Merced's Debate Over Wal-Mart Distribution Center

August 19, 2009 11:58:38 PM PDT
The Merced Planning Commission held its first public hearing on Wal-Mart's plan to put a massive distribution center in Southeast Merced. Supporters said they want the jobs. The company says up to 12 hundred workers will be hired. Half of those will be full time employees.

Opponents were concerned about the environmental impact, primarily the air pollution from the five hundred semi-trucks that will be coming and going from the center 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, along with nearly two thousand cars driven by employees and others.

Attorney Thomas Libby represents a citizens group fighting the project. He questioned the accuracy of the environmental impact report the city staff prepared for the project. "Are the elected representatives more interested in jobs for some people, or are they more interested in health for everyone." He said.

Merced resident Sophia Curial said she was worried about the effect of truck exhaust on students at a school near the proposed site. "I have nothing against Wal-Mart. I love Wal-Mart stores. It's one of my favorite stores. I'm not against jobs. I have an unemployed son. I would love for him to have a job at Wal-Mart. But overriding that is my concern for the children." She said.

But supporters, say the hundreds of jobs the distribution center would bring will make it all worthwhile.

Merced resident Alan Lucio put it this way, "Let Wal-Mart come in and stimulate our economy."

Merced County resident Lee Basie accused opponents of being anti Wal-Mart. "If we were going to pick the perfect project, and substitute Microsoft for Wal-Mart, I don't think there would be any opposition. The fact of it is, this is a great project." Basie said.

Wal-Mart has been working to get this distribution center built for nearly four years. It already operates one distribution center in Porterville, about 120 miles South of Merced.

The Merced planning commission is expected to vote on the project at a meeting next Monday. If it accepts the project, the matter then goes before the Merced City Council. Another series of public held, with a final vote expected by the end of September.

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