Residents want roads open

Published 1:21 am Friday, January 22, 2010

SELMA — One side says if a plant employing 288 people expects to stay open, it needs to close some streets for the security of the people who live nearby and for the safety of the workers. Another side says if the streets close, residents will suffer because emergency vehicles will take longer to arrive if needed.

It appeared Thursday night that both sides — representatives of Bush Hog and people who live in the neighborhood — had drawn a line in the sand and neither were prepared to budge.

The Selma City Council Public Safety Committee held a public hearing at City Hall to hear both sides. Ultimately the council will decide whether to close the streets requested by Bush Hog.

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Here’s what the company wants: to close Griffin Avenue to the public on both ends; to shut off Plant Street from J.L. Chestnut Boulevard to the truck parking area of the plant near Ethredge Avenue; to Shut off all of Vine Street from Small Avenue to J.L. Chestnut Boulevard.

Before Alamo Group bought Bush Hog several months ago after the Selma-based company shut down, the Alamo Group said the street closure is very important, said Howard May, a representative of the company.

If the streets can’t be closed and secure, then it’s likely the Bush Hog plant will shut down, Mr. May added.

The issue for Alamo Group is one of security for its workers and plant as much as it is for the safety and security of the individuals who live around the area and drive those streets, he said.

While a serious incident has yet to occur, Mr. May and James Bearden, another plant representative, said the company does not want to take that risk.

But residents who live along Griffin Avenue in the area of Plant Street say they’re locked in if the streets close.

John Caver lives on Ethredge Avenue off Plant Street.

“It’s the heart of getting back in there,” Caver said of Plant Street. “There’s no way to get ambulance, police or fire trucks there if Plant Street is closed.

“It’s too much to close those streets. I’ve got two house back there; I got family back there. It’s too much,” he said.

Mayor George Evans said he would like a compromise between the residents of the area and Bush Hog, if one could be worked out. He suggested opening the street some of the time and closing it during peak work hours at Bush Hog.

“Everybody is going to have to come together and work through this,” said Mayor Evans.

Council member Sam Randolph, chairman of the council public safety committee said he also would like a compromise. He plans another public hearing at a yet-to-be named time and place in the affected community.