Sarpy County professionals — young and old — had the chance to meet their mayors in a more personal setting last week.
The Sarpy County Chamber of Commerce’s Young Professionals group, hosted a panel discussion with mayors from Papillion, La Vista and Gretna on Sept. 2.
Bellevue Mayor Rita Sanders and Springfield Mayor Mike Dill were unable to attend.
This was the third year for the panel — which is the group’s main event — and nearly 60 people were registered.
It was a much larger crowd than last year, said Allison Malone, board chair of the Sarpy County Young Professionals.
“I think it’s intriguing to a wide range of people,” she said. “The mayors in Sarpy County are relevant for everyone. People get an opportunity in a more intimate setting to ask questions and hear about their community and their neighboring communities.”
La Vista Mayor Doug Kindig led off the panel by talking about some of La Vista’s biggest projects, many of which land in the city’s Southport West development.
“La Vista’s waited a long time for that development to show some progress,” he said. “We don’t control the land. We’re part of the partnership, but to be honest, it’s up to the developers and sometimes, you just have to be lucky.”
Kindig said construction of the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema is well underway with it expected to open in October.
He also addressed the “very strong rumor” of Costco building nearby, saying to expect to see some movement this fall with more in the spring and a hopeful opening around November next year.
City officials continue to work on bringing the Nebraska Multisport Complex to the area. The project is positive, but there’s still much work to be done, he said.
Kindig said his biggest frustration — and an ongoing project for the city — is 84th Street redevelopment.
Voters passed a half-cent sales tax to go toward the redevelopment last May and city officials continue to try acquiring land formerly occupied by a Wal-Mart.
“I want something done,” Kindig said. “It’s moved very slowly, but at the same time, our hands have been tied.”
Kindig also discussed the redevelopment of Thompson Creek. Rain has delayed the progress, but city officials hope to have the first phase complete this fall.
Papillion Mayor David Black started by encouraging young professionals to get involved in their respective communities through appointed commissions.
“If you’re looking for a way to get involved, you can make a huge impact on a local level,” he said. “Take that as an opportunity. It’s a great way to learn, too.”
Black also applauded the way Sarpy County’s cities work together in legislature.
“We also compete very hard,” Black said, particularly referencing La Vista. “We fight really hard. I want to win every time. [Kindig] wants to win every time. But we’ve got an attitude, if we lose, we want to lose to the other one. It’s kind of like two brothers fighting. It creates a pretty healthy relationship.”
With that competition comes disagreement, Black said, and that’s been seen lately in an annexation dispute between Papillion and Springfield.
“Conflict’s going to occur, but you still respect each other,” he said. “We have that within the five cities.”
Black also addressed Papillion’s growth, with roads being the biggest projects, specifically reconstruction of 84th Street. The project is scheduled for completion by Nov. 21.
Other road projects include work on the Washington Street bridge in downtown Papillion, work on Schram Road between 84th and 90th streets and the paving of 108th Street south of Papillion-La Vista South High School.
City officials are also ready to open the new, $12 million public works facility on Portal Road.
Black said this year’s budget keeps the levy flat, but includes upgrades for Sump Memorial Library and personnel increases for public works and police to prepare for the city’s future growth.
Another major project is a potential community center. A citizens committee has been meeting regularly to discuss the project. Eventually, the Papillion City Council will vote on whether to put an option for a half-cent sales tax on the May ballot.
Gretna Mayor Jim Timmerman discussed Gretna’s future growth.
One of his biggest achievements, he said, was seeing the revamp of outlet mall, Nebraska Crossing Outlets. The mall has brought new jobs to Gretna and draws millions of visitors through the city annually.
Now, the mall will undergo an expansion to add 70,000 square feet.
New housing developments and new elementary and middle schools are also in the works, Timmerman said.
“I continue to see Gretna grow,” he said. “We have the most — next to Papillion — undeveloped land in Sarpy County. I’m pro-growth, but I like controlled growth.”
The three mayors also took questions from audience members. Questions included topics such as how to join city commissions and groups, annexation threats and the 84th Street redevelopment project in La Vista.