The Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District is discussing an agreement to help defray costs related to the University of Nebraska Medical Center's $370 million cancer research and treatment center.
Papio-Missouri General Manager John Winkler said his agency wants to help the UNMC project, but no specific costs or projects have been discussed to this point.
Winkler said he guessed that the NRD's funding might be in the tens of thousands of dollars. A UNMC official suggested the possibility of around $250,000 in funding.
Ken Hansen, UNMC's assistant vice chancellor of business and finance, said there has been one lunch meeting with NRD officials to discuss the possibility of a partnership.
“No one has promised them anything,” Winkler said Friday. “We don't want anybody to think the NRD is going to give them millions of dollars. There is no way we are a major player financially.”
Winkler said the NRD cannot provide funds toward the construction, as two other local governments have discussed.
The Douglas County Board agreed to contribute $5 million to help finance the UNMC project. The money will come from the county's inheritance tax revenue and be spread over 10 years.
The Omaha City Council is considering a new occupation tax on cigarettes that would provide $35 million over 10 years. The proposed ordinance would add about 35 cents to a $5 pack of cigarettes.
Last spring, the state of Nebraska pledged $50 million to the project.
University officials approached the City of Omaha and Douglas County as part of a $200 million fundraising campaign for the project.
Rick Kolowski, chairman of the Papio-Missouri River NRD board, told the Douglas County Board that the district was willing to help fund recreation areas, trails on the UNMC campus, stormwater management and playgrounds for children.
“All within our mission and what we might be able to contribute,” Kolowski said earlier this month. “Again, if we can work this out in the future with our board, we'd be very proud to be able to become a partner in this excellent project.”
Typically, cost-sharing agreements are split evenly by the NRD and another entity, Winkler said. Any funding would need the NRD board's approval.
One potential project: UNMC has said it wants to eventually extend the Field Club Trail north to the student plaza. Other possibilities involving the NRD are parks, healing gardens and retention ponds.
Hansen said the funding would not be “in the millions.”
“I would say it could be in the six digits, but it's more likely to be closer to $250,000 than $1 million,” he said.
He added: “We are looking to the NRD to come to us for their take on this. They are involved in stormwater management and flood control. We know they support our cancer center project. Certainly they have some good ideas.”
Hansen said there are no plans to relocate Saddle Creek Road as part of the cancer center project. And he said no discussions are under way with the NRD related to any road realignment that could create extra space on campus.
Winkler agreed, saying the NRD has not had any discussions with UNMC officials about Saddle Creek Road as part of the cancer center project.
NRD board member Larry Bradley said he wants an update on the UNMC talks at the board's October meeting so the whole board and the public are aware of what has taken place.
Bradley said some aspects of the project may have merit and fall within the NRD's mission.
“We're about flood control,” Bradley said. “If it's for flood-control measures associated with Saddle Creek Road and rain gardens, then I am for that.”
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