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Federal earmarks to fund programs in La Vista, South Sarpy, Omaha and South Sioux City

Nebraska got $17 million in earmarked funds as part of $1.5 trillion spending bill
Posted at 8:37 AM, Mar 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-14 09:37:53-04

Southern Sarpy County will get $3.5 million closer to completing a massive sewer project that opens the less developed part of the county to new housing, businesses and jobs.

North Omaha and the people who visit, shop and dine in its historic 24th Street corridor will see $3 million in improvements for new sidewalks, traffic signals, roundabouts, parking, bus stops and bike lanes.

La Vista walkers and cyclists near the site Walmart once occupied near 84th and Harrison Streets will get $5 million for two new trails and a path underneath 84th Street. The tunnel will connect both sides of La Vista Central Park, east and west of 84th Street, to the new $300 million La Vista City Centre redevelopment project.

South Sioux City residents should be able to flush toilets with confidence come June 2023 because the city’s planned new wastewater treatment plant is getting a $5 million infusion.

And people hospitalized because of gang violence will get counseling from peers about services they might need to find a way out, through $527,000 in funds for a program of the University of Nebraska Medical Center and University of Nebraska at Omaha.

These projects represent Nebraska’s $17 million slice of earmarked funds, secured as part of the $1.5 trillion spending bill Congress passed last week to keep the government running.

Congressional leaders revived earmarks — what they now call member-directed spending — last year, and Republicans and Democrats alike requested funding for thousands of projects.

Only two members of Nebraska’s five-member congressional delegation got earmarks approved in the omnibus spending bill: 2nd District Rep. Don Bacon of Omaha and 3rd District Rep. Adrian Smith of Gering.

Bacon secured $12 million in projects for the Omaha area. He said he tried to spread projects throughout the district after getting input from city, county and Chamber of Commerce leaders.

He said he wishes Congress would vote on spending in a normal process instead of lumping it into Christmas-tree bills that include vital operations that need immediate funds.

“I’m not a fan of earmarks, but once part of the process, I did not want to leave NE02 out of consideration,” he said.

Smith, who represents the state’s most conservative district, declined to comment about his $5 million earmark. But in South Sioux City, City Administrator Lance Hedquist celebrated it.

The Smith earmark, on top of a $12.2 million federal grant in 2020, offset more than a third of the $45 million cost of building a new sewage treatment plant.

The northeast Nebraska city has sent its waste to a plant run by Sioux City, Iowa, since the 1960s. But Sioux City leaders recently gave its Nebraska neighbors four years to build a plant of its own.

South Sioux City aims to have the new plant up and running by June 2023.

“This helps ratepayers in town move through this crisis,” Hedquist said. “It’s a great help to the project.”

Nebraska Examiner is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Nebraska Examiner maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Cate Folsom for questions: Follow Nebraska Examiner on Facebook and Twitter.

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