The legislative chambers inside the Omaha/Douglas County Civic Center.

City Council

The Omaha City Council discussed issues with street repairs by private contractors NL&L and Olsson Inc. during Tuesday’s meeting. A constituent who happened to be a former engineer informed Councilmember Aimee Melton that joints between road panels weren’t sawed correctly, which could lead to random cracking.

NL&L requested a change order worth $1,776,500 to NL&L Concrete for street repairs near 120th and L streets that received criticism from multiple councilmembers. The city also has an agreement with Olsson Engineering to inspect the repairs, but both failed to identify the mistake. 

The council approved the change order since much of the work has already been done, but Councilmember Melton asked that they hold another meeting between the city, NL&L, Olsson and residents.

“I would like to have one more meeting to explain what’s been done, what steps we’ve taken and what we’re going to do moving forward,” Melton said. “I think we owe it to those taxpayers.”

Councilmember Danny Begley said if the city council hadn’t been told about this, the issue may have never been identified. He said it’s totally unacceptable for private contractors to make mistakes that cost taxpayer money.

“Streets were the number one issue with people in my district,” Begley said. “If this kind of work is going on, then that’s very concerning to me.”

Project manager Shawn Weers said he understands the responsibility of using taxpayer money. He said this is a learning moment for NL&L and that they would do better finishing the project.

County Board

The Douglas County Board of Commissioners met Tuesday to receive reports on juvenile justice in the county and discuss the data. 

Abby Carbaugh, the county’s data administrator for juvenile justice, gave a report on the Douglas County Youth Center during Tuesday’s meeting.

Overall admissions to the youth center have declined consistently over the years. The number of youth brought in on juvenile charges has remained consistent in 2021, while youth brought in on adult charges have decreased significantly.

Commissioner Jim Cavanaugh said he’d like to compare admissions with the number of charges to see if it follows the same trend. He said judges may be choosing not to incarcerate because of COVID-19, regardless of how many charges are being

Carbaugh said the decrease in admissions could be partially attributed to the pandemic, but she doesn’t have access to data on total charges. She said the youth center is on the “back end” of the criminal justice system, but she’s working with the Douglas County Attorney to get more data.

Over three-quarters of the youth center’s population is non-white. Commissioner Mary Ann Borgeson said we need to look at the data from other points in the criminal justice system in order to address racial disparities. 

Deputy County Administrator Kim Hawekotte then gave the board a presentation on Douglas County Juvenile Justice Reform Initiatives. The program received $1.3 million in funding through Community-Based Grant Funds this year. 

Hawekotte said 12 service providers were chosen for direct intervention for youth and families. She said those providers were selected strategically based on location for community needs, including mediation, in-home family support and mental health.

The program’s Four Year Community Plan includes ensuring equitable treatment, improving connectivity to services before involvement in the justice system, strengthening collaboration, and maintaining programs and services through a trauma-informed lens.

The county has been developing Family Resource Centers, which would connect vulnerable families and youth with community services and programs. Hawekotte said they would focus on the root causes of issues, rather than the symptoms.

They have also developed programs for runaway youth, job training and alternatives to high school completion, and a crisis response system.

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