LINCOLN — Officials with public housing agencies in Omaha and Douglas County gave positive reviews of a bill that would merge the two departments.
Legislative Bill 49 would create a single public housing entity for the Omaha metropolitan area. The Legislature's Urban Affairs Committee held a public hearing Tuesday on the measure.
Testifying were Clifford Scott, executive director of the Omaha Housing Authority, and Philip Wayne, board chairman of the Douglas County Housing Authority.
State Sen. Amanda McGill of Lincoln, committee chairwoman, expressed surprise at the willingness of both agencies to accept a merger, even if it meant a change in staffing.
“There's clearly a will, or a recognition, that the entities would function better for the people of the county and the city if they were merged,” said McGill, an Omaha native.
She said the question is whether the proposal will need amendments to make such a transition smoothly.
The bill was introduced by Sen. Brad Ashford of Omaha, a former OHA director and proponent of a city-county merger.
Ashford also has proposed the merging of crime labs operated by Omaha and Douglas County. He has made an overall merger of the two governments an issue in his campaign for mayor.
If approved by the Legislature, the housing agency merger would be effective next Jan. 1.
According to a fiscal note attached to the bill, the Douglas County agency would be merged into OHA. The cost of the merger is unknown, the note says, and “there may be savings'' from consolidating the agencies' activities.
The OHA provides federally subsidized housing for about 16,000 people. The Douglas County agency serves people west of 72nd Street.
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