Bush Hog, neighbors still at impasse

Published 12:41 am Friday, January 29, 2010

SELMA — Bush Hog and its neighbors are no closer to an agreement about closing down streets around the plant than they were about a week ago.

Those appeared to be the results of a meeting among area residents of the plant, concerned Bush Hog employees, city officials and Bush Hog officials.

At issue: Bush Hog officials want to close off its land by closing streets surrounding its operations. At least five houses are directly affected by the proposed closure, although some residents who live along the other ends of Plant and Vine streets and Griffin Avenue say they’ll suffer as well.

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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.

May pointed out the needs: security for the plant; safety for the people who live near the plant for Bush Hog employees and a reduction of risk — insurance premiums in high risk areas are expensive.

But some of the 72 people who attended the hearing at Bethlehem Baptist Church didn’t care.

“What’s in it for us?” asked one speaker, who did not identify herself. “Bush Hog is talking about its needs, but nobody asked us about our needs. What about us?”

Currently Bush Hog employs about 288 people at its site. Two other Alamo factories — one in Canada and another elsewhere in the U.S. — manufacture about the same product as that made here in Selma.

Bush Hog officials told the crowd if they can’t secure their plant and cut down on risk, it’s likely Alamo will close the Selma operation.

Mayor George Evans attempted to mollify some of those who attended the meeting by calling for a compromise. Mr. Evans said he did not know what that compromise would be, but he is open to suggestions toward solutions that would be acceptable to both parties.

At least four weeks will pass, according to City Attorney Jimmy Nunn, before the Selma City Council can vote on Bush Hog’s request to close the streets.

Mr. Evans reminded the crowd of the city council’s role in the process.

This is not the first time Bush Hog has requested a road closure near its plant. In 2008 the company asked the city to approve closure of Plant and Vine streets. The request received mass opposition at the time.