A lack of sewer infrastructure in southern half of Sarpy County Nebraska could pose issues for data center developers wishing to build facilities in the area. A natural ridgeline crossing the middle of the county draws a divide between the north, which has a working sewage system, and the south, which does not. 

The State of Nebraska is a prime location for developers wishing to build hyperscale data centers, as land is plentiful and cost-effective, and local government offers incremental tax exemptions to data centers based on size and number of employees. 

This could get messy 

Until recently, people and businesses either settled north of the divide, or, if they wished to build anywhere south of the ridge, would have to use alternative means to deal with waste water, such as septic tanks. Facebook, which recently announced plans to build a million square foot facility in Papillion, will fund a $690,000 pump station to move wastewater North.

Facebook's projected Papillion data center
Facebook’s projected Papillion data center – Facebook

But there are limits to such makeshift means and, according to a Sarpy County state senator, there is barely any room for development in the metropolitan area connected to a sewage system. This, she told the Omaha World Herald, will inevitably affect the local economy if not seen to. 

In order to do so, Democrat State Senator Sue Crawford has put forward a bill that could help fund the $220 million infrastructure. If approved, the Legislative Bill 253 would allow villages and cities to form a public agency with a county to oversee the regional sewer system, and would stipulate that new homeowners and businesses moving south of the ridge be the ones to pay for it. 

Construction would be divided into four phases; the first would begin in 2019 and the last in 2044. The bill would also allow for the levying of local property taxes to fund the infrastructure if fees proved insufficient.

Nobody likes paying tax 

Although most agree that it is necessary, local legislators are divided on how to go about funding the work. Some oppose the bill, saying increased taxation would make homeowners from other parts of the county foot the bill if fees on property south of the ridgeway didn’t add up.

Papillion Mayor David Black told the Omaha World-Herald that there will be no more available land for development in Papillion within the next five to seven years if the Bill is voted down, despite the fact that only 40 percent of the County is currently developed. According to him, the growth of Papillion, Springfield and Gretna depends on the infrastructure being built.

An alternative to levying tax, which would be possible under the bill, would be to issue bonds to be paid off with sewer connection fees, which is how sewer systems elsewhere in the county were funded in the past.