Tag Archives: Sarpy County

What a Load of Garbage

April 20, 2017 by

When you hear the words “garbage collection,” you might think of a truck rolling into the neighborhood and a couple of guys hopping off to pick up your waiting bin(s).

It turns out that the Omaha metro area is one of the last places in this country where trash is collected that way.

Omaha mayor Jean Stothert wrote in a March 2016 press release, “I feel like our current service is way outdated.”

Efforts to modernize have been underway for some time now, according to an email from Justin Vetsch, 30, the Omaha senior district manager for Waste Management. Waste Management is the company that handles the City of Omaha’s garbage collection services.

“Back in November of 2016, upon the city’s request, Waste Management implemented a pilot program which showcases what a modernized collection system would look like, with automated trucks and standardized 96-gallon carts for trash and recycle,” Vetsch says. “This pilot program will conclude in April. The feedback and comments that Waste Management has received from residents indicates the pilot area is going well.”

Mike Shrader, 57, is the owner/manager of Premier Waste Solutions, a private company servicing Sarpy County, northern Cass County, and western Douglas County. He has been in the waste-collection industry since 1975 and hopes the city’s new system works as well as it has for his company.

“The vast majority of municipalities across the country use some form of a carted system,” Shrader says. The old model of collection, in which employees rode on the back of the truck and picked up the trash, has not been viable since the 1990s. “It’s hard to find individuals who are willing to do that kind of work, week in, week out.”

The Shrader family, looking for a different model, was introduced to an automated pickup system in Arizona, in which the garbage trucks use mechanical arms to pick up 96-gallon carts. What used to be a two- or three-person job now only needs a driver, and the carts hold about three times as much waste as a residential garbage can and can be wheeled around instead of lifted.

With the exceptions of the city of Omaha, Bellevue, Carter Lake, and Ralston, every other community in the area is what Shrader called a “carted community,” though there’s a pilot program underway now in Bellevue that is similar to the one in Omaha.

Overhauling the system is expensive, Shrader says, which is why it has not happened yet, but changing to this automated system brings with it a number of advantages.


“Not only is it more efficient for the hauler, in a sense of one-man crews, it’s also safer,” Shrader says. “When we look at the injuries across the nation … it’s usually the second or third person that’s on the truck.”


When everyone in the neighborhood has the same carts, Shrader and Vetsch say, it gives the neighborhoods a sense of uniformity.

“A modernized system would also include easy wheeling, and standardized covered carts with lids, which are more aesthetically pleasing to have lined down neighborhoods versus loose bags and individually selected cans,” Vetsch says.


If you have ever had your trash can tip over in a stiff wind, then you know it is a hassle to retrieve trash strewn about your curb and lawn.

“The lids are attached, and they’re on wheels,” Shrader says. “They do a better job of withstanding some of the wind.”

The carts will still fall if the wind is strong enough, but they have an easier time remaining upright, and the lids help make them more “critter-proof,” Shrader says.

Vetsch pointed out that having fewer trucks on the road is good for the environment as well.

“As part of the current pilot, Waste Management is collecting the recycling in 96-gallon carts every other week,” he says. “With recycling collection every other week, it reduces truck traffic in the city’s residential neighborhoods, along with reduced emissions from fewer vehicles.”


“Going with a cart system for the recycling is probably the bigger plus,” Shrader says. “Not only do you have a lid on your recycling cart, but you have the capacity of 95 gallons versus 18.”

“In most cases, the ability to have a cart with a lid for recycling dramatically improves recycling participation, as a household may be currently limited due to the recycling bin’s size,” Vetsch says.

The future of Omaha’s garbage collection has yet to be determined, of course. Like any new system, Vetsch says, there will probably be a sense of hesitation.

“I really hope this pilot program works for them,” Shrader says. “It’s like coming out of the Dark Ages.

“If the city would accept that program, I think they’re going to be very, very happy with that for a long, long time.”

Visit wasteline.org for more information.

This article was printed in the Spring 2017 edition of B2B.

Finally—A Final Resting Place for Veterans

May 25, 2016 by

It’s a long way from the early days of post-communist Ukraine to the silent, rolling hills of Sarpy County.

Today, Cindy Van Bibber is back in her native state, creating the Omaha National Cemetery southeast of where Highways 50 and 370 intersect. It’s just the second Department of Veterans Affairs national cemetery in Nebraska, a 236-acre tract that will serve the burial needs of area veterans and their families for the next 100 years.

It’s historic.

And in Van Bibber, the cemetery has a director who’s seen—and made—plenty of history herself.

