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Residents split on street closure

People who live in Ward 2 of Selma are about evenly split over whether Oak Street should become a dead end.

The idea to close 50 feet off each side of the Norfolk Southern Railroad right of way on Oak Street evolved out of negotiations to close streets around Bush Hog. The railroad said it would allow the city to extend Ethridge Avenue across the railroad tracks, providing an outlet for residents who live on Griffin Avenue. Bush Hog would close off Griffin Avenue.

Charlie Sims, an attorney and co-owner of property adjacent to the proposed closed area, objected to the plan Tuesday night during a public hearing at Selma City Hall.

A gate closing off Sims’ property is on railroad right of way, said Jimmy Nunn, the city’s attorney.

Nunn said he’d make a site visit to the property in question, then check with officials from the railroad to ensure Sims would have the ability to come and go through the gate once the road is closed.

Council member Susan Keith represents Ward 2. She said the Oak Street closure might not be popular with some, but is the best for the “overall good,” referring to the Bush Hog agreement.

Bush Hog employs about 300 individuals.

At one point during talks about whether to close the streets surrounding it, officials at the heavy equipment manufacturer said if its liability continued to rise because of public street access around the plant, the parent company Alamo Group might decide to close the Selma-based plant.

Council president Cecil Williamson told the group of about a dozen at the public hearing the city had made a deal with Bush Hog and Norfolk Southern to close the street in return for the Ethridge Avenue extension.

“I just think we ought to be up front about it,” Williamson said.

During the Selma City Council meeting that followed, the council decided to wait on taking any action until Nunn could gather more information about the railroad’s intentions on barricading the right of way.