One council member wants vote on Bush Hog on Tuesday

Published 10:20 pm Monday, March 8, 2010

SELMA — Council member B.L. Tucker of Ward 6 wants a vote up or down on the closure of streets around Bush Hog.

Tucker made his comments Monday during a meeting of the Selma City Council Public Safety Committee chaired by Council member Sam Randolph of Ward 5.

“Let’s vote it up or down tomorrow,” Tucker said at the close of the meeting. “We don’t need meetings and meetings. Let’s vote it up or down tomorrow night.”

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The Selma City Council will meet Tuesday at 5 p.m. At 4 p.m. a public hearing is set for discussion about the street closures. City Attorney Jimmy Nunn will conduct the public hearing. Council members are expected to attend this final public hearing.

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

The council has held a series of public hearings since January to discuss the issue.

The people who live in the area say they are concerned closure of the streets will prohibit public safety vehicles and ambulances getting to them in time. They also say they don’t want to live closed off from main streets they travel regularly.

Randolph said Monday he is not prepared to vote on the issue. “I wish we could come up with some kind of compromise,” he said.

Council member Susan Keith of Ward 2, a member of the committee, said the decision is a difficult one. On one hand, she understands the people who live in the neighborhood do not want change. On the other hand, Bush Hog employs 288 people, 215 who live in Selma and Dallas County.

“We have to do what is best for the greater good,” she said.

Council member Bennie Ruth Crenshaw, another member of the committee, did not attend Monday’s meeting at City Hall.

Curtis Marks and John Caver, two individuals who live in the area of Bush Hog, attended Monday’s meeting.

Randolph wants to see another road built in the area to provide an outlet for the families who live on the short end of Griffin, which after the road closure would become a cul-de-sac. The only other way out is around a deep curve blocked on one side by lot with plant overgrowth and a shed. That lot belongs to the city.

Marks told Randolph the road option was not a solution.

Randolph said he had spoken to representatives from the ambulance service, fire department and police department. “I don’t see any down time taking a long time for emergency vehicles to get there,” he said.

Additionally, some people had raised issued about their fire insurance going up if the streets were closed off. Randolph said fire ratings are issued by the state based on fire protection in all of Selma and not just a neighborhood. Fire insurance would not go up, he said.

Keith pointed out if Bush Hog leaves because the city does not close the streets, the cost would amount to a minimum of $200,000 to the city in taxes, licenses and fees and 288 jobs, which would have “a snowball effect to other businesses in Selma.”

In 2009 the city council had to cut salaries of all employees by 12 percent with the exception of police and fire to trim a $250,000 overage in the city’s budget. Mayor George Evans also had to lay off some workers and consolidate city departments to get through the fiscal year.

Keith presented a breakdown of employees, where they live and ethnicity, given her by Bush Hog. Those figures show 215 or 75.44 percent of Bush Hog workers live in Selma and Dallas County. Whites from Selma and Dallas County hold 114 jobs or 53.02 percent at the company. Blacks from Selma and Dallas County hold 101 jobs or 46.98 percent of the jobs at Bush Hog.

Autauga County is the next largest source of employees with a total of 8.77 percent and Wilcox County follows with 5.61 percent.