Sewer project forces Lauritzen closures
The city’s sewer separation project has come to Lauritzen Gardens, and it’s going to be more than a year until all the work is done.
Crews started digging up some of the gardens on Oct. 1. They’ll be working through the property in phases, with the first wrapping up in the spring. Some areas, however, will be closed through early 2014.
For now, 12 of Lauritzen’s 19 gardens, plus Kenefick Park, are open. Currently off-limits to the public are the arboretum and bird sanctuary, the Garden in the Glen and the Model Railroad Garden.
The work will allow Lauritzen to fix some longtime issues that have prevented it from using some land for gardens.
Lauritzen Gardens has a full list of closures on its website.
ICYMI: Cruiser cameras not running
Over the weekend, we reported that nearly nine months after the City Council authorized spending $1.2 million to outfit 130 Omaha Police cruisers with Panasonic cameras, police administrators have encountered a series of technical problems that kept the equipment from working properly.
We’ve watched this issue closely since last year, when concerns about the city’s last set of decrepit camera equipment sparked calls for new spending.
After months of work to iron out problems with the new equipment, department officials now hope to begin training roughly 450 officers and command staff on the systems by the first week in November. The goal is to activate the first cruiser cameras in the city’s northeast precinct by December.
Suttle wants end to some inmate furloughs
Following up on a couple of recent incidents with inmates on temporary or early release from prison, Mayor Jim Suttle has put together some specific ideas he wants to see turned into law.
The mayor said Monday he’ll ask legislators to tighten up the rules for who can get out — and when. His recommendations:
-No early release for serious violent offenders, and inmates convicted of gun- or gang-related crimes.
-No early release that allows inmates in the same categories to get out before hitting the minimum sentence.
-Parole board oversight of rehabilition and re-entry provisions for violent offenders, along with board approval for releases.
-Restructuring the furlough program for serious offenders.
-More public information about furloughs with the inmate tracker website.
The Legislature’s Judiciary Committee is already planning to meet on the issue in December.
2,000 trees still needed at N.P. Dodge Park
Parks officials say there’s plenty of work to do to restore N.P. Dodge Park to how it looked before last year’s historic floods.
The effort, led by the Omaha Parks Foundation, was launched with a $10,000 donation from First National Bank of Omaha. That money helped city crews replace about 45 trees and restore the entry area of the park along the river. In total, workers have planted 80 new trees.
Amber Miller, the parks foundation’s executive director, said costs vary depending on the size and type of tree, but they generally are about $250 to $500 per tree. With 2,000 trees to replace, it’s a project that will cost close to $1 million.
Sewer rate plan has council support
The Omaha City Council’s public hearing on new sewer rates — the plan that would lessen increases for big industrial users — didn’t include much criticism.
About a dozen people, including representatives from those big industries, and some smaller companies, told the council they support the revised rate ordinance. It would assess fees in part based on the size of customers’ water meters. And it would lump in the 19 big users who had been responsible for 5 percent of the $2 billion-plus sewer project bill with the other 13,000 or so commercial accounts in the city.
(The city has an online calculator that lets customers figure out their new rates.)
Roundabout battle ends
A proposal to plant a roundabout in the heart of Dundee is finished.
On Tuesday, a group of city officials brought a quick end to a neighborhood controversy that reached the highest levels of local government.
A forthcoming, multimillion dollar Dundee facelift included three traffic control options at the 50th Street and Underwood Avenue intersection: a four-way stop sign, the current traffic light configuration or a circular roadway known as a roundabout.
That idea did not enjoy much vocal support from district merchants and power brokers.
In a meeting Tuesday, Mayor Jim Suttle, public works officials and City Council members Pete Festersen and Chris Jerram agreed to a plan that will keep traffic lights in a revamped intersection at 50th Street and Underwood Avenue.
Gene Leahy Mall’s delayed future
Now that city planners are moving forward with efforts to renovate Gene Leahy Mall, other movers and shakers are thinking about other updates to downtown’s main green space.
It’s a challenging space for developers to work in, partly because of the park’s cramped urban landscape. Other concerns, including the possibility of soil contamination, have delayed planned infrastructure updates to the 10-acre site.
Still, if renovation work does proceed this winter, it’ll help prompt plans to make better use of some of the park’s space. What would you like to see?
Revised sewer rates headed for vote
The first time around, the city’s plan for funding its $2 billion-plus sewer overhaul didn’t sit well with the people expected to pay the biggest part of the bill.
Some of the 19 biggest industrial users, responsible for a combined five percent of the bill, said the soaring rates could force them to lay off workers or leave Omaha. But after meeting with a mediator, the Save Omaha Jobs coalition, the city of Omaha and the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce came up with a plan — and so far, it seems to be moving forward without much argument.
The Omaha City Council will take comments in a public hearing on Tuesday.
The new proposal lumps the big industrial users in with the 13,000 or so other commercial accounts in the city. Each has a rate that’s calculated in part based on the size of the water meter associated with the account.
24th and Lake makeover continues
Could $100,000 from the National Endowment for the Arts accelerate plans to reshape the 24th and Lake intersection? City officials hope so.
Mayor Jim Suttle will announce the grant award, which was extended by the government agency in September, during a press conference today at Love’s Jazz & Arts Center, and the City Council is scheduled to
vote to formally accept the grant this afternoon hold a public hearing on the matter this afternoon.
The one-year grant, along with $105,000 in matching funds and services from city and community organizations, is expected to help transform the former Carver Savings and Loan building into an artist destination and fund concept studies for a proposed public space on the intersection’s northeast corner.
Petition could transform city elections
A group that calls itself the Omaha Liberty Project has launched its petition drive to overturn the city’s legal protections for gay and transgender residents.
Organizers are confident that they can quickly surpass the roughly 11,400 signatures required to put the measure before voters, though their goal is to attract far more than that number of signatures.
The city would need to certify the petition results and submit the measure to the Douglas County Election Commissioner’s Office by Feb. 11, if the issue is to appear on the Apr. 2 primary ballot.
If the petition was submitted by March 25, it could appear on May’s general election ballot.
But organizers don’t have a specific time limit on gathering signatures.
Talk of legal challenges or petition drives to repeal protections for gay and transgender residents quickly surfaced after a packed room watched the City Council narrowly approve the anti-discrimination measure in March. Now it’s a reality. The prospect of this hot-button social issue showing up on the ballot means next year’s city elections are going to be even more interesting.