Contract will be issue in mayor’s race
It’s in the council’s hands now.
A labor deal with the city’s firefighters union, years in the making, passed a key step in the approval process on Thursday.
Tom Mulligan, president of the body, has said the deal likely has the votes needed for approval.
There’s an election next year, though, so Omaha’s mayoral candidates are jumping to weigh in on the deal.
Businessman Dave Nabity and former City Councilman Dan Welch have attacked what they say are overly generous or wasteful provisions in the tentative deal. That puts them at odds with Councilwoman Jean Stothert, who is also running for mayor and helped broker the proposed contract. State Sen. Brad Ashford of Omaha, another mayoral candidate, said the city should approve the deal but also revive an independent commission to examine further pension reforms and address separate concerns with firefighter staffing.
Mayor Jim Suttle‘s office said it was still reviewing the overall financial implications of the proposed agreement.
This won’t be the last mention of the fire contract in the context of the mayor’s race.
City’s new parking manager is on the job
The city has a new employee in charge of its parking garages, parking meters and anything and everything else parking-related.
He’s Ken Smith, who spent more than a decade doing the same kind of work in Lincoln. Now, in his first week on the job in Omaha, Smith is beginning to sort out the long list of upgrades officials want to make to this city’s parking plan. A few changes are already in the works, including a shift to back-in angle parking in part of the Old Market and the introduction of meters that can be operated with credit and debit cards.
Smith said some of his initial efforts will probably involve adjusting rates at garages and meters, though it’s not clear yet where those changes will happen first and how prices will go up and down. Following on the recommendations of a parking study released earlier this year, officials have talked about upping rates at some high-traffic meter spots and possibly lowering rates in garages.
No change needed for some new meters
The latest in a series of parking-related upgrades downtown: Card-reading meters, likely coming early next year.
The city is taking proposals from meter companies through this week and will make a selection soon after. The new meters will take both cards and coins and will show up first at the spots that get particularly high use. (The city says some meters, notably the 10-hour types around downtown, might not be replaced.)
The decisions about where and when to install the meters will be made in part by the city’s new parking manager, who starts on the job this week. He’ll also be leading other parking changes, sparked by recommendations from a parking consultant hired by the city. Those could include changes to rates and enforcement hours.
Signal. Stop. Reverse. Pandemonium?
A new style of parking has come to parts of downtown Omaha. Some believe this is insane.
It’s called “back-in” angle parking, and as signs posted at a handful of city locations suggest, it requires drivers to back into a stall instead of nosing into it.
This concept is being tested along a portion of Leavenworth Street near 16th and 15th Streets, along a portion of Park Avenue and in a couple other spots around town.
The area around Patrick’s Market and Police Headquarters is the city’s latest showcase for the concept. Howard Street now runs two ways between 14th and 16th Streets, and new back-in spots are a featured element. The idea could extend elsewhere in the near future (think Midtown Crossing or other parts of Farnam Street)
Planners basically want a safer parking option in areas where pedestrians, cars and bicycles tend to mingle.
Upgrades could make Elkhorn a destination
Business owners in downtown Elkhorn are on board with the city’s plans to spruce up the place with better sidewalks, new lights and signs and a new apartment complex, among other amenities.
The once-independent town, which became part of Omaha in 2007, was one of the areas approved earlier this year for tax-increment financing. Now, the city has drawn up a plan for $1.1 million in downtown improvements and another $1.6 million for work around the Elk Hills Apartments.
Lake could boost northwest development
Coming soon to northwest Omaha (if the powers that be sign off): a rather large lake.
Officials with the Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District say a flood-control project for the western portion of the metro area will also bring fishing, a boat ramp, trails and picnic areas to the neighborhood around 168th and Fort Streets.
Construction of the $45 million to $50 million project could begin next fall, with a potential completion date of spring 2015. The city would agree to pay for any additional recreational features on the site and take over operations and maintenance once construction is complete.
High-wire act to refurbish bridge
There’s a nice feature in today’s paper about ongoing renovations to the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge.
Our pals Erin Grace and Jay Withrow report the high-wire, $310,000 act to replace lighting atop the bridge’s pylons can get, well, a little shifty.
The $22 million bridge, designed by Kansas City firm HNTB, opened to great fanfare in September 2008. The LED lighting system near the top of the pylons was donated by Gallup and the Suzanne and Walter Scott Foundation. But the lights only worked properly for about a week.
The bridge will remain open at night and during the weekends while crews work, but they’ll be on the bridge for up to 10 hours a day on weekdays. No one will be allowed on the bridge when workers are present. The bridge is expected to reopen on a full-time basis around Thanksgiving.
Civic Auditorium nearing its end
It looks like 2013 will be the last full year in business for the Omaha Civic Auditorium.
The 58-year-old facility, once the main hub of activity for concerts, conventions and sports events in Omaha, will close sometime in 2014.
Mayor Jim Suttle’s office says the City Council’s rejection of another study on the future of the Civic was the last straw for the facility. For years, officials had tossed around several ideas, including prserving the 2,315-seat Music Hall while demolishing the rest of the rest of the building.