Archive for December, 2012

Benson Park facelift begins

Benson Park facelift begins

One of the city’s most well-used parks is in for a series of upgrades — although some will require the financial support of the neighborhood.

Benson Park, near North 70th Street and Military Avenue, has already seen accessibility updates to its pavillion. Starting this spring, visitors will also notice crews putting in new picnic areas, additional fishing spots and new barricades to make parking safer.

Said interim parks director Brook Bench: “This one is really driven by the use of the park. It’s so used on the weekends — this is a big enough park where we can do these improvements, but don’t have the facilities to do them.”

December 31, 2012 Comments Read More
City digs through plowing complaints

City digs through plowing complaints

I took to Twitter the other day to get your feelings on the city’s snow plow efforts after last week’s blizzard. The reviews are mixed.

It seems as though the city’s arterial streets are largely fine, but the same can’t be said for many residential streets around Omaha. The Public Works Department knows this, and have been trying to work on slick spots — but the little bit of snow that fell this afternoon isn’t helping matters at all.

December 27, 2012 Comments Read More
Missing cop lets Fun-Plex off hook

Missing cop lets Fun-Plex off hook

This one comes from our friend Joe Duggan in Lincoln: Omaha’s Fun-Plex amusement park dodged a liquor law violation because a police officer missed a hearing where he to testify against the business.

Fun-Plex faced disciplinary action in the form of a liquor license suspension for serving alcohol to two underage girls at a 21-and-over swim party the night of July 3. The officer stopped the girls for a traffic violation shortly after they left Fun-Plex.

Both of the girls also were subpoenaed and were waiting to testify at the hearing. But the officer had possession of the fake IDs, which officials described as necessary to tie the evidence together.

December 26, 2012 Comments Read More
Fire contract is divider for mayoral candidates

Fire contract is divider for mayoral candidates

Though it’s already been approved by the council and signed by the mayor, Omaha’s new fire contract is still the subject of a heated debate between the people running for the city’s top job.

Only two of the five candidates — Mayor Jim Suttle and City Councilwoman Jean Stothert — were directly involved in efforts to draw up a contract, but just about everyone has something to say.

Businessman David Nabity and former City Councilor Dan Welch have both critiqued the timing of Stothert and Suttle’s announcements related to the contract. They’ve said Suttle waited too long to point out that the council-negotiated contract would create a $6 million hole in the city budget. And Stothert, they said, announced the successful negotiation of a contract weeks before sharing the details with the public.

December 24, 2012 Comments Read More
Mixed results for snow emergency rules

Mixed results for snow emergency rules

Omaha’s upgraded snow emergency enforcement began Thursday – to the surprise of dozens of drivers who were apparently unaware of the rules.

Reporter Roseann Moring tagged along with a Public Works crew on the hunt for people who had failed to get their cars out of the path of plows. (For those who have forgotten, you’re supposed to park on the side of the street with even-numbered addresses on even days, and odd side on odd-numbered days.)

Many people seemed to be confused about the idea of parking in areas with no-parking signs. But failing to park under those signs (if it was on the proper side of the street) left many with orange envelopes stuck under their windshield wipers. By 5:30 p.m., 170 cars had been ticketed.

December 21, 2012 Comments Read More
Snow emergency to start at midnight

Snow emergency to start at midnight

The City of Omaha will declare a snow emergency at midnight, which means you need to pay attention to where you park your car.

Under the snow emergency rules, on even-numbered days, drivers should park on the side of the street with even-numbered addresses (that’s either north or west.) On odd-numbered days, leave your car on the odd-numbered (south or east) side of the street.

Enforcement for this particular storm will start around noon on Thursday. Leave your car on the wrong side and you’ll risk getting a ticket or having your car towed. On residential streets, Public Works crews will likely tow cars to a safe spot nearby.

Vehicles stranded on major roadways, however, will likely end up in the impound lot.

December 19, 2012 Comments Read More
An election rumble in South O

An election rumble in South O

A former Omaha police officer plans to run for a City Council seat held by a fellow department alumnus.

Virgil Patlan plans to announce his candidacy for South Omaha’s District 4 seat at a Thursday evening press conference. He’ll challenge Garry Gernandt, who has long served as the community’s council representative and is an outspoken police advocate. Gernandt has been a member of the council since 2001 and tells me he will seek re-election.

Patlan attended South High School and served with the U.S. Army before serving with the Omaha Police Department for 25 years. He’s partly known for his activism in South Omaha and involvement in the local chapter of the Latino Peace Officers Association. Gernandt served with the U.S. Marine Corps and then as an Omaha Police officer for 31 years.

Should be an interesting race.

December 13, 2012 Comments Read More
Fire contract hearing draws few comments

Fire contract hearing draws few comments

The crowd at the City Council’s public hearing on the tentative labor contract between the city and the fire union was fairly small, with just four supporters and four opponents addressing the council.

Just about everyone who spoke said they were not completely sold on the plan, which comes with an average wage increase of 1.6 percent per year and is projected to save Omaha’s police and fire pension fund $822 million over the next 50 years. Some said the city is still giving up too much in the negotiation and that the contract shouldn’t mention controversial staffing provisions.

But Mark McQueen, the attorney who negotiated the deal on behalf of the city, argued against those points and others he said have been made by members of the public.

“If the City Council does not agree to the staffing terms that I’ve just described, you don’t have a contract,” McQueen said. “It’s that simple. And without a contract, you don’t have pension reform of any type and you don’t have health care reform to the level we’ve achieved.”

The council is scheduled to vote on the issue next week.

 

December 12, 2012 Comments Read More
More study for Omaha’s 311 phone line

More study for Omaha’s 311 phone line

The City of Omaha is still toying with the idea of a universal information line — but isn’t ready to dig for the cash until it sorts out more of the details.

The idea of a 311 line started picking up traction here a couple years ago. The city spent $93,000 on a study that said installing a line that would pick up calls to the Mayor’s Office, Public Works and other departments would cost about $1.2 million.

Now the city is hoping the work of a soon-to-be hired employee will cut that cost. The council set aside $40,000 to hire a new staffer to assess which types of calls come in most frequently, who should field them and how much of a 311 line could be operated with people and equipment the city already owns.

December 8, 2012 Comments Read More
Re-develop the Civic Auditorium site, please.

Re-develop the Civic Auditorium site, please.

The city seeks a headhunter, or “owner representative,” to determine a plan for site of the Civic Auditorium, music hall and convention center and enticing developers to make it a reality.

City officials said they envision a national search for a good match. The consultant will conduct a market study to find out what development would be the best fit for the site and for the city’s master plan.

Think you can handle it? The copy of the city’s entire RFP is pasted below.

Preliminary estimates peg the cost to demolish the 9,300-seat auditorium, Music Hall and convention hall at $5 million to $7 million, Suttle said. The estimates, however, did not include an environmental study of the structure, and the actual cost could be higher.

“The City of Omaha believes that the Civic Auditorium and Music Hall structures are not economically feasible for rehabilitation and continued use,” the city’s request for proposals says. ”It is anticipated that these structures would be removed as part of a redevelopment project.  It is also anticipated that the Parking Structure will be retained by the City of Omaha but may be available to support the redevelopment project.”

December 6, 2012 Comments Read More