She left Nebraska in 1983, a year after graduating from Grand Island High School. Plans to study for a career in the medical field fizzled, so she joined the Army and wound up serving for more than 10 years.

She began with the Cold War at its height. Part of her stint included an assignment with General John Shalikashvili, who later would become chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Van Bibber was part of a two-person communications team that would set up secure lines wherever Shalikashvili went. Like a hotel in the Ukraine.

“It was a pretty exciting job to be able to travel worldwide with him,” Van Bibber says. “Wouldn’t change it for the world.”

But change it did. After discharge she moved back to the U.S., to Virginia, and after taking one more stab at the medical field, landed her first job in a cemetery career. That was in Richmond, where she helped open a new state veterans’ cemetery. Van Bibber was there from its first burial in 1997 until 2006. She then joined the Department of Veteran’s Affairs and worked at four VA cemeteries, including Riverside National Cemetery in California.

Not until last year did she come back home, becoming director of the yet-to-be-created Omaha National Cemetery.

Peter Young, who mentored Van Bibber at Riverside National Cemetery, has full confidence in his one-time protege.

“She is a great cemetery director always trying to improve herself and her cemetery so they can provide the best possible service to our veterans and their families,” Young says.

For now, the can-do attitude is coming in most handy.

Work at the cemetery began last fall. That’s mostly involved “lots of moving the earth,” Van Bibber says. Her office is a trailer but some of the footings for the four main buildings have been poured. She’s also building the staff, hiring a program specialist and foreman. Nearly a dozen staff will work at the cemetery when it’s at full strength.

They project to have 500 burials a year once it opens. The first should come this September. Van Bibber says she plans to have a dedication ceremony followed by burials for someone from each service branch.

A vet herself, Van Bibber is where she seems to belong.

“Even when I was in Europe I visited all of the cemeteries to pay my respects for those lost in the great conflicts,” she says. “It was something to do on weekends, never once thinking I’d come back and work at a national cemetery.”

Here she is, though, far from home no more.


Sarpy, Sarpy, Sarpy!

March 15, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

In 1999, an online-banking company with a nonsensical name built a sprawling operation center next to the I-80 corridor on the edge of Papillion. Baffled passing commuters wondered how long a company named “PayPal” could possibly survive.

Six years later—to the delight of the region’s outdoor enthusiasts—Cabela’s opened a 128,000-square-foot sportsmen’s paradise that transformed the Cornhusker Street exit along I-80 into a bustling retail hotspot.

As the companies moved into the area, so did the employees, and the shoppers. Once boasting only sleepy rural charms, quaint main streets, and Offutt Air Force Base mystique, Nebraska’s smallest county by land mass is now also its fastest growing.

Indeed, while the rest of the state lost 3% of its population (or 55,000 people) between 2010 and 2014, Sarpy County added 13,000 people—an 8% increase.

How did it happen? Is there something to be learned by Nebraska’s other 92 counties?

Sarpy’s formula was a mix of nature and nurture: Aggressive leaders with vision and a willingness to deal. The good fortune of having open land next to a major metropolitan area and one of the nation’s major east-west corridors. Lots of nearby suburbanites with cash. Also, an educated work force within driving distance.


It was a perfect economic storm that even pulled off the outrageous and unthinkable: Dragging the Omaha Royals into the suburban Sarpy playground of the Omaha Stormchasers.

And now, in 2016, it’s all about synergy. Momentum. Winning begets more winning.

Ernie Goss, a Creighton University professor of economics, says that when county leaders are successful in building a concentration of development like the one in Sarpy County, it becomes a catalyst for more growth.

“There’s the impact of what we call clustering, Goss says.

The perpetual motion machine is paying off for the county and state. PayPal alone generated $736,930.00 in tax revenue in 2014, more than any other commercial business in the region.

Goss says the presence of PayPal and Cabela’s, among others, has undoubtedly propelled more development. After all, people want to be where the jobs and rooftops are.

There’s a lot to be said for clustering and that’s what we’re seeing out there,” he says.

Embassy Suites Conference Center in La Vista, developed in 2004, has brought in tourism dollars from conventions and weddings. Those tourism dollars also mean more people viewing the city, which builds awareness of the hotel and convention center, which, of course, increases chances that people will spread the word to other shoppers and convention organizers.

Goss says the boom will continue as long as the benefits of providing essential services—such as sewers and roads—in support of new development exceeds the marginal costs. Once those infrastructure elements are in place, he says, the marginal costs tend to decrease and that, in turn, spurs more development.

