Vote on closing streets around Bush Hog up in the air

Published 8:00 pm Monday, March 22, 2010

SELMA — A vote by the City Selma Council on closing streets around Bush Hog is undetermined.

Council member the Rev. B.L. Tucker of Ward 6 told many of his constituents Monday the council would not vote on the issue.

“You can’t say that, Councilman Tucker,” replied council member Susan Keith of Ward 2. “You don’t know who will bring it up.”

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Meanwhile, a group of people in support of Bush Hog will hold a prayer service from 5 until 5:30 p.m. around the Selma City Hall on Tuesday. Karen Grimes of Orrville said if the council decides against closing the roads around the plant and Bush Hog is closed, it would have a ripple effect on people who live in Dallas County.

Jay Minter has encouraged fellow farmers and others to gather with him across Dallas Avenue from City Hall at ALFA to show support for bush Hog and its employees at 4:30 p.m.

While momentum has built for Bush Hog, still the residents in houses surrounding the plant, especially on Griffin Avenue say they don’t want the streets closed. They spoke again Monday afternoon at a Public Safety Committee meeting.

“When you close Plant Street,” said John Caver, one of the residents living in the area, “you close the heart of the neighborhood. It’s not acceptable.”

Others echoed Caver’s opinion.

Earlier in the day Tucker, Keith, council member the Rev. Dr. Cecil Williamson of Ward 1 and Mayor George Evans met with county, economic development officials and representatives of Norfolk Southern Railroad to talk about closing the crossing at Vine and Oak streets in the city and constructing an extension south on Ethredge Avenue to extend over the tracks and intersect with J.L. Chestnut Boulevard.

The plan would call for closing the streets around the plant now with construction of the extension to occur in about a year.

Evans said the plan is not a done deal. The railroad will respond in about two weeks.

The city, county Bush Hog and Dallas County Economic Development Authority will bear the cost of the project, which also calls for bells and signals at the proposed railroad crossing on Ethredge Avene.

Caver and other opposed the plan, saying Ethredge Avenue is not wide enough to handle the extra traffic.

Officials want to move quickly on this issue, fearing Bush Hog’s parent company, Alamo Group Inc. might close down the Selma plant for liability reasons. Additionally, Alamo Group is entertaining another group seeking to expand their agricultural machinery development. If not for the liability of security and safety of workers and the public, the group would be a perfect match for Selma, plant officials said.

The move would mean $20 million investment in the city in new jobs and payroll, but no actual physical expansion at Bush Hog, plant officials said.