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Public works chief is ready for change
By Michael O'Connor, Omaha World-Herald

Omaha's next public works director said that even though he has worked for the city for nearly 30 years, he is prepared to change the way the city carries out street projects.

"I'm not locked into the old system," said Hank Vieregger, who will take over the position Jan. 1. "I hope to be very open to change."

Mayor Mike Fahey, who announced the appointment Tuesday, said he is confident that Vieregger will carry out a task force's recommendations for speeding up street construction.

"He has assured me he is on board," Fahey said.

Fahey said Vieregger has a strong record of public works management and his experience will be an asset.

Vieregger, 60, will replace Norm Jackman, who is resigning to take a job with Kirkham Michael Consulting Engineers.

The public works director is a key administrator at City Hall, overseeing such services as snow removal and street maintenance and construction.

Vieregger, who has worked for the city since 1977, said his immediate priority will be making sure that streets are cleared of snow this winter and that potholes are filled.

He said his overall priority will be carrying out the task force recommendations.

Those recommendations include offering contractors financial incentives to get street projects finished ahead of schedule and hitting them with penalties if they finish late.

Another recommendation calls for setting deadline dates for completing street work.

"I believe there is a place for all of the recommendations," Vieregger said.

He will be paid $97,695 in his new position.

Fahey said he has not promised Vieregger or other city department directors that they will keep their jobs if he wins election to a second term in May.

Fahey said those decisions will be made after the election.

Vieregger, who was born and raised in Omaha, worked 14 years in the construction and consulting industry before joining the city as an assistant street maintenance engineer.

He has held the positions of sewer maintenance engineer and construction engineer and was promoted to city engineer for transportation services in 2000.

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