Papio NRD Announces Board Subdistrict 7 Vacancy

District Now Accepting Applications to Fill Vacancy

The Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District Board of Directors announced a vacancy on the board at its meeting last night.

Director Patrick Leahy, who represents Subdistrict 7, provided his formal resignation from the board earlier this month, as he will be moving to a residence located outside of Subdistrict 7. Nebraska state law declares a Papio NRD Director must reside in the subdistrict he/she represents.

Subdistrict 7’s boundaries roughly comprise of the Dundee/Benson neighborhoods to west of I-680 on Dodge Street.

“I would like to thank the Directors, the constituents of Subdistrict 7, and the entire NRD staff for making serving the District fun and fulfilling,” said Leahy. “I have enjoyed the past six years and I will miss helping with the good work of the NRD’s mission.”

“Director Leahy’s commitment to the District and those he served never wavered and we cannot thank him enough for his service and leadership,” said John Winkler, General Manager of the Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District. “Director Leahy’s support and tenacity will be sorely missed by the District and his constituents. We wish Director Leahy nothing but the best and no doubt he will soon return to public service in one way or another,” said Winkler.

Those interested in being appointed to fill the remainder of Leahy’s term (until January 2020) can submit a letter of application until January 31, 2019.

The Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District Board of Directors is an 11-member board that sets policy for Papio NRD programs and projects and oversees a $72 million annual operating budget. The Papio NRD District includes all of Sarpy, Douglas, Washington and Dakota counties, plus the eastern 60% of Burt and Thurston counties.

 

New Board Members Sworn in at Papio NRD

Left to right: Tim McCormick, Chairperson Jim Thompson, and Kevyn Sopinski

Two recently-elected members of the Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District Board of Directors were sworn in at last night’s board meeting.

Tim McCormick, owner of a bridge and heavy civil construction company, now officially represents Subdistrict 4 following the retirement of long-time board member John Conley.

Kevyn Sopinski, a financial adviser, serves Subdistrict 10. Sopinski replaces David Klug who chose not to run for re-election to focus on election to the Sarpy County Board of Commissioners.

Another new face will join the Papio NRD Board of Directors in February, as the board announced the resignation of Director Patrick Leahy of Subdistrict 7 due to Leahy’s move to a residence located outside of Subdistrict 7.  Those interested in applying to fill the remainder of Leahy’s term can find more information here.

McCormick and Sopinski join current members of the Papio NRD Board of Directors: Ted Japp (Subdistrict 1), Fred Conley (Subdistrict 2), Larry Bradley (Subdistrict 3), Richard Tesar (Subdistrict 5), Jim Thompson (Subdistrict 6), Mark Gruenwald (Subdistrict 9), and John B. Wiese (Subdistrict 11).

New Faces on Papio NRD Board of Directors

 

 

The Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District Board of Directors will see some new faces this year following the 2018 General Election.

Tim McCormick, owner of a bridge and heavy civil construction company, takes over John Conley’s seat in Subdistrict 4. Conley retired after serving 19 years on the board.

Kevyn Sopinski, a financial adviser, replaces David Klug in Subdistrict 10, who chose not to run for re-election to focus on election to the Sarpy County Board of Commissioners.

Longtime incumbent Tim Fowler, who has represented Subdistrict 8 since 2003, will hold onto his seat after defeating challenger Jim Kusek.

Incumbents Jim Thompson in Subdistrict 6 and Fred Conley in Subdistrict 2 ran unopposed.

Additional members of the Papio NRD Board of Directors include Ted Japp (Subdistrict 1), Larry Bradley (Subdistrict 3), Richard Tesar (Subdistrict 5), Patrick Leahy (Subdistrict 7), Mark Gruenwald (Subdistrict 8), and John B. Wiese (Subdistrict 11).

The Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District Board of Directors is an 11-member board that sets policy for Papio NRD programs and projects and oversees a $72 million annual operating budget.

Elkhorn River Access Sites to Close For Season on November 1

Elkhorn River rats…last chance!

The Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District will close all access sites to the Elkhorn River for the season on November 1st. While the Elkhorn Crossing access site closed early for the season for renovations, the West Maple Road and Graske Crossing access sites will close the morning of November 1st.

The access sites will reopen April 1st, 2019.

 

Calling All Creative, Nature-loving Students – It’s NACD Poster Contest Time

 

Aren’t these posters incredible…and inspiring? They were drawn by K-12 students who illustrated their love of natural resources in previous NACD poster contests for the chance to have their art displayed as part of a national conservation outreach initiative and win monetary prizes.

2018 NACD Poster Contest

Get your colored pencils and crayons ready! We are now accepting entries for the 2018 NACD Poster Contest. This year’s theme is “Watersheds – Our Water, Our Home.”

The Nebraska Association of Resources Districts (NARD) along with Nebraska’s Natural Resources Districts provide K-12 students with an opportunity to express their thoughts about water, soil, and related natural resource issues.

Interested? Of course you are. For details at-a-glance regarding the poster contest, the blue infographic provides a quick run-down. For more in-depth information, such as contest rules, filling out the entry form (which you definitely want to do), etc., please do the following:

How to Enter the NACD Post Contest

 – Fill out the entry form on the NARD website. 

 – Attach the completed entry form to the back of your poster (tape, glue, staples, etc).

 – Mail your poster to:

Austen Hill, Education Programs Supervisor
Papio NRD
8901 S. 154th Street
Omaha, NE 68138

Better hurry, the contest entry deadline is November 14th.

 

 

West Papio Trail Expansion Ready for Cycling Action

New three-mile bike trail connects west Omaha to Bellevue area –
a milestone 25 years in the making

On October 2, 2018, the Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District and the Cities of Omaha and La Vista celebrated the grand opening of a new three-mile stretch of the West Papio Trail in Millard that links west Omaha to the Bellevue area. The new segment creates a 130-mile network through Douglas and Sarpy Counties that’s been more than 25 years in the making.

The West Papio Trail addition connects the existing trail at 108th & Giles Road to the new Lumberyard District at 132nd & Q Street. While technically small in size, the connection provides tremendous recreational opportunities with historical significance by connecting Millard and west Omaha to La Vista, Papillion, and Bellevue – stretching down to the Missouri River by a continuous dedicated trail corridor.

“This regionally significant and boundary-breaking project provides expanded recreation, active transportation for Omaha metro residents, and increased access to natural resources,” said Eric Williams, Papio NRD Natural Resources Planner. “The Papio-Missouri Natural Resources District was fortunate to partner with the Cities of La Vista and Omaha in the design and construction of this milestone project,” said Williams.

“Through the partnership of the Papio-Missouri River Natural Resource District and the City of La Vista, we are all very excited to announce the completion of the West Papio Trail extension that links West Omaha and Bellevue,” said Brook Bench, City of Omaha Parks and Recreation Director. “This trail segment will allow for more recreation in the community and will serve as an active avenue for transportation for Omaha metro residents.”

“Today we celebrate the extension of the West Papio Trail which connects with La Vista,” said La Vista Mayor Douglas Kindig. “Projects such as this one are not possible without partners and cooperation between different entities. The completion of this project will improve the quality of life and provide a valuable amenity to our citizens,” said Kindig.

The trail expansion follows the original stretch of the former Union Pacific transcontinental railroad. The Papio NRD was able to restore all of the old bridges that will now be used as trail bridges. National “rails to trails” efforts are focused on reusing abandoned railroad property for multi-use paths, allowing long, flat corridors to become community focus points and preserving the history of railroad infrastructure.

As the most well-known railroad in America, this new section of trail highlights the natural geographic features, incorporates transportation and commerce history, and connects communities just as the railroad did nearly 150 years ago.

The West Papio Trail expansion project cost $3.2 million, with the Cities of Omaha and La Vista each contributing 20 percent of the cost.

