Sides discuss alternatives with Parole Office move

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 2, 2004

Local attorney Allen Reeves, of Reeves and Stewart, said there is hope for residents of Selma who want to keep the State Parole and Probation office out of historic Old Town.

Reeves and others met with local attorney John Pilcher, whose family owns the property on Lauderdale Street, and spoke with representatives from the state.

“We tried to talk about some type of arrangement,” Reeves said.

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Despite an already signed lease, Reeves said there have been discussions about finding an alternative site suitable to everyone.

“We’re considering some ways,” Reeves said. “I think we’ll see what the state thinks about the alternate places. We talked to the people at the state and they seemed open to go somewhere else.”

Many Old Town residents have said moving the State Parole and Probation Office into the residential area of Old Town on Lauderdale Street from Alabama Avenue is simply inviting trouble.

Judge Frances Long, Assistant Attorney General and legal council for the Alabama Parole Board understands their point of view.

“If I had children, I’d probably have the same concerns they have,” Long said.

Long, the father of three grown children and grandfather to nine, brokered the deal between the state parole office and the Pilcher family to lease the new location of the Selma-Dallas County Parole and Probation Office.

“We’ve just never had this problem before,” he said. “I never even questioned about the neighborhood and I’m truly sorry.”

Judge Long said he hopes something can be worked out.

“If they would offer us an alternative sight that would serve our needs, we wouldn’t fight a move that way,” he said.

Since the parole board move was made public, residents in Old Town have been concerned about what it means for their neighborhood.

Tina Werts, who lives next door to the building, said, “It concerns me to be inviting people who do have a problem following laws.”

Old Town resident Gwen Mckenzie agreed. “It doesn’t need to be in any neighborhood with children,” she said. “They’re open prey.”

There are four schools and preschools in the general area of the new office: Byrd Elementary, the School of Discovery, Little Friends and Leika’s.

In addition to the safety concerns, residents of Old Town have expressed concerns about property values, as well as a loss of potential tourism dollars. According to Edie Jones, another resident, in the last two months, six homes have been sold, and she feels like the neighborhood is on an upswing.

“We feel like this is going to devalue the property in our historic district,” said Jones.

Many of the homes in the area are featured attractions in the upcoming Pilgrimage of Selma homes.

Long said he’s never known any parolees to commit a crime during their parole visits.

“They’re on their best behavior, but that doesn’t make (residents) feel any better,” said Long. “I just hope we can work this out.”