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Albany to Get One of the First Wal-Mart Expresses in Texas

The city of Albany will be getting a Wal-Mart Express just outside of the city limits on Highway 6 to the south.
The city of Albany will be getting a Wal-Mart Express just outside of the city limits on Highway 6 to the south.

According to the Albany News, this will be one of the first Wal-Mart Expresses built in Texas.

The following is from The Albany News:

Rumors heard around the community for the past few weeks were confirmed at Monday night's city council meeting when two representatives of the Wal-Mart corporation verified, somewhat reluctantly, that the company is planning to build a Wal-Mart Express just south of the current city limits on Hwy. 6.

Abilene attorney Mike Murray and San Antonio commercial realtor Scott Espensen disclosed the information in open session.

Mayor Pro Tem Lester Galbreath had planned to go into closed session for the discussion, but he immediately re-opened the meeting when Murray stated that he and Espensen were "fine with talking about it in open session."

The Wal-Mart concept had apparently been debated in a previous "special executive session" on April 3, but no action had been taken or comments made before the meeting adjourned.

At this week's session, Murray and Espensen initially said that they needed to protect the confidentiality of their client until negotiations on other developments were complete.

"It bothers me that a company wants to come to Albany and doesn't want to disclose who they are," said Councilman Don Koch.

At that point, Murray opted to reveal that his client was Wal-Mart and proceeded to explain the Wal-Mart Express concept.

"Albany is one of the first towns identified in Texas for this kind of store," he said, explaining that there are currently only 20 Wal-Mart Express stores in existence, none of them in Texas.

The Express store will be a little over 12,000 square feet, he said, mostly groceries, with 2,000 square feet devoted to other types of retail items.

In comparison, Murray stated, the local Brookshire's grocery store is 14,000 square feet.

He added that a pharmacy and four gas pumps were also part of the plan, and although there would be no florist or deli, some deli items would be provided by "tethering" the store to a nearby Super Center.

The company is negotiating with the Leech family for a tract of land on the east side of Hwy. 6.

Espensen said that they had approached the local Economic Development Corporation (EDC) about helping to pay for the extension of a six-inch water line to the store at a total cost of about$217,000, but the EDC had declined. The plan had since been changed to a two-inch line, cutting the cost by about a third. WalMart would have the line installed, he said, then turn over ownership and maintenance to the city.

"Our preference is not to annex in," said Murray. "We would like to be able to recoup costs without being annexed, but we are willing to do that if it's necessary."
A septic system would be developed rather than extending a sewer line and adding a lift station, he said.

In all, the store would require about $1.3 million in "infrastructure improvements," he said.

"I think it's important put in a six-inch line," Mike Parsons commented, "And I think the fire department will confirm that it's important."

He added that the council has "a rare opportunity to do something that the last 40 years of councils haven't done."

He encouraged the council members to be diligent about annexing.

"These guys are coming. If you tell them no today, they're coming anyway," he said. "You need to think about what happens after they come."

He suggested that there might be a way for the company to recoup some of the costs of laying a six-inch water line as other people tie on to the infrastructure.

City manager David Denman mentioned that the city might provide the difference in the cost of two-inch and six-inch pipe.

"I'm not interested in your coming here without being annexed," said Koch, "and although I understand and appreciate the higher cost (of a six-inch water line), I think you both need and deserve adequate fire protection out there."

Several local citizens at the meeting protested the Express development.

"Something like this could be crippling to our downtown merchants," said David Cleveland, "and that's something you need to consider."

He added that "the largest retailer in the world" could pay for their own infrastructure if they want to build a local store.

"They're trying to pressure you a little. Put your cards in the right order, slow down, and don't feel pressured," he urged.

Jess Phillips encouraged the council members to do some research about the Express store strategy.

"They're trying to put the dollar stores out of business," he said, adding that the store could also close Brookshire's. "They're the biggest, but they don't think like small towns."

Rodney Alexander pointed out that the Assembly of God congregation had been required to pay for extending the city infrastructure to its building on the outskirts of Albany's east side.

"People are driving to Breckenridge and Abilene to shop at Wal-Mart, and that money is spent outside this community," said council member Bobbie Cauble. "If you can get those people to shop here, it will keep at least some that money in Albany."

She also noted that "people don't come to Albany to buy groceries. They come here to shop downtown, not buy groceries."

Chamber of Commerce executive director Diana Nail said that she has been conducting a survey in the downtown stores for the past month.

"I have almost given up on getting people to shop at home," she commented. "Those doors (downtown) are not open because of Albany people. They stay open because of people who come from other places to shop there."

In the end, the council voted unanimously to authorize city manager David Denman to continue negotiations with the Wal-Mart representatives concerning the development of the store and water supply, with the intention of annexation the property into the city of Albany.

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