 

 

Papio-Missouri River NRD Board Approves Proposed 2019 Budget

Decrease in Property Tax Levy

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 9/14/18
Contact: Jennifer Stauss Story
Cell Phone: 402-960-5329 

Omaha, NE: At its September 13th meeting in Dakota City, the Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District Board of Directors voted to approve the Fiscal Year 2019 general operating budget that includes a decrease in the Papio NRD property tax levy.

“We are proud the District’s property tax levy will decrease again this year,” said John Winkler, general manager of the Papio NRD. “For 13 out of 14 years, the District has either decreased or kept the tax levy the same. We work diligently to save local taxpayers millions of dollars and take seriously our responsibility in doing so in a transparent manner.” said Winkler.

The FY 2019 budget calls for a property tax levy of .037594 per $100 of assessed valuation, which means a homeowner with property valued at $100,000 would pay a total of $37.59 in property taxes next year to support NRD projects. The budget calls for an estimated $24 million in revenue from the NRD’s property tax levy. The total operating budget is estimated at $72.2 million.

The Papio-Missouri River NRD’s property tax levy amounts to less than two percent of the total property tax bill for residents living within the District’s six-county area. The levy is based on an estimated 5.2 percent increase in valuations across the district, which includes all of Sarpy, Douglas, Washington and Dakota counties, plus the eastern 60% of Burt and Thurston counties.

 

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Papio NRD Budget Process Transparency for Public Education

In the District’s continuing efforts to enhance transparency, responsiveness to its constituents, and to educate stakeholders and the general public about the intricacies of the budgeting process, John Winkler, general manager of the Papio NRD, reviewed and provided the following feedback on the Nebraska Taxpayers for Freedom’s (NTF) Issue Paper.

Papio NRD Addresses Organization’s Budget Analysis for Public Benefit

After a more detailed review of the “findings” of the NTF analysis management thought it prudent to directly respond and correct some of the inaccuracies and misconceptions the issue paper contains.  I for one very much appreciate the input the District receives not only on the budget but any project or program we undertake.  The District consistently strives to be the most transparent, responsible and responsive government entity not only in the State of Nebraska but in the entire country.   In order to achieve these lofty goals it is incumbent upon the District to ensure accurate information is presented at all times.  Furthermore, in the future we will seek to establish additional proactive strategies to educate the public in not only general public budgeting process but the internal budgeting processes of the District as well.

CORE Missions

One of the “criticisms” of the NTF analysis is the District “over budgets” revenue every year and over spends on items outside of its CORE responsibility. Fact: The NRD has 12 statutory CORE Missions given to it by the Nebraska Legislature.  These CORE missions are broad and encompassing to protect life, property, wildlife, the environment, the economy, our natural resources and the very future of our communities.  Every District project and program is authorized and funded by an elected Board of Directors and has a direct link to the agencies 12 CORE missions and statutory responsibilities.  The District historically does not spend all of the funds allocated in the annual budget.  There are several factors that impact the expenditure of funds any given year.  A great majority of District projects and programs are multi-year efforts and are reliant upon factors outside of the Districts control.

For example, District projects and programs often experience weather delays, delays in securing state and federal permits, delays caused by utilities or other conflicts, delays caused by partner agencies and many other unforeseen events can delay the completion of projects which ultimately delays the expenditure of funds.

Cash On Hand

One of the most perplexing NTF criticisms is the District’s cash on hand is too large and fuels increases in the budget and an increase in property taxation. Fact: These statements could not be more inaccurate and are possibly generated by a general lack of understanding of the budgeting process and public financing.  The cash on hand at the end of each fiscal year does not contribute to increased budgets or increases in taxes, actually it is quite the opposite.  Any cash on hand from the previous budget year is transferred to the next budget year to be utilized as a beginning balance, before tax requirement are calculated, for those projects and programs that did not get completed the prior fiscal year. In fact the project reserve fund actually contributes to a reduction in the required property tax requirement as these funds are the first to be budgeted/allocated in the budget process.  Simply, the unused funds are carried over from one fiscal year to the next and utilized as a baseline in the next budget; the budget doesn’t start from zero, especially in light of the fact that many District projects take years to construct.  It is stated in the NTF analysis that 33.8 million was over budgeted from last fiscal year and only 55% utilized.  Obviously, when the District budget funds for a project or program it expects to expend those funds that fiscal year, however, due to the delays pointed out earlier many projects get delayed from one year to the next.  Once again, this unused revenue funds are carried over to the next fiscal year as a beginning balance for that project or program which did not get completed and many times no additional new revenue is needed.

