OMAHA, Neb. — Omaha residents have raised concerns about the closure of a community meeting space owned by the city.

Brook Bench, the city’s parks, recreation and public property director, told the Omaha World-Herald ( ) that city building code inspectors ordered the space closed because of significant violations, including safety and health threats.

City records show the building has plumbing and roof leaks, deteriorated and missing flooring, a broken water heater and inoperable bathroom water faucets. Bench said the building also has mold.

“Until those are fixed, for safety issues, the city had to close it,” Bench said.

The city changed the locks, Bench said. He said he doesn’t know how many people had keys to the old locks.

“I think it’s very unfair and very heartbreaking as much work that we have done within the neighborhood for them to put us on hold like this,” said Ella Willis, president of the Neighborhood Action and Facts Association.

Bench said the city and the association had a lease agreement in which the organization could use the building at no cost but had to provide maintenance.

“You have a deal,” Bench said. “You don’t have to pay any rent, but you do have to maintain the building.”

Bench said problems have been ongoing for years and that the neighborhood group was aware of them and responsible for making repairs.

“I’m not trying to be the big bad city,” Bench said.

Willis said the city has always fixed the inside and outside of the building and that she has asked for a copy of the lease agreement.

Bench said the lease agreement, which appears to date back more than 30 years, expired in 2004 and that he wasn’t sure why.

Information from: Omaha World-Herald,

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