“It’s the initial development that’s very costly in providing things like fire and police services and other government services.”

Typically, he says, providing services becomes cheaper as the area grows more densely populated. That’s what’s happening in Sarpy County, where a growing resident and business tax base is helping make development cost effective.

The area also benefits from ready access to interstate highways that feed into the Omaha-Lincoln metroplex. Goss says Sarpy is situated just enough outside the urban congestion sprawl to give it a semi-country, away-from-it-all appeal while being near enough to still share in the big city orbit.


“It has a lot to do with interstate access,” he says.

And convenience.

“A lot of folks out west of Omaha find it easier driving to a conference at the Embassy Suites in La Vista than having to drive to the Embassy Suites in the Old Market,” Goss says. “That’s certainly part of it.”

All this growth, too, has come amid a national economy that has generally lagged. But, as the economy sputters, interest rates remain low. In the environment of the last decade, the cost and major development has remained lower as interest rates continue to hover around 4%.

The surge is not slowing.

La Vista anticipates yet another spike once the Nebraska Multisport Complex is built on 184 acres to encompass a natatorium with Olympic regulation pools, an indoor-outdoor tennis center, and soccer fields with field turf and lighting. The facilities will be available to local teams, clubs, schools, and nonprofits. Hosting regional-national tournaments is a massive money generator as families follow players for long weekends of play. Projections estimate the complex would generate $17.8 million in new economic impact and attracting 1.2 million visitors annually.

The win streak extended down the road to the edge of Gretna, where the massive Nebraska Crossing Outlets defied the doubters by doing $140 million in sales in its first year of operation. Within a year of its 2013 opening, the $112 million, 335,000-square-foot mall featuring buzz-worthy brand name stores was planning a major expansion. A new $15 million complex of stores is scheduled to open by Christmas.

Karen Gibler, president of the Sarpy County Chamber of Commerce, says there soon will be announcements about coming neighborhoods and businesses spurred by the new Highway 34 bridge, 84th Street developments, new I-80 exits, and planned sewer and transportation projects.

Gibler cites many reasons why investors and residents choose to work and live there:

“Quality of education and life keeps residents looking to move into our area,” she says. “This growth has opened the eyes of developers. Our leadership in the cities and county are a contributing factor. Land availability and easy access to good highways and the interstate make it easy to access from around the area.” Smart planning helps, as do plentiful jobs and affordable home prices. And people feel safe.”

That success has brought recognition. Papillion now ranks second on Money Magazine’s Best Places to Live for its high median income ($75,000), job growth (10%), thriving cultural life, and great access to the big-city amenities of Omaha.

National awards show up in national magazines and websites. People and companies looking for good homes read about this happenin’ place called Sarpy County in Nebraska.

And so, the wheels of progress keep on turning.

Once you can get it going, Goss says, “one activity draws another activity or one company draws another company.

“They have it all going in the right direction right now,” Goss says.


Painting Pictures With Pavers

August 14, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

This article appears in July/August 2015 Omaha Home.

Virginia Street ends abruptly at S. 45th Ave. in Sarpy County and morphs into Jim Hampton’s driveway—a long, curved gravel path that transports a visitor to hardscape heaven. Medium-sized boulders encircle several flowerbeds on the vast property and a conical-shaped pile of thin rocks called a cairn adds ornamentation, as does a replica of an ancient petroglyph drawn on a flat, gray rock and hung from a wire stand.

But the “wow” factor lies in front of Hampton’s home and illustrates why the father/son team of Jim and Justin Hampton commands worldwide attention. A vast, smooth patio made from interlocking paving stones with


mosaic-like colorful designs throughout provides stunning beauty. The patio’s centerpiece features a kaleidoscope of swirls that mirror each other, while depictions of three fish lay at the base of a fountain.

The patio, built 20 years ago, marks the first collaboration of Jim and Justin as hardscape artists, and signaled a change of direction for Jim.

“I was a biology teacher for 16 years at Platteview High in Springfield,” says Jim, 63. But after he and Justin, who laid pavers for another company, finished the patio, “I told my wife, ‘I’m going to quit teaching and do this for a living with Justin.’” Luckily, Christine Hampton was fine with his decision and pitches in by doing the books.


Today, Paver Designs LLC fields more requests than the two men can handle, and they don’t even travel outside the immediate area. Pictures of their paver patio designs grace several magazines.

This little Omaha company has won Hardscape North America, the biggest award in the industry, four years running, much to the chagrin of big city contractors who employ several crews of laborers.

