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Omaha could have climate plan consultant by late January, councilman has resolution to push for it sooner

Posted at 9:40 AM, Sep 10, 2022

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — The Omaha Mayor’s Office said Friday they could have a climate action consultant by late January or early February if they stay on track.

That would be about 14 months after the city council signaled their support for a plan in November last year. Work on the project began in July 2021, mayor's spokesperson Carrie Murphy told 3 News Now Friday.

But next week the city council is set to vote on whether to support action sooner.

The resolution reaffirms their support and requests the mayor introduce an immediate budget transfer ordinance to hire a consultant by the end of the year. The mayor's office said it's "not allowable" to set aside money in this year's budget to be used next year.

City Council President Pete Festersen put forward next week’s agenda item. He wasn’t available Friday, but told us two weeks ago he expected progress to be much further along.

"I think we were told it'd only be a few months at that point (in November), which we found acceptable. Although we wanted to make sure there was urgency around it. So at this point, it's been really frustrating," he said.

Sometime after the city council vote in November in support of a climate plan, ongoing work changed to make a plan for only the city, not a regional one. On Sept. 21 the group working on it is set to decide whether to approve the latest draft. If that happens it would be released in October, Murphy said.

The potential to have a consultant on place by late January or early February is dependent on the current draft being approved and the timeline remaining the same, Murphy said.

Tuesday's city council meeting will also include public comment on the climate plan resolution.

"The word climate appears zero times in the (2023) budget right now," a speaker said at the Aug. 16 meeting. "The climate action plan isn’t there and that’s something that’s glaringly missing for me in this budget."

Festersen said two weeks ago the council is willing to fund the effort as soon as possible.

"Having a climate action plan is really important for any city, and most cities do," Festersen said.

Full timeline of work toward climate action plan, per City of Omaha, is below. Work being done is on a request for proposal, or RFP, essentially a request for bids for a consultant. The below is edited for clarity.

July 2021: Work started on the first draft of an RFP for a consultant. At that time, consideration was given to both a regional climate action plan and a city plan.

August 2021: A first draft was completed.

October 2021: Smart Cities advisory working group was formed to review and revise the draft

November 2021: The city council passed the resolution 6-1 to support development of the climate action plan.

The working group solicited feedback through early 2022. The feedback led to a recommendation that the plan be a city plan, rather than a regional plan. A new draft was written and members were again asked for feedback.

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