Papillion annexation

More than 3,200 people who have long resided in unincorporated Sarpy County communities can soon call themselves “Papillionaires.”

The Papillion City Council approved the largest annexation package in the city’s history this week, according to Mayor David Black. The annexation, valued by the city at an estimated $345 million, will add 1,265 households to the city and bring the population to about 23,600.

A handful of subdivisions and sanitary and improvement districts were included in the annexation, including Eagle Hills, Eagle Ridge, Eagle Crest, Riverchase and Walnut Creek Estates.

Black said the historic annexation is the result of good long-term planning by the city. A year ago, Papillion annexed the Cottonwood subdivision, which paved the way this year for the city to annex the various Eagle communities. By law, a city can only annex areas that connect to its borders.

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“Some of those (SIDs) have been out there almost 30 years,” Black told The World-Herald on Wednesday. “So, in some sense, they’re already part of Papillion.”

Annexation, Black said, makes that official.

The council voted 6-2 on Tuesday to approve the annexation, which will take effect July 31. Councilmen Jason Gaines and Steve Sunde voted against it.

Gaines told The World-Herald that he voted against the annexation because he disagrees with the amount of debt the city will incur. He said that while he’s supportive of growth, he wanted the city to annex only SIDs that would be profitable from day one.

“I can’t tell you with 100 percent certainty that last night’s annexation was responsible,” he said.

Both Sunde and Gaines had concerns about a 3.1% water and sewage rate hike previously approved by the council that they believe was implemented to compensate for some of the debt the city will incur with the annexation package.

Councilman Gene Jaworski countered that water rates were going to rise “with or without the annexation,” while Councilwoman Lu Ann Kluch argued that residents of the SIDs have already more than paid their share for water. Rates for people who live outside the city but use the city’s water are double those for people within the city’s boundaries.

This round of annexations was met with seemingly little public opposition. Two residents spoke at a public hearing about the matter earlier this month. Both were leaders of their respective SIDs and supported the proposal.

The annexation notably includes a subdivision near Schram Road and Nebraska Highway 50 that will eventually add another data center to the area’s cluster of such facilities.

There’s speculation that a planned data center by Google could be behind that project, called Project Wizard, but local leaders and Google officials have remained quiet on the data center’s location.

Cities consider a number of factors when determining whether a community is prime for annexation, including debt the city will inherit and the degree to which operational expenses — such as road maintenance and staff needs — will increase.

In this case, Papillion will hire two additional police officers and two public works employees.

The city expects to inherit $7.6 million in debt from the annexation.

This report includes material from Eric Taylor of the World-Herald News Service.

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reece.ristau@owh.com, 402-444-1127, @reecereports

Reece covers Sarpy County for The World-Herald. He's a born-and-raised Nebraskan and UNL grad who spent time in Oklahoma and Virginia before returning home. Follow him on Twitter @reecereports. Phone: 402-444-1127

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