“We’re pretty well known,” says Justin, 38, in his soft-spoken, unassuming way. “I had a guy from Dubai call me and said he wanted to copy some of our projects. I thought he was a telemarketer and hung up on him the first time.” The “guy,” who turned out to be the nephew of Dubai’s ruler, was very much on the level. “I told him he was welcome to pull our designs off our website. He offered to pay us, but I told him to send my kids some souvenirs from Dubai.”


Money never overrides Jim and Justin’s love of drawing, excavating, cutting stones, and piecing them together in one-of-a-kind patio installations. They bid on each job and guesstimate the cost, rarely asking for the kind of money they could—or should—command, considering their labor.

“Those swirling “y” patterns on my patio? There are 12 of them and each one took eight hours to cut in,” says Jim. “People tell me we’re never going to get rich because we don’t have crews who can make us money. But that’s not how I define rich,” he says.

For Jim and Justin Hampton, “rich” means the freedom to create, come and go as they please, and spend time with their families—a design for life as structurally sound as their pavers.


Bauhaus on the Prairie

July 25, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Flat roof? Check. Clean Lines? Check. Cornfields? Insert here the sound of a needle being violently ripped across a vinyl record.

Contemporary architecture is perhaps most commonly thought of as an urban phenomenon, but Donna and Jon Smith have executed their Bauhaus-inspired home on five acres of rural Sarpy County land.

“A lot of our friends say it looks like a commercial building or a strip mall,” says Donna. “We’re okay with that. To each his own!”

The 4,200 square foot home was built in 2010 and was designed by Jon, the owner of the branding firm Corporate Three Design. Jon had absolutely zero background in architecture when he first put pen to paper in conceptualizing his creation. The couple share the space with their children, David (19), and Suzy (18).

The imaginative materials used throughout the project were more than just money-savers on the bottom line, they are integral to the success of the contemporary scheme.

Common cinder block is rendered less so when stripes of contrasting brick form a design along the zig-zag angles of the exterior set below exposed steel beams of the roofline that have now taken on an organic, earthy patina. Rolling barn-like doors of walnut evoke a little bit of country while also punctuating the space with fields of contrasting color. Add to that gently dappled concrete floors below an assortment of warm area rugs, and the foundation is laid for a country home loaded with surprises.

No storage room? No problem. Remember, form follows function in the Bauhaus aesthetic. Jon designed a section of the stairs leading down to a utility room so that, when lifted on a hinge system, a storage space is revealed. Oh, and where exactly is that refrigerator? Tucked away just around the corner from the kitchen so as to minimize busyness in the crisp, clean space accented by marble baseboards and window trim.

“Everybody always talks about the ‘kitchen triangle pattern’ when it comes to kitchens,” Donna says, “but taking two extra steps to get to the fridge is a small price to pay for the uncluttered look we sought.”

The home has no load-bearing walls, and the roof is instead supported by a series of massive pillars. This design element allowed maximum freedom in terms of an open floor plan. Jon further capitalized on this by mixing and matching the heights of the walls. The central space is defined by floor-to-ceiling surfaces. Within the bedrooms, closets are left open on top to distribute light and to create interesting sight lines.

Two wells on the property fuel a geothermic heating system and radiant floor heat keeps the place toasty even on the most bitter of winter evenings. The pool is heated by the same technology.
“The look we were going for,” Jon says, “is part Bauhaus,  part Palm Springs desert-style.” The flat roof contributes to the desired look and its lines mirror the plains surrounding the property.

“And we wanted really low maintenance,” adds Donna. “These materials will long outlast us and our kids.

Speaking of maintenance, who does snow removal on the graceful arc of the home’s long driveway? “Oh, that’s just a matter of driving the truck back and forth until we can get out. And Jon does all the
mowing himself.”

“I have mowing down to five hours now,” he adds. “If I didn’t have to make little crop circles around all of the trees it would be even easier.”

The interior is certainly dramatic, but Jon also had an eye to outdoor living in his design. The property that features hundreds of saplings also boasts a swimming pool and a full soccer field. That’s where Suzy, a recent Papillion La Vista South High graduate who will play in the fall at Missouri State University, honed her skills. That’s when she wasn’t camping on the roof with friends under a canopy of stars.

This home is something that Jon always wanted to do,” says Donna, “even if we are
out here where few people ever see it.”

That is, except when the couple who love entertaining have as many as 50 people over for a little soiree.

“It’s a different kind of living,” Jon admits. “It may not be for everybody, but for us it just…it just works.”