The Omaha City Council met Tuesday to discuss a redevelopment agreement for the proposed streetcar. The agreement lays out the collaboration with Omaha Streetcar Authority (OSA), including up to $354 million in tax increment financing to fund the project.
Troy Anderson, deputy chief of staff with the Mayor’s Office, said the OSA will be responsible for the design, construction and maintenance of the streetcar. The city will provide funding through TIF and the sale of bonds.
Council President Pete Festersen said the agreement wouldn’t be a “go or no-go” for money to be allocated. The city isn’t obligated to provide funding until they issue a notice to proceed, which Jennifer Taylor from the law department said wouldn’t happen until bonds are issued.
Jason Lanoha, developer for Mutual of Omaha’s new downtown headquarters, said the streetcar would be “rocket fuel for development,” both for the downtown tower and for Mutual’s current midtown campus.
Julie Harris from Bike Walk Nebraska said getting drivers off the road and into the streetcar will make the city safer for bicyclists and pedestrians. But Harris said she was concerned the streetcar could affect the Market-to-Midtown Bikeway that runs down Harney Street, which is a pilot project that has not been made permanent.
“It will never be easier or cheaper to build a permanent bikeway than to do it in conjunction with the streetcar,” Harris said. “Trying to do it after the streetcar is built will be way more costly and more of a headache.”
Omaha Streetcar Authority President Jay Noddle said the design process hadn’t started, but he wants to make sure the streetcar “doesn’t bump the bikes.”
“We believe they go together,” Noddle said.
Multiple councilmembers said they want to see a financial analysis before they vote on the agreement. The City Council previously approved an agreement with consulting firm MuniCap, Inc. to conduct an analysis, and Taylor said an initial model will be available before the June 28 vote.
Douglas County Corrections Director Mike Myers gave a monthly update to the Board of Commissioners Tuesday. The correctional facility has struggled with staff retention throughout the pandemic, and the issues have continued as Myers reported 12 staff members left employment in May.
The Nebraska Department of Corrections increased pay for staff last year, which Myers said has caused other agencies to increase pay as well. He said Douglas County employees have left for other opportunities because “grass is greener down the road.”
“There are other agencies that are responding to the state’s move,” Myers said. “We have lost some people to some neighboring agencies and those former employees are trying to recruit their buddies to come join them.”
Myers said he’s taking immediate steps to boost morale and curb ordered overtime. He said he’s meeting weekly with a leadership team including the Fraternal Order of Police and the Employees United Labor Association.