Officials have zeroed in on a site for a new west Omaha library branch.
Members of the Millard School Board voted 6-0 Monday to approve a memorandum of understanding with the City of Omaha that would put the new library near 204th and Q Streets.
Under the agreement — which is not binding — Millard would donate or lease to the city 4.1 acres, part of a larger piece of land the district owns in the area.
Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert called the agreement a win-win for all parties and an efficient way to build a 13th library.
“We are in agreement this would be an ideal spot and it would be a great partnership,” she said Monday.
The current Millard branch, at 132nd Street and Westwood Lane, is the library system’s busiest branch.
Mike Kennedy, a member of the Omaha Public Library Board and the Millard School Board, called it “great news” and a potential savings for taxpayers.
“I’m stoked on this thing,” Kennedy said.
Stothert, a former member of the Millard School Board, said Millard Superintendent Jim Sutfin came to her with the idea to build a public library with classroom space on school land and allow the district and Metropolitan Community College to use the classroom space.
The site is outside of city limits and farther west than a consultant’s top recommendation of the area near 180th and Q Streets.
The city’s capital improvement plan includes $10 million for the southwest library, and Stothert said that amount will be increased to accommodate additional classrooms.
She said officials are in the early planning stages and Monday’s vote signifies that “we’re all on board.” The agreement is between Sutfin and Stothert; it won’t go to the Omaha City Council for approval.
“We’ll be working cooperatively together,” she said.
Stothert said details about whether the land would be donated or leased to the city haven’t been worked out, but it “would not be of any cost, or minimal cost to the City of Omaha.”
Kennedy said Millard officials would prefer a 50-year lease, essentially for the life of the building. He too said it would be no cost or low cost.
The city would pay for the construction. Millard’s contribution would be the land, saving the city “millions of dollars,” he said.
Land in west Omaha costs “thousands of dollars by the spoonful,” he said.
Kennedy said Millard originally bought the land west of 204th and Q Streets with the intention of building a fourth high school. The district ended up building a smaller alternative high school, Keith Lutz Horizon High School.
There are still about 40 acres left, he said. The library would be built south of the alternative school.
In the long run, the agreement will save the taxpayers, he said.
“If Millard is not using (the land) right now but needs more classrooms, let OPL build there, and have basically free rent, a lease, and we have access to the classrooms,” Kennedy said.
If another institution, like Metropolitan Community College, wants to use those classrooms, the maintenance can be worked out, he said.
Omaha City Councilman Rich Pahls said he’s pleased about the site, noting that Kennedy and library board member Keith Lutz have strong ties to Millard.
Lutz is a former Millard superintendent.
“It’s a good match,” Pahls said.
Councilman Brinker Harding said the new library will take pressure off the busy Millard branch in his district.
“There’s a great need for a new library in southwest Omaha,” he said.