UPDATE, 6/1: Mayor Jim Suttle reiterated that today’s economic woes will make it difficult for cities to handle the cost of updating sewer systems.
“We need to face this affordability question straight on,” Suttle said during an appearance in Washington. “If we don’t, we’re going to have a rebellion. It’s already starting in my community.”
Suttle and a group of other mayors were scheduled to speak in a panel discussion at the National Press Club about the federally-mandated projects. Suttle will also meet with officials from the White House and EPA about federal funding and “collaborative efforts to make Omaha’s CSO project more affordable,” the mayor’s office says.
“Omaha has asked the Environmental Protection Agency to factor in affordability and allow cities flexibility in achieving clean water standards,” Suttle said in a statement. “We believe we can reduce the costs of our Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) project by exploring new technologies and incorporating stronger green solutions. It’s unfortunate that cities, like Omaha, are asked to assume an unrealistic long term debt to protect our country’s water resources.”
Local disputes over how to pay for the plan have simmered for quite some time.