The Omaha City Council voted Tuesday to approve spending more than $6.4 million to renovate two buildings for the Downtown Omaha Public Library moves, and to commit $20 million to the construction of a new central library at 72nd and Dodge Streets.
The renovations, recommended by Mayor Jean Stothert, are to allow for the demolition of the W. Dale Clark Library in downtown Omaha to make way for a new Mutual of Omaha office tower.
The council agreed to pay Ronco Construction Company Inc. $3.93 million to renovate a building at 1401 Jones St. into a new branch of the downtown Omaha public library. The city plans to lease the building for 10 years at $465,000 per year, with an option to end the lease or buy the building after five years.
Board members also voted to approve the payment of $2.53 million to Weitz Co. to renovate a former Shopko store at 3020 S. 84th St. into a library administration and distribution building. The city would pay $405,000 a year to rent the space under a 10-year lease.
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And as expected, council on Tuesday formally approved a deal with the nonprofit Community Information Trust that commits the city to providing $20 million toward the projected $140-150 million cost of a new central library. Most of the funds will come from private donations. The non-profit organization Heritage Omaha will fundraise and manage the project, according to the agreement.
The millions-spending measures crossed the council with 7-0 support and little to no discussion from council members on Tuesday, although they have drawn heated objections from the public in recent months and the Renovation costs were millions more than the mayor’s office originally anticipated. .
But a related $27,000 contract — to lease a building in the Old Market for six months as a temporary downtown library — drew questions and criticism from some council members on Tuesday. The city will also pay an undetermined amount of expenses.
The lease, recommended by Stothert, is for a building at 1410 Howard St. The council also approved a contract with HDR Engineering for $10,000 for temporary site design services.
The city requires a temporary location for the replacement downtown branch, as the building at 1401 Jones Street will not be complete by the time W. Dale Clark closes in late August. Stothert said the Howard Street location will open Sept. 1.
Troy Anderson, Stothert’s deputy chief of staff for economic development, said the renovation of Jones Street was going to take longer than expected due to structural issues uncovered during the design process.
Councilman Vinny Palermo pressed Anderson for assurances that the six-month lease would be long enough. Palermo, whose district includes South Omaha, said he originally doubted 1401 Jones could be renovated in time to avoid a disruption in downtown library services, and that those concerns came to light. now founded.
“No offense, but I feel like I’m experiencing ‘Groundhog Day,’ because I’ve heard that before,” Palermo said.
Anderson said the city, its owner’s representative Noddle Co. and the contractor are “working diligently to complete this project.” Anderson said the way the deal is structured, with a guaranteed maximum price and the contractor involved from the start, gives him confidence that 1401 Jones will be completed on time.
Councilor Brinker Harding said he does not anticipate there will be a disruption to library services downtown.
“The contractor (on 1401 Jones) must deliver for a price on a budget, on a schedule,” Harding said. “If they don’t stick to that schedule, there are penalties for that.”
Palermo insisted that the Howard Street building’s lease agreement include an option for the city to extend it. Initially, Anderson said the lease agreement did not include any extension options and the copy of the lease documents in council did not include an extension.
But following questions from Palermo, Noddle CEO Jay Noddle told the council that the actual lease agreed with the building owner included options for the city to extend it. Harding amended the resolution to include the correct lease document.
The board approved it 6-1. The no came from Councilwoman Juanita Johnson, who expressed concern that her North Omaha constituents will not have sufficient bus service to the buildings on Jones Street or Howard Street.
Johnson pressed Noddle to help get answers from Metro on improving bus service to downtown venues. He said he would try.
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