Generated Revenue

The NTF indicated that the NRD spent 110.9% of property tax budgeted from General Fund an “embarrassing amount”.  Fact: These funds are not property tax funds but is revenue generated through lease payments, fees, donations, and other miscellaneous revenue.  In fact these funds assist in reducing the property tax requirements of District taxpayers and the District has done an outstanding job maintaining and increasing revenue streams from leases, camping fees, user fees etc.  Another fact is the District only collected 83.5% of anticipated revenue due to delays in project completion or progress.  As only one third of the District’s total revenue is property taxes the District does an extremely commendable job securing additional revenue streams that greatly limit the property tax requirements of District constituents.

Budgeting for Projects

The NTF analysis called out two expense accounts that were over budget and others that were “woefully” under budget, which in their opinion pointed to “poor budgeting”.  Fact: The two expense accounts over 100% of the budget were projects that were ahead of schedule and additional work was able to be completed in the fiscal year which not only adds increased value to those we serve but saves money by completing the project earlier.

Health Insurance

The NTF analysis identifies the 5% health insurance premium increase as a need for employees to pay more of their health insurance costs.  Fact: The NRD health plan is a self-funded plan administered by the NRD’s and its Directors and employees.  The NRD health plan has experienced record low increases in health insurance premiums over the last 7 years and is anywhere from 30 to 50 percent below market premium increases compared to other health insurance plans each and every year.  I am a member of the NARD Benefits Committee and steps are taken consistently to keep premium costs down and to spread any increases to employees and employer.  The committee recently raised the prescription drug co-pays for employees and is looking at other plan modifications to save money.  This health insurance plan has been a huge savings to the taxpayers of the District compared to other entities.

Line Item Designation

The NTF analysis indicated that several line items under Special Planning/Engineering/Recycling are not defined clearly.  Fact: All Special Planning/Engineering/Recycling are clearly designated on page 5 and 43 of the budget.  Our budget worksheets are one of the most detailed and transparent budgeting documents in the State of Nebraska.

Carryover Funds

The NTF analysis identifies “identical amounts” for office carpeting and office painting appear in the last fiscal year, so these expense carryovers boost the property tax requirement. Fact:  As discussed earlier carryover funds do not boost property tax requirements and these funds were carried over because the leases with USDA, NRCS, FSA and the Corps of Engineers were being reviewed for work space requirements and thus the lease not finalized.  In fact, the District will be receiving increase lease fees and internal work efficiencies by utilizing current space more efficiently and effectively thus saving even more taxpayer money.

Operating Reserve Funds

The NTF analysis assumes the cash on hand funds and operating reserve boost the property tax load and resembles “a slush fund”.  Fact: The operating reserve is less than one month of District operating expenses and is woefully underfunded compared to similar operating reserve funds like the City of Omaha, Douglas County, State of Nebraska and every school district in the State of Nebraska.  Like any “rainy day” fund the operating reserve should contain 3 to 6 months of operating expenses.  The other assumptions of cash on hand and carryover funds has been explained.

Southern Sarpy Watershed Partnership

The NTF analysis states the Southern Sarpy Watershed Partnership continually shows a bloated reserve.  Fact: The SSWP has a large cash balance because of private development fees that have been collected by the SSWP partners and distributed to the District.  The majority of these funds were paid by the new Facebook Data Center.  The collection of these private fees further reduces the burden on the District taxpayers.

