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A massive project to bring a sewer system to the southern portion of Sarpy County moved forward this week when the project's agency approved a $30 million funding source.

Sarpy County — Nebraska’s fastest-growing county — can maximize the benefits for residents and businesses through careful planning and coordination. Sarpy’s initiative to develop utilities in the southern half of the county provides an encouraging example of such foresight and collaboration.

Economic and residential development in that part of Sarpy County has long been stymied by a ridge line that prevents northward sewer flows. Municipalities and the county government in 2017 joined together to form a regional sewer authority, under legislation from State Sen. Sue Crawford of Bellevue.

The entity’s sewer expansion work, projected at $220 million, will unfold gradually over the course of decades, and at this initial stage, these governmental partners are approaching the work the right way. They’re proceeding methodically in analyzing the details, deciding on practical strategies and taking incremental steps.

To shield taxpayers from an undue burden, the regional authority recently decided to draw on funds that the Omaha Public Power District pays to local governments in Sarpy in lieu of taxes. These funds, up to $30 million, will go toward covering the first phase of sewer infrastructure construction near 72nd Street and Capehart Road, and near Springfield, The World-Herald’s Reece Ristau reports.

After developers have built the first houses and businesses, sewer-related user and connection fees will cover the remaining $13 million cost of the utility work, according to Dan Hoins, Sarpy County’s administrator.

In light of its strong growth, Sarpy County has a particular need to remove obstacles to economic development in the county’s southern region. As the phased construction of sewer infrastructure proceeds, the resulting growth should provide expanded employment and business opportunities, as well as a broader tax base and increased revenues for schools.

Sarpy’s gradual, coordinated approach is a sound strategy to fulfill that long-term goal.

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