City prepares for crews to begin filming ‘Selma’

Published 11:54 pm Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Oprah Winfrey may be coming to Selma.

Selma Mayor George Evans announced Tuesday, during the city council’s meeting, that Winfrey’s move “Selma” will film in the city for several days this summer.

Evans asked the council to approve the films staff to use three city owned buildings — the George P. Evans Reception Center, a building on Washington Street and the Larry Striplin Performing Arts Center. Evans request was approved unanimously.

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“It will be filmed here, in Selma, on our streets and businesses,” Evans said.

The movie centers on the Selma to Montgomery marches in 1965. The first of the marches is known as Bloody Sunday and is remembered yearly with the Bridge Crossing Jubilee.

The movie is expected to begin filming in late June or early July and focus on Selma’s iconic landmarks, such as the Edmund Pettus Bridge and Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church. Winfrey will be one of the producers.

Evans said streets will be closed as a part of filming. He said the movie’s crew is currently working with the Alabama Department of Transportation to close off the Edumund Pettus Bridge during filming.

Evans said the movie would likely affect traffic flow and businesses in certain parts of the Selma. As a result, Evans said the city would have a town hall meeting on May 27 at 4 p.m. at the Carl C. Morgan Convention Center to address a myriad of topics, ranging from the movie’s effect on traffic to being a cast member.

“The movie crew will talk about the whole scenario of the movie being in our city,” Evans said.

In other news from the meeting:

• The Selma City Council voted to replenish its summer job program fund after previously transferring money out to pay for tax software. The city will transfer $60,000 from its half-cent sales tax fund to pay for summer youth employment.

Earlier this year, the council approved a measure that would prevent the fund from falling below $450,000 to ensure employee bonuses in December.

With Tuesday’s vote, Ward 1 Councilman Cecil Williamson said the fund would dip below $450,000.

• Evans also asked the council to begin examining a contract between Strand Management, based in North Carolina, and Selma. Strand would manage the hotel at a cost of $4,000 per month or 3 percent of gross revenues, whichever is greater, according to the contract.

Ward 4 councilwoman Angela Benjamin said the contract needs to be approved soon, but examined closely.

“We need a little bit of both,” Benjamin said. “Strand wanted to be able to capitalize on the summer rush of people. We also need to make sure that we get everything right in the contract.

As a part of the agreement, the city would need to transfer $15,000 per month into the St. James budget to pay for operations. Benjamin said the transfers would last five months or until the hotel is self-sustaining.

City finance director Cynthia Mitchell said the city could pay for the transfers out of the city’s lodging tax. Though, Williamson and other council members expressed concern the city’s declining sales tax revenue and existing obligations from the fund could prevent the lodging tax from being a viable option.