Lincoln City Council approves $19.4M in CARES funds, delays vote on blighted areas

Published: Jul. 12, 2021 at 9:14 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - The Lincoln City Council had a busy session Monday night, with hours of public comment, approval of millions in CARES Act allocations, and more.

The topic that drew the most testifiers has to do with a resolution that would designate two areas of Lincoln, Air Park, and Belmont. They could get this designation now to help increase affordable housing, as a 2019 law created a $5,000 tax credit for people who buy homes in extremely blighted areas.

To do so the areas must meet three main criteria. First, it has to be too old to redevelop; second, the area has to have a lower than average socioeconomic status; and third, it has to have previously been declared blighted.

“We don’t have projects in the area,” said Dan Marvin the Urban Development Director. “We don’t have a redevelopment plan for Belmont or Arnold Heights.”

Many of those speaking about the project tonight in opposition don’t take any issue with creating more low-income housing. It lies in the location of some of that land, which sits under a mile from the Nine-Mile Prairie.

“Not just the grasses but mammals, amphibians, reptiles and birds, and they would not survive without it,” said one testifier.

City councilors approved a motion to delay voting on the item. Instead opting to hold another public hearing on the topic in two weeks, and to vote on the matter then. After multiple members on the council asked for more time to gather information and draft potential amendments to the resolution in that interim period.

Also on the agenda was $19.4 million in federal dollars received from the CARES Act. Councilors approved the allocation of the money, applied for last year by both the Lincoln Police Department and Lincoln Fire and Rescue.

“This is reimbursement of salaries spend between March 1, 2020 and May 21, 2020,” said Brian Jackson, LPD’s acting chief of police.

A bulk of about $8.8 million on LPDs side and $8.2 million on LFRs side will go towards upgrades to things like facilities, technology and apparatuses.

“Refurbishing, remodeling our fire stations that we’ve shown are in states of disrepair,” said LFR Chief Dave Engler.

Also on the agenda was the first reading to approve Teresa Ewins as the next Lincoln Chief of Police. The city planned her process with the council to make sure she could be in town for her public hearing, which is set for next Monday.

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