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Omaha City Council expected to vote on downtown public library move Tuesday

Posted at 6:34 PM, Jan 31, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-31 19:34:04-05

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — The Omaha City Council is expected to vote on moving the downtown library from 14th and Farnam to 14th and Jones in the Old Market on Tuesday afternoon.

The vote comes less than a week after Mayor Jean Stothert laid out city plans to build a streetcar down Farnam, and for Mutual of Omaha to move from midtown to downtown, building a skyscraper at the current site of the W. Dale Clark Library.

The city council will vote in its next meeting on Feb. 1 on whether the library should move at all. In the press conference last Thursday, Stothert seemed optimistic.

“We will be moving the Dale Clark Library,” said Stothert.

But some city council members are hesitant. Councilmember Vinny Palermo checked out the downtown branch on Monday afternoon.

“Check and see how many people were at the library on an off day, to see if it was being utilized or underutilized,” said Palermo.

He wouldn't show his hand on how he’ll vote Tuesday, but did express concerns on transparency, saying the library move was only presented to the council last month.

“I think like everybody knows the transparency that was lacking on this project is what will probably end up being the deciding vote tomorrow on how it plays out,” said Palermo.

Councilmember Juanita Johnson represents much of downtown and North Omaha. She told 3 News Now over the phone that her constituents want her to vote no.

She says the library’s current central downtown location and transit nearby works well, and those same benefits do not exist for the proposed Old Market spot.

She says if Omaha had more north-to-south bus routes, it may be a different story.

“Folks being displaced and public transportation that has been lacking south to north for decades has never been addressed and we’re still not addressing it,” said Johnson.

Councilmember Danny Begley texted 3 News Now that he has no comment today but has met with members of the mayor’s office and city staff.

Mutual of Omaha’s move also includes a land swap with the city and developer Jason Lanoha. While exact details are murky at this time, the city will give the library site to Mutual of Omaha, and in exchange, the city will receive the vacant land off 14th and Dodge for future development.

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