USACE Re-study

The NTF analysis states there is not “justification” for the $500,000 for the USACE Papillion Creek Watershed re-study.  Fact:  The USACE re-study is a 50-50 cost share federal study of the Papillion Creek Watershed which upon completion could open the door to tens of millions of dollars of federal funding to complete the Papillion Creek Watershed Plan.  The study was discussed multiple times and approved by the NRD Board of Directors at a public meeting and was extensively covered in the media and at past Board meetings.

Information Support Programs

The NTF analysis states the information support programs “over budgeted” the last fiscal year.  Fact: Information support programs were not completed last fiscal year due to the retirement of Emmett Eger, Program Manager, and the subsequent hiring of a new Program Manager and other department personnel.  These unused funds were carried over into this year’s budget and will be redirected to new and updated information and education programs.

Omaha Levee Certification and Western Sarpy Clear Creek

The NTF analysis states the Omaha Levee Certification and Western Sarpy Clear Creek was “over budgeted”.  Fact:  The City of Omaha Levee Certification is authorized and budgeted for $500,000 a year up to a total of $2,000,000 maximum District contribution.  Omaha simply did not spend the full $500,000 budgeted last fiscal year as they were unable to complete as much work as they wanted and thus they were not able to request the full reimbursement from the NRD.  Therefore, $500,000 is budgeted again this fiscal year and the unspent funds are rolled over into the next fiscal year and all of the maximums remain in place. It was anticipated the NRD would need to reimburse the Corps of Engineers $700,000 for the Western Sarpy Clear Creek Levee Project expenses, however, due to NRD staff’s professional relationships and competent negotiation skills the $700,000 payment was not required.  Consequently, this saved the taxpayers of the District $700,000 in property tax funds.

Flanagan Lake

The NTF analysis was “disturbed” that funds were budgeted for Flanagan Lake so soon after completion.  Fact: Flanagan Lake was recently completed and opened in July of 2018, however, due to the amount of precipitation and extreme rain events that occurred this year some of the seeding and other erosion control measures didn’t have time to properly establish, consequently, those erosion issues must be addressed to properly protect the public from danger and the structure from further damage.

Water Quality Basins

The NTF analysis questioned the budgeting of funds to dredge an SID Lake.  Fact:  The NRD has an established program that was approved and funded by the Board of Directors to allow municipalities including SID’s to apply for cost share funds to dredge small Water Quality Basins.  These Water Quality Basins protect main stem flood control reservoirs from silt and pollutants.  The continued functionality of Water Quality Basins will ultimately save the taxpayer money as the main stem reservoirs will not need as much future maintenance.

State Grants

The NTF analysis was disappointed in the amount of state grants that were or weren’t collected the last fiscal year.  Fact: Since the NRD just received federal permits on a number of large projects, now work can begin to construct those projects.  State grant funds are only reimbursed to the District when qualified and eligible project costs are performed and those costs are incurred by the District.  State grant funds are held by the state until the work is completed, the state is invoiced and the work is verified as being completed by the state.  No state funds were lost, the work and reimbursement is simply delayed.

Construction Bid

The NTF analysis believes the construction bid on the new equipment shed is too expensive.  Fact:  A competitive bid was solicited on the equipment shed and the Board of Directors approved the lowest and best bid.  This shed will ultimately save the taxpayers of the District money and it will protect District equipment and extend the life of that equipment.

Development Fees

The NTF analysis identifies that developer fees collected in the PCWP are not meeting estimates from nine years ago.  Fact:  PCWP development fees have lagged from original estimates, however, fees are starting to increase over the last few fiscal years as the housing market booms and development races forward.  Development fees will be addressed in the upcoming five year PCWP Plan update.

The District appreciates the positive points outlined in the NTF Issue Paper and will review and take under advisement the NTF suggestions.  Perhaps in the future District staff can engage the NTF to discuss public budgeting and the internal NRD budgeting process in greater detail.   I believe a lot of these concerns are based on misinformation, a general disagreement or opposition to District projects like reservoir construction or a general lack of understanding of NRD budgeting processes and techniques.

