Grant will ‘beautify’ Selma’s eyesore

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 19, 2002

No one specifically knew what the money would be used for. No one really cared. All that mattered was the bankroll.

Overpowered by sweat beads and the roar of speeding traffic along U.S. Highway 80 east, a group of city and county leaders gathered on Hood Avenue on Tuesday to announce that Selma will receive $240,000 to clean what some call this city’s disgrace.

The “enhancement grant,” as it is called, will be administered through the city of Selma’s Planning and Development Office. It came from the Alabama Department of Transportation through the Federal Highway Department.

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“One thing that has really challenged Selma is the gateway to our city,” Mayor James Perkins Jr. said. “We’ve always wondered what we could do to help, and we finally have a blessing.”

The blessing will be used to “beautify” the U.S. 80 area from the Edmund Pettus Bridge to Craig Field. That’s about all coordinators know right now.

According to Elizabeth Driggers of the city’s planning office, an architectural firm was hired to help write the grant proposal. Now, plans will be made to landscape the area.

“This could mean putting up screen barriers along the way,” Perkins said.

The atrocious appearance of U.S. 80 east in the Selmont area has become a priority for many lawmakers in Selma. James Thomas, who faces a run-off election next Tuesday against Glen McCord, said beautifying the area would help in the recruitment of Hyundai spinoff industries.

State Sen. Hank Sanders, D-Selma, admits the Selmont area is a poor representation of the voting rights capital of the world. He and his wife, Faya Tour, own some of the land across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, including land where a music company, Sorepo, is located.

That business has windows torn out and replaced by plywood, grass has overtaken the sidewalk, and trash litters the parking lot.

The $240,000 grant announced Tuesday will not help clean areas like that, but Sanders said there could be a spinoff effect.

“Sometimes, if your neighbor starts cleaning up, then you’ll do it too,” he said. “It just makes you feel better about what you’re doing.”

Robert Turner, owner of Al’s Towing, admitted that his business is an eyesore. The press conference held Tuesday was staged in front of his business, even though no one contacted him about it beforehand.

“That’s OK,” Turner said. “I have some plans for cleaning this place.”

Turner, like Sanders, will not receive money from the grant to clean his business.

Driggers and Perkins could not specifically say when beautification of U.S. 80 east would begin. Contracts, as with any other state project, will be let out to bidders. Once that happens, most of the work done on the 5-mile stretch will be within the medians and along state rights-of-way.