Fort Smith Board talk purchasing powers, salary increase

story by Aric Mitchell

The Fort Smith Board of Directors discussed setting new limits on purchasing powers for the City Administrator, delaying approval of the Arkansas Energy Code and doubling the Mayor’s salary at the Tuesday (Nov. 27) study session.

The board also received updates on Fort Smith Sanitation’s Landfill Scales Project.

The session began with recommendations from the city finance department to set new purchasing limits for City Administrator purchasing, contracting and sale authority.

City Finance Director Kara Bushkuhl presented a plan to the board that would include an allowance of up to $750,000 for the payment of debts from the present $500,000 limit.

Concerning contracts for services, staff suggested $75,000 to $300,000 limits. Present levels reside at $40,000 for level one; $40,000 to $200,000 for the next level; and $200,000 and above for services that require competitive bidding.

Bushkuhl, acting on advice from City Attorney Jerry Canfield, also recommended separating “purchases” from “contracts.”

“Purchases” would be defined as “supplies, materials or equipment,” and the board could set limits “at any level,” Bushkuhl said, while construction of municipal improvements, or “contracts,” would have to “maintain the state limit of $20,000 for approval by the City Administrator.”

“Any purchase that’s under $75,000 other than the public works sector contracts will be approved by staff but we will still follow an open and competitive process to make sure we’re getting the best price possible for the services and goods that we need,” explained Fort Smith Administrator Ray Gosack. “So depending on the amount that is purchased, there could still be a formal bid process where bids are opened and submitted at the same time. But for a lot of the smaller amounts of purchases, the staff will contact three or more vendors who can provide the service and obtain competitive quotes, or in some cases bids, and use the person with the lowest quote or the lowest bid unless there’s some reason to believe that firm cannot provide a good or service when it’s needed.”

Also Tuesday, Wally Bailey, director of development services for the city of Fort Smith, presented the board with two options concerning adoption of the Arkansas Energy Code of 2011, which was originally mandated for adoption on Dec. 31, 2012.

Bailey said the code, which was established by the Arkansas Energy Office (AEO) in 2004 and updated in 2011, “has made updates for the commercial side, but left the residential side as it is with the intention of coming back to it in 2013.”

“Many communities in the state are taking advantage of a provision in the rules and regulations,” Bailey said, that would allow deference until the 2013 updates are applied.
Bailey recommended following suit and waiting to adopt the code until the full updates are made.

The Arkansas Energy Code was formed, according to AEO literature, to “establish minimum standards for the design of energy-efficient buildings.”

At the end of Tuesday’s session, which took place at the Main Library on Rogers Avenue, Fort Smith Director Don Hutchings motioned for the board to consider increasing the Mayor’s salary to $20,000 per year from $10,000.

“State law doesn’t allow us to adjust salary in the middle of a term, but it’s something Mayor (Ray) Baker and I talked about a long time ago, and I don’t know why I’m just now getting around to it,” Hutchings said.

Director Andre Good seconded Hutchings adding the item to the agenda for the board’s Dec. 4 meeting.

Concerning the $2 million Landfill Scales Project, Sanitation Director Baridi Nkokheli revealed design drawings for the facility, which could be finished as early as December 2013.

“The facility will include a new scale house, three new scales, and hardware upgrades to accompany existing landfill software,” Nkokheli said. “The new scale house will be built to accommodate two landfill attendants in a clean, healthy environment with separate and secure cash handling areas as well as other features to enhance security and financial controls.”

“Security and financial controls” include bullet resistant glass, cameras, and multilevel access control, Nkokheli added.