 

Respectfully,

 

John G. Winkler
General Manager
Papio-Missouri River NRD

 

 

 

 

Papio NRD Announces Winners of “Dam Fun Contest”

Contest celebrated the grand opening of Flanagan Lake
with the Omaha community

The Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District today announced the winners of the city-wide “Dam Fun Contest” it launched in celebration of the grand opening of Flanagan Lake in June.

More than 200 Flanagan Lake-goers entered the photo contest for their chance to win recreation-themed prizes donated by sponsors. Members of the public determined the winners by voting for their favorite photo, casting more than 11,000 total votes. The top-voted photos in the following categories (kayak, Trek bike, fishing, gift card) are the contest grand prize winners:

 

“Dam Fun Contest” Winners

  • Perception Hook 105 Angler Kayak – Brian Harmon
  • 2018 Trek FX 2 Hybrid Bicycle – Rob Morrison
  • Two Scheels Outfitters Pfleuger President Tournament Combo, Scheels 50 Super Cooler, Fins & Fur Outdoor Adventure Guide gift certificate for ½ day guided fishing trip for two with guide Steve Satra – Nick Hummel
  • $100 SCHEELS gift certificates – Adriana Guzman, Kari Marcley, Heather Steffen, Beth Pietzmeier, and Adam Denney

Sponsors for the prizes included FYRA Engineering, HDR, Inc., Olsson Associates, McArdle Grading Company, and Cabelas.

“Most people don’t know that Flanagan Lake is a flood control reservoir designed to protect the lives and property of Omaha citizens from floods,” said John Winkler, general manager of the Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District. “To celebrate the public safety and recreational opportunities Flanagan Lake provides, we launched the “Dam Fun Contest” to engage with the community in a fun and educational way.” 

Rob Morrison, winner of the Trek bike, says he has big plans in store for his new wheels. “I can’t wait to repeat my ‘half-century’ ride – over 50 miles to Flanagan Lake and back,” says Morrison. “Thank you to the Papio NRD and sponsors involved in this contest, as well as all the people that voted for me. I would never have a bike like this without all of you!”

Flanagan Lake, near 168th and Fort Streets, is Omaha’s latest flood control reservoir in the Papillion Creek Watershed. It provides flood protection for Omaha citizens and 730 acres of recreational benefits, such as a 220-acre lake, five-mile hiking/biking trail, and park and green space.

Papio NRD Board of Directors Elects Officers

Media Contact:
Jennifer Stauss Story
402-315-1708
jstaussstory@papionrd.org

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 27, 2018

Omaha, NE – At its July 12, 2018 meeting, the Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District Board of Directors elected officers to serve the District for the coming year (July 2018 – July 2019).

Jim Thompson in Subdistrict 1 has been elected to serve a one-year term as NRD Board Chairperson. Thompson replaces David Klug, who chose not to run for re-election as he focuses on election to the Sarpy County Board of Commissioners.

Fred Conley in Subdistrict 2 was re-elected Vice Chairperson.

Re-elected Treasurer is John Conley in Subdistrict 4. Conley will serve as Treasurer until his term ends in December. The Board of Directors will hold elections for Conley’s successor shortly thereafter. Tim Fowler in Subdistrict 8 was elected to serve as Assistant Treasurer.

Richard Tesar in Subdistrict 5 was re-elected as both Secretary and Nebraska Association of Resources District’s (NARD) Director. Fowler was elected NARD’s Alternate Director.

The Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District Board of Directors is an 11-member board that sets policy for Papio NRD programs and projects and oversees a $67 million annual budget.

About the Papio NRD

The Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District is one of 23 Natural Resources Districts (NRDs) in Nebraska. NRDs are multi-county governments organized along major watersheds with broad responsibilities to protect and enhance our state’s natural resources. The Papio NRD includes all of Sarpy, Douglas, Washington, and Dakota counties, plus the eastern 60% of Burt and Thurston counties. Learn more about the Papio NRD at www.papionrd.org.

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