about fireworks increase at very high numbers. Since the ordinance allowing the sale and use of fireworks in Omaha took effect, the number of calls to 911 number in the hundreds every year. In 2017, 911 recorded 424 complaints, 417 complaint calls in 2016.  The highest number was 595 in 2010.  In addition, hundreds of complaints are made to the Mayor’s Hotline, the city council office and through social media each year.

Jim Dale is an Air Force veteran, the husband of an Air Force veteran, the son of a World War II veteran and the father of an Afghanistan veteran. He is President of At Ease USA, an organization that supports active duty military, veterans and their families with treatment for PTSD.

“The sounds that we associate with the Fourth of July mean something different to those who have been in combat,” said Dale. “It’s common to say thank you for your service, and we should say it, I say it.  But let’s put some meat behind that and make this sensible change to the ordinance.”

The Nebraska Humane Society also receives complaints and will support the recommended changes.

“This is a real problem for pets and pet owners in Omaha,” said NHS Vice-President Mark Langan. “Every year, our number of strays go up around the Fourth of July.  Some dogs need to be sedated.”

Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer and Fire Chief Dan Olsen also support the changes.

The amended ordinance will be on the City Council agenda for first reading on July 17, a public hearing will be held July 24, with the Council vote at a later meeting.

(June 27, 2017)

Fishing, canoeing, biking, and hiking, all in one morning, in one place.

Flanagan Lake opened Wednesday near 168th and Fort in northwest Omaha.  The 220-acre lake is the newest flood control reservoir in the Papillion Creek Watershed to provide flood protection.

“Flanagan Lake is a reservoir designed to protect the lives and property of Omaha citizens from floods,” said John Winkler, General Manager of the Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District. “This is its primary purpose. The recreational amenities that accompany these types of public safety infrastructure projects are made possible through partnerships. So, it’s flood protection with some incredible cherries on top.”

The $47 million project is the largest single flood control structure undertaken by the Papio NRD. Construction started in 2015 and was completed this month. The City of Omaha will manage the park. It includes a five-mile hiking-biking trail, a boat ramp, and picnic shelters.  A Boys Town themed playground will open next year. 

“Just as Father Flanagan created Boys Town to provide a family-centered environment for children, Flanagan Lake is a beautiful public space that will provide family-oriented recreation and leisure,” said Mayor Jean Stothert.

By a unanimous vote last year, the City of Omaha Naming Committee recommended the lake and park be named for the founder of Boys Town, Father Edward Flanagan. The committee reviewed more than 200 names suggested by citizens. Flanagan Lake was the top suggestion. Many people noted the 2017 100th anniversary of Boys Town in their recommendations.  The Parks Board and City Council also approved the name.

“Our excellent partnerships, including our relationship with the NRD, create opportunities and investment in our public spaces,” said Mayor Stothert. “Flanagan Lake and recreation area is the type of partnership that provides the great quality of life Omaha is known for.”

To continue the grand opening celebration, the NRD kicked off the “Dam Fun Contest” offering recreation-themed prizes donated by sponsors. Contest information is available at www.flanaganlake.com.

 

(June 15, 2018)

Mayor Jean Stothert notified Waste Management Friday that an excessive number of complaints about curbside collection in the month of May will result in financial penalties.

The city’s contract with Waste Management allows for “liquidated damages”, or fines, when the number of complaints exceed either 1,000 missed garbage and recyclable pickups or 700 reports of missed yard waste collections. In May, the city received 1,227 complaints about missed garbage and recyclables and 648 yard waste complaints. The city will assess a fine of $27,633.90.

In addition, the city will reduce its payment to Waste Management for failure to provide separate yard waste collection across the city. Currently, only 6 of 20 Waste Management collection routes are staffed.  The city could reduce the monthly tipping fees at the landfill, reduce the amount paid per household for separate yard waste collection, or a combination of both.

“Waste Management needs to own this problem,” said Mayor Stothert. “We’ve been patient for four years. There is a shortage of CDL drivers, I understand that, but Waste Management needs to abide by the contract.”

Waste Management is required to provide separate yard waste collection from April-November.  In early April, Waste Management started separate collections in neighborhoods east of 72nd street.  Last month, separate collections were expanded to neighborhoods east of I-680.  Waste Management indicated it would hire and train additional drivers to provide separate collections citywide by early June. Recently, Waste Management informed the city it will not be able to meet the contractual obligations.

In addition to financial penalties, the city will require separate yard waste collection in parts of the city to be able to continue the production of OmaGro. Those areas have not been determined yet.

Mayor Stothert said her goal is to collect garbage, recyclables and yard waste from every home on the scheduled collection day. 

The current contract with Waste Management expires in 2020.  The city will issue the request for bids  for a new contract soon.