Parole office issue resolved

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 15, 2004

Mayor James Perkins announced Friday that Old Town residents are still getting a new neighbor, just not the State Parole and Probation Office as they feared.

After weeks of negotiations between residents, the state, the Pilcher Agency and the City of Selma, the parole office will move into another Pilcher property on Broad Street in downtown Selma.

While parking isn’t as spacious as state officials had hoped the city has offered to allow the office to use spaces in a nearby city parking lot.

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Perkins cited the work of community leader Larry Jones, Councilwoman Jean Martin, Sen. Hank Sanders, the Pilchers and Ted Henry.

Instead of a parole office, Old Town residents can now expect to live next to the new office of the Black Belt Community Foundation, a non profit organization devoted to enhancing the life of residents in the Black Belt area.

The foundation announced in early March that it was searching for office space, roughly the same time the news of the state’s new parole office was released.

Mayor James Perkins served on the foundation’s search committee for office space.

Larry Jones, unofficial spokesman for the neighborhood was excited by the news. &uot;It’s a wonderful situation,&uot; Jones said. &uot;It shows how the community can get together. The Pilchers have worked well with us in getting this worked out. We’re just thrilled to death.&uot;

The Times-Journal was unable to contact representatives of the Pilcher Agency by presstime.

Councilwoman Jean Martin, whose ward encompasses Old Town, was happy after hearing the news Saturday.

Community leaders and neighbors learned of the state’s plans to move their parole office into Old Town on Feb. 25.

Assistant Attorney General Judge Francis Long, was one of the state’s representatives in securing a 10-year lease for the property.

He said in February, &uot;We simply had too many people for the space (on Alabama Street). It was a site offered to us and it would fit our needs.&uot;

Almost immediately after the move became public, petitions were signed and state and local officials became involved.

Perkins said, &uot;I became involved in this reluctantly, because it was a legal transaction and the contract had already been consummated.&uot;

Residents were concerned that former convicted criminals would be in the area constantly.

They feared for their children.

With four schools and preschools in the area, many parents were concerned. State officials were sympathetic.

After hearing of the complaints of residents, Long and other state officials went to the bargaining table with the Pilcher Agency, to see if they could find an alternative sight.

The Pilcher Agency sold them property on Broad Street, which the mayor said fit their needs just as well and wasn’t in a residential neighborhood.