- Associated Press - Thursday, July 9, 2015

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - A retired couple in Omaha is resisting efforts by the school district to buy their home and the house they own next door.

The district wants Pam and Ernie Jackson’s land, along with 10 other properties, as part of its plans for a new high school, the Omaha World-Herald (https://bit.ly/1Craxe7 ) reported.

The Jacksons, who have lived in their home for 20 years, have retained an attorney and posted, “OPS, Hands Off Our Home,” signs in their front lawn. They want the district to conduct a feasibility or traffic study to determine if buying their land is really necessary.

“We’re not against progress, but we just think this isn’t progress, when you have to uproot our families and our homes,” Pam Jackson told the school board on Monday night.

The couple’s home is right in front of a traffic light, and they were told that the district wants to use that traffic signal and their property to create a driveway for a future high school.

District officials met with nearby homeowners last month to discuss the project, land negotiations and the possibility of eminent domain. The 10 other properties are a mix of residential and commercial sites, and district officials have said that no one else has raised objections.

The district said it would buy the properties at fair market value and would pay for some relocation expenses.

The school board on Monday appeared reluctant to use the threat of seizing property through eminent domain. Board members held off on giving district attorneys and appraisers the authority to pursue eminent domain without coming to the board for permission first.

“I’m personally not comfortable with putting out there that we will go with eminent domain without having a step of returning back to the board,” board member Lacey Merica said.

The district budgeted in a voter-approved $421 million bond program to purchase land and design two new high schools. To build them, at an estimated cost of $60.4 million each, voters would have to approve a second bond issue. The newspaper says that vote could happen in May 2017.

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Information from: Omaha World-Herald, https://www.omaha.com

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