Try to save Safeway, former mayor urges

Sep 20, 2017 By Alejandra Silva, Staff Writer

The reality of the announced Safeway grocery store closure after 75 years as a staple in Riverton has been tough to accept for many people in the local community, and a former mayor wants action.

"There is no reason in the world that we, as a community, should not be able to find a way to keep our Riverton Safeway store open and running," former mayor Ron Warpness said Tuesday during a Riverton City Council meeting.

He came before the council to express his disappointment about the anticipated closure by store owner Albertson's, firmly suggesting that the city "take a stronger positive position to save our Safeway."

Albertson's announced last week that the big store at the intersection of North Federal and East Pershing would close in October.

Warpness asked whether there was any public effort to try to stop the closure. If there isn't, he continued, there are probably many citizens - like himself - who would be willing to help.

"This is very important, to save the many jobs for our fellow citizens and the many taxes that Safeway generates," he said. "My wife and I are not Safeway shoppers but if given the opportunity to help keep Safeway open, we will be."

Losing money

During a recent employee meeting, Safeway employees reportedly were told the store was losing money. In that case, Mayor Lars Baker - who said he shared Warpness's feelings about the closure - said it makes sense that the business was struggling.

"I think if our community was just a little bit more busy and vibrant, maybe this wouldn't be the situation," Baker said. "But at the present time with the downturn in the mineral industry that probably affects retails sales all over town."

He is frustrated with the situation, too, but he doesn't know what the city can do to "compel" Safeway to stay.

Reaching out

Baker said he has made several calls to Albertson's and Safeway and will continue to reach out to the company. Riverton's economic development arm, IDEA Inc., also is "working on it and may have something in the works," Baker said.

Council member Lance Goede, who represents the ward where Safeway is located, said residents should be more vocal about any possible efforts to save the store. He's willing to help in whatever way possible, he added.

"From the economic development standpoint we realize the impact of an empty building on our main street," he said.

"I don't know what can be done - I'm still new - but I'm hoping we can do something."

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