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Omaha parks department assures money donated for Zorinsky cameras won’t be reallocated

Published: Jul. 8, 2020 at 11:07 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - A group raising money for cameras at Lake Zorinsky worry the pandemic may have redirected their funds, but on Wednesday, the city assured them it’s safe.

“Where is the money, and when are the cameras going to come?” runner Joe Sutter said. So we hadn’t been in contact with the city for a while, so we talked to the parks director, Brook Bench, about where the funds are and what’s going to happen going forward.”

Last fall, Sutter organized a fun run, raising money for cameras to be installed at Lake Zorinsky in an effort to improve safety.

“It’s a pretty common occurrence to see shattered glass at the parking lots out here at Zorinsky. It’s unfortunate but you leave your car here and take off running and are gone for half-hour or hour they’re easy targets for them,” Sutter said.

The lake area has been the site of more than 20 car break-ins in the last month. Getting the cameras put in would cost $30,000 to $40,000.

“Everyone thinks, ‘Oh you can throw some cameras up for a few hundred dollars.' That’s not the case,” said Bench, head of Omaha Parks and Recreation. “If you really want a quality system and do something right it costs more money than that.”

The fun run raised $6,000, which was deposited into the Omaha Parks Foundation. When the pandemic blindsided the city’s budget, Sutter was worried the money might be used for a different purpose. Bench said that’s the case.

“That’s not even in the city’s coffers — that’s in the park’s foundation,” Bench said. “That money is earmarked for cameras at Lake Zorninsky that can’t be touched by city folks.”

Clearly, getting cameras put up in Lake Zorinksy is going to take longer than originally planned. Sutter’s goal was to see them up at the start of the year but the pandemic has stopped any more fundraising from happening.

“Hopefully, a private donor maybe another fundraising event later in the year when it’s more practical to do so, we can get that money raised,” Sutter said.

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