City approves Walmart plans

The city of Aberdeen approved the building permits on Thursday for the proposed Walmart expansion at the Olympic Gateway Mall in Aberdeen.

Community Development Director Lisa Scott said that the last hang-up was resolved this week when the city and the corporation worked out easement arrangements and filed them with the County Auditor’s Office to be in compliance with orders from the state Shorelines Hearing Board. The board had ordered Walmart improve the waterfront a bit, including adding a paved walking trail, and the easements are part of that deal.

Scott says that Walmart plans to start construction in April or May.

Building Director Bob Waite said that he only had minor comments on the initial building plans submitted in December and the company fixed them and submitted new plans with no issues.

Walmart’s plans say the building will grow by 24,387 square feet — from 129,020 to 153,407. Total cost for the renovation is estimated to be $6.86 million. Walmart already has been making some changes to accommodate the expansion, including now operating 24 hours a day and providing fresh produce.

A fact sheet submitted to The Daily World from a public relations firm working for Walmart states that a grand opening for the store is expected in early 2014.

The fact sheet states that the store currently employs about 290 workers, although it doesn’t say how many are part-time.

“As we committed in 2010, this Supercenter expansion will offer Aberdeen residents a better, broader offering of products and services, and provide job opportunities for an additional 50 people in the Aberdeen and Grays Harbor County communities early next year,” Rachel Wall, the senior manager of community affairs, said in prepared comments.

“Throughout the state, Walmart employs more than 18,000 and the average full-time wage for hourly associates is $13.13,” she continued.

The plans include a new deli, a bakery, dairy and meat sections along with produce, and expansions of its other divisions.

“Additional temporary contract jobs during the store’s construction will be created during the expansion,” according to the fact sheet.

For the city of Aberdeen, Walmart is a big deal. It’s the biggest sales tax generator in the city, according to financial records.

Walmart has sought to expand the property since it decided to purchase the land the store sits on from the Port of Grays Harbor in July of 2010.

The decision by the Port drew protests and even an information picket by grocery store union workers. The Friends of Grays Harbor environmental group had successfully appealed the expansion before the state Shorelines Hearings Board last year. The board kicked the permit back to the city for a do-over, adding more trees, improving access to the waterfront trail and improving the general landscape.

One big requirement by the city will be to include emergency access for ambulances under a nearby railroad trestle that could access the site in case the front is blocked in by a train.

Scott said that the city will work with Walmart to ensure all of the conditions of its permit are met.