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Juvenile Justice Center project faces legal challenge

juvenile justice center rendering
Posted at 8:49 PM, Jul 24, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-24 22:03:58-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — David Lanphier, a former Nebraska Supreme Court Justice, is suing to stop the county from moving forward on using bonds to pay for construction of a new Juvenile Justice Center in downtown Omaha. The proposed facility would also house offices for the Douglas County Attorney and the county's public defender.

According to the lawsuit, Lanphier refers to the county's plan to use bonds worth $114 million to pay for the project a "scheme." He argues their use in this case is unlawful without a public vote as the bonds would mean an increased property tax levy for Douglas County residents.

The lawsuit also questions the Juvenile Justice Center being called a "joint use project." It says the City, County and Commission attempted to justify joint use with the project by including an assembly area for OPD police officers waiting to testify. The plaintiff claims this reason is insufficient to satisfy the joint use requirement for the issuance of bonds without a public vote.

In June, the Omaha City Council approved a measure allowing the county to issue the bonds to pay for the project.

Douglas County, City of Omaha, Omaha-Douglas Public Building Commission and The Douglas County Unified Juvenile Justice Center development corporation are all cited as defendants in the suit.

Douglas County Commissioners were scheduled to vote on the bonds at their meeting on Tuesday. But, with the new legal challenge, the next step for the project is unclear.