Sarpy County Board to look at Project Oasis funds -
Published Monday, September 9, 2013 at 1:30 am / Updated at 10:37 pm
Springfield data center
Sarpy County Board to look at Project Oasis funds
Sarpy County budget
What: Sarpy County 2014 budget hearing

When: 3 p.m. Tuesday

Where: County Administration Building, 1210 Golden Gate Dr. in Papillion

Sarpy County officials expect to have a development agreement for a new data center near Springfield ready when the County Board meets Sept. 17.

The board meets Tuesday to consider the 2014 budget, meaning it could approve infrastructure spending for the $200 million data center, code-named Project Oasis, before the agreement is actually in hand.

The data center would sit on the southwest corner of 144th Street and Schram Road. The 140-acre parcel was rezoned to light industrial last month, and the Sarpy County Economic Development Corp., which is brokering the deal, has an option on the land.

The budget includes a pass-through account to hold a $750,000 state infrastructure grant for the project, as well as spending on roads and sewers for the site. The county's share of the infrastructure costs — extending a mile and a half of sewer line and paving Schram Road from 144th to 150th Streets — would be about $1.4 million.

Even if the deal fell through, board Chairman Jim Warren said, appropriating the money doesn't mean it has to be spent.

“The gun's loaded, but there's still no determination as to whether you pull the trigger,” he said.

As is typical with large economic development projects, the name of the company behind the project has been a closely held secret. Planning documents describe it only as a “Fortune 200” company.

County Administrator Mark Wayne, who is board treasurer for the Sarpy County Economic Development Corp., signed the nondisclosure agreement for the county. But only the handful of people who are working on the county's development agreement are in the loop.

Except for the company's identity, Wayne said the board has been fully briefed on the project. Board member Tom Richards of Bellevue — who manages government and community relations for the Omaha Public Power District, which is building a substation next to the site — is one of the few county officials who knows the company's identity.

Warren, Don Kelly of Papillion and Jim Thompson of Springfield — who represents the district that would hold the data center — do not. Brenda Carlisle of La Vista didn't return messages for comment.

Warren and Thompson said they didn't want or need to know the company's name. They said it's enough to know a major company is proposing to bring jobs and tax revenue to the county.

But Kelly, who also is on the Sarpy County Economic Development Corp. board, said he'd like to have had more information on the project sooner.

“I'm sure there are good reasons” for the secrecy, he said. “Companies are really nervous about letting out business intelligence. But the board has to be involved from initiation rather than at the tail end.”

As the project grew to fruition, officials warned that the deal would fall through if the name leaked. The Sarpy County Attorney's Office declined to provide The World-Herald with some public officials' emails and correspondence related to the project, arguing that the company's name is a trade secret.

Such secrecy is common on these kinds of deals, said Karla Ewert, spokeswoman for the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce.

Companies that request the chamber's help in maintaining anonymity do so for a variety of reasons, Ewert said. Perhaps they're bidding on land in other cities — Altoona, Iowa, has been mentioned as a possible competitor in this deal — or they have special security needs, or they're a publicly traded company, so announcing their intentions before an agreement is in place could move the stock price.

“Whatever it is, we honor that,” she said. “It's a trust issue. They know they can come to the chamber on their project.”

Contact the writer: Cody Winchester    |   402-444-1216    |  

Cody Winchester is a metro-area watchdog reporter. He covers Douglas and Sarpy Counties.

19-year-old arrested in connection with March shooting
17 senators in Nebraska Legislature hit their (term) limits
Keystone XL pipeline backers blast 'political expediency' as foes hail ruling to delay decision
29-year-old Omahan arrested for 22nd time in Lincoln
Nebraska senators to study tax issues over break
Portion of Saddle Creek Road closed after water main break
Teenager arrested after woman's purse is snatched outside Omaha store
Police identify 21-year-old shot in ankle near 30th, W Streets
Cult murderer's death row appeal denied, but execution in limbo
Beau McCoy strikes Obama doll in TV ad; Democrats are not happy
Police: Slaying of woman in Ralston apartment likely over drugs
Interstate construction to cause lane shifts, closings in Omaha area
Kelly: A California university president returns to her Nebraska roots on Ivy Day
Omahan charged in fatal shooting in Benson neighborhood
Friday's attendance dips at Millard West after bathroom threat
High school slam poets don't just recite verses, 'they leave their hearts beating on the stage'
Crack ring's leaders join others in prison as a result of Operation Purple Haze
Haze in area comes from Kansas, Oklahoma
Man taken into custody in domestic dispute
Omaha judge reprimanded for intervening in peer attorney's DUI case
Intoxicated man with pellet gun climbs billboard's scaffold; is arrested
Police seek public's help in finding an armed man
Saturday forecast opens window for gardening; Easter egg hunts look iffy on Sunday
Database: How much did Medicare pay your doctor?
Last day of 2014 Legislature: Praise, passage of a last few bills and more on mountain lions
< >
Kelly: A California university president returns to her Nebraska roots on Ivy Day
The main speaker at today's Ivy Day celebration at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is a college president who grew up roping calves and earned her Ph.D. at the prestigious Oxford University in England.
Breaking Brad: Stuck in a claw machine? You get no Easter candy
I know of one kid in Lincoln who will be receiving a lump of coal from the Easter Bunny, just as soon as he's extricated from that bowling alley claw machine.
Breaking Brad: Mountain lion season's over, but the bunny's fair game!
Thursday was the last day of a Nebraska Legislature session. Before leaving town, legislators passed a bill to hold a lottery to hunt the Easter Bunny.
Breaking Brad: At least my kid never got stuck inside a claw machine
We need a new rule in Lincoln. If your kid is discovered inside the claw machine at a bowling alley, you are forever barred from being nominated for "Mother of the Year."
Breaking Brad: How many MECA board members can we put in a luxury suite?
As a stunt at the Blue Man Group show, MECA board members are going to see how many people they can stuff into one luxury suite.
Deadline Deal thumbnail
The Jaipur in Rockbrook Village
Half Off Fine Indian Cuisine & Drinks! $15 for Dinner, or $7 for Lunch
Buy Now
< >
Omaha World-Herald Contests
Enter for a chance to win great prizes.
OWH Store: Buy photos, books and articles
Buy photos, books and articles
Travel Snaps Photo
Going on Vacation? Take the Omaha World-Herald with you and you could the next Travel Snaps winner.
Click here to donate to Goodfellows
The 2011 Goodfellows fund drive provided holiday meals to nearly 5,000 families and their children, and raised more than $500,000 to help families in crisis year round.
Want to get World-Herald stories sent directly to your home or work computer? Sign up for's News Alerts and you will receive e-mails with the day's top stories.
Can't find what you need? Click here for site map »