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Reporter

Nancy Hicks reports on Lincoln city government, but she’s been following the leaders of local and state government for more than 40 years.

The City Council will take on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals issue with a public hearing Monday on a resolution that asks Congress and the president to protect from deportation the young adults brought to the country illegally as children.

It’s not the first time the council has weighed in on a state or federal issue, though it doesn’t happen very often.

Seventeen years ago, former Councilman Terry Werner sponsored a resolution putting the council on record as supporting a death penalty moratorium.

After a three-hour public hearing, the council voted 4-3, along party lines, to support the resolution calling for the state Legislature to stop executions.

But then-Mayor Don Wesely, a Democrat, vetoed the resolution.

Wesely, a death penalty opponent who had supported repeal of the death penalty as a state senator, said his veto was directed at the precedent set by the resolution.

Allowing the council to weigh in on noncity issues raises “the potential to divert the council from its official duties and could unnecessarily divide this community,” Wesely said in his veto message.

Current council members expect a lengthy public hearing on the DACA resolution Monday afternoon.

Republicans have already said they don’t believe the council should offer advice on noncity issues and have accused Councilwoman Jane Raybould of using the resolution for publicity in her U.S. Senate race against Republican Deb Fischer.

Raybould and Councilman Bennie Shobe, both Democrats, are sponsoring the resolution.

It calls upon Congress to protect the youths from deportation. If that doesn't happen, it encourages President Donald Trump to reimplement the DACA program to allow the immigrants to receive renewable two-year periods of deferred action from deportation along with eligibility for a work permit.

Bumpouts on Ninth Street

It sounds like a horror movie — Bumpout on Ninth Street. And if you're a driver accustomed to multiple lanes of traffic as you head into the downtown area on Ninth Street, the bumpouts, or curb extensions, will initially be a frustration.

The six lanes on Ninth Street narrow to five at Q Street, in front of Barry's Bar & Grill. And it narrows to four lanes past P Street, where the first of the bumpouts is in place in front of the Graduate Hotel.

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Curb

The west curb now juts out into Ninth Street at P Street near the Graduate Hotel.

If you're a pedestrian, the bumpouts — which extend the sidewalk across a former traffic lane — mean you have fewer lanes to walk across.

The city has looked at a number of methods to help bridge the divide between central downtown and the Haymarket since a 2005 report identified the need to knit the two together, says Hallie Salem, with the Urban Development Department.

The bumpouts (or curb extensions, elephant ears, curb build-outs, curb bulges, nodes) do this by creating a shorter walking distance across busy Ninth Street. They also mean less walk time on the lights and more drive time for vehicles.

Counts show traffic in the far-west lanes of Ninth Street is significantly lower than other lanes and they were often used for turning into the Haymarket or onto the Harris Overpass, Salem wrote in an email on the subject. 

So the city is reducing the crossing distance for pedestrians through the use of curb extensions, Salem said.

Construction of the nodes is expected to be complete this month.

There are also future plans to narrow the walk across P Street at the Ninth and 10th street intersections. The plans for City Centre, a high-rise apartment, retail and parking complex expected to replace the Journal Star office building, also call for nodes extending into P Street.

Inheritance built county bridge

County Engineer Pam Dingman had to close a bridge along Martell Road last month, after recent storms further hollowed out areas behind the bridge abutment.

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The bridge, which serves an average of 36 vehicles a day, is one of 14 closed bridges in the county — 10 of them closed indefinitely.

The bridge was built in 1962 for about $6,700, money that came from the estate of Jesse Betzer, a farmer who left money to the county specifically to build bridges.

His money was used for two bridges, Dingman recently told Lancaster County commissioners.

The Betzer Memorial Bridge might be replaced with a box culvert, the least-expensive bridge option. But even a box culvert rarely costs less than $100,000 to $150,000 these days, she said.

And it will take 18 to 24 months to get a replacement in place, and that’s if there are no environmental or historical issues.

Vote on Railyard TIF expected

The City Council will weigh in on the change in the tax-increment financing contract that would allow the Railyard owners to close the Public Market, an area reserved for companies that sell Nebraska products.

The city attorney’s office originally said only the West Haymarket Joint Public Agency had to vote on the change in the TIF agreement and the mayor could make the decision on behalf of the city.

Last month the JPA approved the changes, which allow the Railyard owner to open up that area to more businesses.

Owners of the Railyard, across the street from Pinnacle Bank Arena, are repaying the JPA for that portion of the TIF bond related to the Public Market. 

But Councilman Jon Camp told the city law office he thought the council should also have to approve that change. After attorneys looked at the TIF contract more closely, they agreed.

Attorneys believed clauses generally included in TIF agreements give the mayor authority to make minor changes. However, one of those flexibility clauses did not get included in this particular agreement, according to City Attorney Jeff Kirkpatrick.

The council approved the original TIF agreement on the Railyard in 2012.  

Reach the writer at 402-473-7250 or nhicks@journalstar.com

On Twitter @LJSNancyHicks.

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