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Wal-Mart sets Supercenter sights on Merced County

Another Wal-Mart may be coming to a town near you.

Wal-Mart announced today it will apply with the city of Livingston to build a 162,797-square-foot Super Wal-Mart store, a company spokesman said.

As part of the Blueberry Crossing Development, just off Highway 99, Wal-Mart would be the anchor store for a 317,000-square-foot development, possibly including a hotel, conference center and commercial space, said Wal-Mart spokesman Aaron Rios.

"We are filing an application with the city of Livingston," he said.

The store would employ about 450 people, he added. Along with the variety of products usually found in Wal-Mart, the location would also have a full-scale grocery store.

Former mayor and owner of Livingston True Value, Brandon Friesen, said Wal-Mart could be good or bad for the town.

"I don't mind them coming in as long as they pay their way," he said. While many cities fight against Wal-Mart. he said, since Livingston doesn't have a lot of retail stores, the giant retailer would fill a need.

Nick Robinson, a local organizer with WARN, or Wal-Mart Alliance for Reform Now, said Wal-Mart has a record of mistreating its employees and paying them barely better than minimum wage.

There are cases where Wal-Mart locked employees in the store and discriminated against workers because of their gender, he alleged. Wal-Mart, he said, is not all it's cracked up to be.

Wal-Mart has denied similar allegations made in other parts of the country.

Reporter Jonah Owen Lamb can be reached at (209) 385-2484 or jlamb@mercedsun-star.com.

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