OMAHA, Neb. — Attempts by Omaha leaders to upgrade 300 miles of substandard residential streets have opened old wounds between the City Hall and residents of the former city of Elkhorn, which was annexed into Omaha.
The City Council will vote Tuesday on Mayor Jean Stothert’s policy for upgrading streets that weren’t built up to the city’s standards for durability. The policy says the city will pay part of the cost for upgrades, with the rest coming from property owners, the Omaha World-Herald (http://bit.ly/2gX0bxU ) reported.
The policy also draws attention to a decision Public Works officials previously made to stop filling potholes on those substandard streets, leaving them deteriorated.
Now, Elkhorn-area residents have asked why they should pay to upgrade streets that were considered fine under the rules of the previous municipality. Some have also said the city should go back to filling potholes, even on worn-down streets.
“Why doesn’t Omaha just de-annex us and make everybody happy?” wrote Bill Holling, a resident of the Elkhorn-area.
Public Works Director Bob Stubbe said the decision comes from a desire to efficiently spend tax dollars. He said that deteriorating streets can get to a point where the city sends out crews monthly or even weekly to repair the same pothole.
The city estimated it would cost $300 million to upgrade every substandard residential street.
Elkhorn-area attorney Robert Peterson criticized Stothert’s proposed policy, saying it is “an abdication of the city’s responsibility.”
Councilman Chris Jerram hopes to make several changes to the proposal, including one that says the city will keep filling potholes regardless of the level of deterioration, even on streets that were build according to the rules at the time.
“They pay wheel tax, they pay property tax,” he said. “The citizens and taxpayers own the government, and they have a right to be treated fairly by the government.”
Information from: Omaha World-Herald, http://www.omaha.com