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The City of Omaha issued $25 million in bonds Tuesday to fund street and sewer projects, public facilities, parks and recreation and public safety.

The 20-year bonds were sold at the interest rate of 3.24%, nearly identical to the rate projected by underwriters prior to the announcement last week that Standard and Poor’s had downgraded the city’s bond rating. The underwriter’s projection was 3.23%.

“The interest rate proves investors have confidence in our current and future financial performance,” said Mayor Jean Stothert. “Low interest rates keep taxes lower and allow us to complete more projects.”

The city’s AA+ rating from S & P is the second highest rating possible. Moody’s Investment Service reaffirmed Omaha’s AA1 bond rating . Omaha’s bond ratings are higher than 85% of all U.S. cities. “The slight slip in our S & P rating has not affected our ability to sell bonds at a highly attractive interest rate,” said Acting Finance Director Al Herink.

The city expects to issue bonds again in early 2014 for the combined sewer separation project.

Mayor Jean Stothert announced Friday that Michele (Mikki) Frost will join her administration as Human Resources, Rights and Relations Director. “I am excited to welcome Mikki back to city government,” said Mayor Stothert. “Her experience in the public and private sectors will be an asset to the city of Omaha, the taxpayers and our employees.”

Frost served as Omaha Personnel Director from 1995-2001. During that time, she was recognized with the Human Resources Employer of the Year award from the Society for Human Resources Management (Nebraska chapter) and the Health and Safety Council.

Since 2006, Frost has been Director of Community Benefit and Healthier Communities at Alegent Health. She is a graduate of the Creighton University School of Law. She has served on numerous community boards and committees.

Frost’s salary will be $140,000; a reduction from the previous director, keeping with Mayor Stothert’s campaign pledge to find efficiencies in each department. She will start in August. Steve Kerrigan will continue to serve as interim director until that time.

Mayor Jean Stothert reaffirmed her opposition to Omaha’s restaurant tax after an Omaha restaurant owner used his Facebook page to question an audit of his business. The post has generated a lot of conversation.

“I opposed the restaurant tax and voted against it as a City Council member. I still oppose the tax because it targets only one industry and is not broad-based,” said Mayor Stothert. “However, the city finance department is required by the restaurant tax ordinance to conduct random audits on businesses that collect the tax. This is the current law, and as Mayor, it is my responsibility to make sure all city laws are followed.”

Mayor Stothert’s proposed 2014 budget does include the continuation of the restaurant tax. Without it, the projected shortfall when the Mayor took office in June would have increased from $20 million to approximately $47 million dollars. “I was able to overcome the $20 million in the time we had to prepare the budget and avoid a property tax increase. It would not be possible to make up the larger deficit in the few short weeks I had to submit the budget,” said Mayor Stothert. “I will begin work immediately on the 2015 budget and it is still my pledge to reduce your tax burden.”

The Finance Department completes an average of ten audits a week of businesses that collect the restaurant tax. It will also schedule random audits of businesses that collect the new tobacco tax. Mayor Stothert also opposed that tax and voted against it as a City Council member.

No more "dodging" the traffic cones on Dodge Street. The barricades will be removed Sunday, October 13th and all lanes of Dodge from 52nd Street to Turner Boulevard will be ready for Monday morning traffic.

The resurfacing project started September 16 and was expected to take up to eight weeks to complete.  The contractor, Swain Construction, was able to speed up the job using more equipment and personnel and there were no significant weather delays. The contractor did not have any financial incentives to complete the work early.

The Dodge Street project was one of 10 projects funded with $6.4 million dollars from the State of Nebraska.  The state funds must be spent on state highways that run through the city.

“The state money allowed us to improve one of the city’s busiest streets without using money in the city’s street repair budget,” said Mayor Jean Stothert. “Now we can spend city funds on our neighborhood streets and begin to catch up on decades of neglect.”

The state-funded projects are:

Dodge Street, 52nd St east to Turner Blvd

Douglas Street, 9th to 24th

Maple St, 90th to 102nd

Cuming 30th to 46th

30th Street, Fort to Whitmore   

McKinley Street, 30th to 48th

84th Street, Q to Harrison

Industrial Road, (eastbound) 151st to 144th

L  Street, (eastbound) 131st to 126th)

L Street, 33rdSt to Dahlman

Three projects are still underway: 30th Street Fort to Whitmore, McKinley Road 48th to 30th and Cuming 27th to 46th.  Construction engineers expect the remaining work to be completed by mid-November, weather permitting.