A business group that has been a critic of Mayor Jim Suttle is now taking on the city’s plan to fund its $2 billion sewer overhaul.
The Omaha Alliance for the Private Sector, which was involved in the recall campaign against Suttle, says the city should scrap its plan to pay for the federally mandated project by raising sewer rates and instead carve out the funding from the city budget.
Among the suggestions: Change health care insurance, overtime and pension provisions in the next fire contract, delay or put off other public works contracts and find private donors to fund city parks, pools and libraries.
The city has already agreed to plans for an 18-year project with the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality, which is administering the work on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. If the city fails to carry out the project within that time frame, it risks lawsuits and fines from both state and federal government agencies, which could order Omaha to carry out a plan.
In a news conference Monday, Chip Maxwell, the group’s executive director, said the city should buck the agreement and risk lawsuits, because they would likely be cheaper than carrying out the full project.
He suggested that Omaha tell the EPA that it will pay $30 million each year for 30 years — which adds up to $900 million, far less than city and other business groups’ estimates of the project cost.
The group’s former president and chairman is Dave Nabity, who resigned this spring when he decided to run for mayor.
“We’re saying if it results in a court fight, we’ll take that on,” Maxwell said. “We’ve had it with triggers and mechanisms for fines. We’re ready to fight them all, go to court, say: ‘We’re doing it our own way.’”
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