Omaha climate action plan update: Mayor to submit consultant expectation proposal

Urging prompt action, City Council passed a resolution last week to move the plan forward as quickly as possible.
After facing frustrations from the community, the city of Omaha is inching closer to creating a climate action plan.
Published: Sep. 21, 2022 at 3:45 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 21, 2022 at 10:44 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - A week after the City Council voted to accelerate the city’s efforts on establishing a climate action plan, Mayor Jean Stothert on Wednesday gave an update on the city’s efforts.

Stothert said that a request for proposals (RFP) to search for a consultant to develop that plan — with a goal of having that plan ready by June 2024 — will be submitted Friday.

The Metro Smart Cities initiative, which is co-chaired by the mayor, has been tasked with creating the proposal request which outlines the duty of a consultant and then hiring one.

“This is a top priority for the city,” she said in a meeting with reporters on Wednesday at her office.

The RFP is the document that lays out the expectations and scope of services that are expected of the future consultant, and Wednesday the Mayor, alongside city consultant and former City of Omaha Planning Director Steven Jensen, highlighted those six main tasks: project management and technical guidance, assessment and alignment, public engagement, greenhouse gas baseline inventory, metrics reporting toolkit, and the climate action and resilience plan.

Project Management and Technical Guidance: the consultant must share with the city how they would manage the project, and what kind of technical guidance they will provide and assist the city with.

Assessment and alignment: the consultant must assess current climate concerns and evaluate what the city is already doing, and how that aligns with what will be done in the future.

Public Engagement: the consultant must reach out to the public to allow them to be part of the process, along with the Metro Smart Cities advisory board, other technical leaders, and stakeholders that remain to be established.

Greenhouse Gas Baseline Inventory: the consultant is to create a baseline of the greenhouse gas emissions for the area, so the city knows what it’s measuring against.

Metrics Reporting Toolkit: the consultant should create a toolkit that determines how progress is being made in the city moving forward.

Climate Action and Resilience Plan: the consultant is to create the document that will be adopted by the city.

The nearly-completed request for proposals comes after criticism from community members and city council members. Last week, the council passed a resolution urging the city to speed up the process, after passing a similar resolution last November, expressing intent to get a consultant hired.

“We’re reaffirming that support here with some frustration on my part, in the respect that we have not seen the request for proposal to get that project moving,” said Council President Pete Festersen at the September 13 meeting.

But Wednesday, Stothert re-iterated that work on the RFP has been ongoing for months. The first draft of the proposal was introduced in July of 2021 and has been updated and restructured since then.

“I don’t think it’s taking that long, I think we’re already underway and doing many many things, and this is a process with Smart Cities that we wanted to go this way,” Stothert said. “I don’t see it as being a lot of delays, I look at it as doing it right, and getting a lot of input from a lot of people and not just be a group of two or three people and making a decision.”

The resolution passed at last week’s council meeting also said the city will move forward with the climate action plan using the 2022 budget surplus funding.

“Legally that is something we can’t do, is using the 2022 funding for this, so we’re not going to fund it that way,” Stothert said.

At the September 13 council meeting, Stothert’s chief of staff Thomas Warren indicated that funding would likely come from the 2023 budget, however, the current proposed 2023 budget doesn’t yet mention anything about a climate action plan. Stothert did not specifically indicate which budget the funding will come from on Wednesday.

City leaders estimate the consultant will cost at least $250,000.

During the announcement Wednesday, Stothert also highlighted the work that the city already has done, highlighting changes in transit, solid waste management, the combined sewer overflow initiative, and more.

“Just because we don’t have a formal plan resolved, doesn’t mean the city hasn’t been doing a lot of things, as far as climate control and reducing greenhouse gasses,” she said. “A lot of the things that will probably be articulated in the plan, we are already doing, so it doesn’t mean that since we don’t have a formal plan adopted, that we aren’t already doing a lot of things in the City of Omaha.”

Stothert also released a timeline for the project, starting with a release of the formal request for prosal, or RFP, released Oct. 12; consultant candidates narrowed to a shortlist by Dec. 16 and hired by January; and a project start date of Feb. 11, days after approval by the City Council.

Omaha is among 15 of the nation’s 50 biggest cities that don’t have climate action plans in place.

Earlier this month, council members expressed frustration that the city hasn’t made further progress on the plan and passed a resolution 4-3 in support of moving the plan forward as quickly as possible.