New Wal-Mart a financial pickle for Nez Perce County

New Wal-Mart a financial pickle for Nez Perce County
LEWISTON - The Wal-Mart move from Lewiston to Clarkston could create as many as 170 jobs. Officials expect economic benefits, and residents will probably find some great deals on everything from car care to groceries.

But that famous happy-face isn't bringing smiles on the Idaho side of the river.

Nez Perce County is losing a big money maker, and now county clerk Patty Weeks says she's wondering how they'll pay their bills.

"It's hard to say what the direct impact is going to be, but we also hope to see some of the other retail stores that are in Nez Perce County see an increase in business," said Weeks.

Weeks says the county generates about $330,000 a year from the big box store, half of which goes to property tax relief.

The other half goes to paying off the new jail. And this is all coming while the country goes through a recession.

"We've been already seeing a decline in our local option sales tax," Weeks said. "It's very important to budget very conservatively so we can make that jail bond payment."

One of those jail payments, of just more than $400,000, is due in August. Weeks says that won't be an issue. But for a February payment, they'll have to find almost $2 million, meaning goodbye to more than $1 million worth of property tax relief.

"That's been a nice savings for the property taxpayer. They're going to lose that. Plus we'll still have to come up with this jail bond payment, so we will probably have to levy the maximum amount in order to pay for all of our expenses," Weeks said.

Weeks is concerned the Wal-Mart grocery store feature might pull business away from Safeway, Albertson's, Rosauers, and A&B Foods in Lewiston, leaving the county further in debt. But says they won't be able to measure the impact until the move is complete.

The new store is set to open by the end of this month, with a grand opening on September 1. The Lewiston Wal-Mart will officially close the next day.