BEST OF 2011: Nebraska's fastest-growing city

Listen to this story: 
December 29, 2011 - 6:00pm

This story is part of our "Best of 2011" series of reports, airing Dec. 26 to Dec. 30, 2011, on NET Radio, looking back at some of the top Signature Stories from NET News throughout the year. It originally aired June 29.

What happens to a community when its population doubles in 10 years? That's the case in Gretna, according to the 2010 U.S. Census. In today's Signature Story, which you can listen to above, Mike Tobias visits Gretna to find out the pros and cons of being Nebraska's fastest-growing community.


Map by Hilary Stohs-Krause, NET News

View map showing the locations of the eight fastest-growing cities in Nebraska with populations of more than 500

Photo by Ray Meints, NET

Gretna City Hall

NET News

Watch this video for more about Gretna's growth

Ray Meints, NET

Gretna is building a new water tower to serve its growing population.


Below is more of Tobias' interview with Gretna Mayor Sally McGuire. She was elected mayor in 2008; before that she served on the city council, planning commission and library board. Since 2000, Gretna's population has grown from 2,355 to 4,837.

Sally McGuire

SALLY McGUIRE, MAYOR OF GRETNA: There are challenges with growth, of course, but then there's so much positive. I look at some of the communities that have no growth and where their businesses are closing, and they're losing their schools and then I look at the challenges that we have and particularly our school district. The bond issue was just passed for the fourth elementary school to be built and as a matter of fact is under construction right now. And in that bond issue, they also purchased ground for the next high school. That's a wonderful problem to have as opposed to some other schools where they're losing their schools or they're consolidating their school. So it's a challenge, but it's also a good challenge to have.

MIKE TOBIAS, NET NEWS: What led to that in the last 10 years?

MCGUIRE: Ten-years-ago or maybe it was a little bit longer when Jim Warren was mayor, our sewer treatment plant was at capacity or outdated and we needed to build a new one. Rather than building a new one, he put the thought in our minds to build a line between Gretna and Omaha. And that opened that whole area for development. I think a lot of it was because of the good schools. And then, the other part is that we're in the middle. We're in the middle between Lincoln and Omaha. A lot of our families have one parent who goes to Lincoln to go to work and one who goes to Omaha to go to work. We're close to the Interstate and we have good access. All of those things led to the growth that we've had.

TOBIAS: What are the upsides of growing so fast?

MCGUIRE: It's good to have the growth and have the young families. We have new businesses that come to town and so you can buy your services here as opposed to having to always go out of town in order to do that. It's good to see our children playing baseball, softball, football here, as opposed to going to another location for the summer leagues or the rec leagues.

TOBIAS: What are the challenges then of such a rapid growth in such a short period of time?

MCGUIRE: Some of the challenges, of course, are sewer and water. The sewer lines need to be run. Right now we're installing a new water tower, a two million gallon storage water tower. Growth is a challenge for space for our children. We just purchased a new park ground, 160 acres. It's graded, it's seeded and by fall, it'll be ready to play on, and that'll give us eight additional softball/baseball fields, some new soccer fields and some new football fields. So that'll be ready to go for fall. Right now, we only have five or so football or baseball and softball parks or fields for the kids to practice on and to play on, and so they play late into the night. You know, the most important asset that we have here is our children. And we have to make sure that they stay here and in order to make them stay here, we have to have something for them to do. In addition to that our swimming pool, which is probably 50 years old, is still working. But last year, probably four out of five days in any week, we were over capacity and we had to turn kids away. So that's something that we have to look at. And we also want a community center, so we have an indoor pool. So growth comes with its challenges.

TOBIAS: If you had to look out in another 10 years, how much bigger do you think Gretna's going to be?

MCGUIRE: I think it will continue to grow. We have a lot of developments that have a lot of lots that are still vacant. There's space for additional developments. And of course with (Highway) 370 being widened, we anticipate that there will be development on both sides of 370 marching down to the Interstate. So yes, it will continue to grow. I just don't think that will happen at the pace that we did in the past 10 years.





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