Fort Smith Directors address hunting, jobs and alcohol

story by Ryan Saylor

The Tuesday night (Feb. 5) meeting of the Fort Smith Board of Directors saw votes in favor of urban hunting and bringing to jobs to Fort Smith, and talk about expanding the city limits to promote liquor sales.

The Board of Directors repeated their vote affirming urban hunting by the same margins as their Jan. 15 meeting.

The vote, which authorizes hunting using only bows and arrows in tree stands at least 10 feet off the ground, was 4-3.

Directors voting in the affirmative were André Good, Keith Lau, Mike Lorenz and Kevin Settle. George Catsavis, Phillip Merry and Pam Weber voted against the measure.

Weber said she was not in favor of the ordinance for a variety reasons, from public safety to the image hunting within city limits projects to outsiders.

"Is this really want we want our city to project," she asked. "We set policy. We need to set policy that projects a different image of our city. To me, this is just not the image that I want."

Weber also raised concerns about the proximity of deer stands to residences.

"To me, there are some safety concerns if there is a deer stand 150 feet from a residence," she said. "Some of these places where we have deer hunting are in areas of our city that are growing and growing fast and some of our most economically developing areas right now. If I'm showing a young professional property in that area, I don't want to have to explain to them about deer hunting. I'd rather it be about trails, hiking and recreational facilities in that area."

In order to become law, the ordinance will have to be approved again for a third time at the next board of directors meeting since it failed to receive five votes in favor of passage.

The Board also unanimously passed a resolution endorsing Umarex USA Inc. to participate in the Tax Back Program.

The resolution stated that Umarex would be able to receive a rebate of local sales and use taxes.

Ward 1 Director Keith Lau said endorsing the tax back program would allow Umarex to expand its facility in Fort Smith and would provide the area with an additional 127 jobs.

"It's a great program," Lau said. "It supports economic development. They're going to see an expansion of the plant and that means jobs."

Vice Mayor Kevin Settle said programs such as the tax back program encourage job creation.

"We get asked from the public what can the city do to bring jobs, create jobs," he said. "This is one of those avenues that we can do, we can do infrastructure but we can also do tax cutting programs."

During Tuesday's meeting, Settle also proposed exploring an annexation of certain land along the under-construction sections of Interstate 49 as a way to reach Barling residents who desire to have alcohol served in their city.

Settle told directors offering to annex property on the outskirts of the city would be a way to extend "an olive branch" to citizens of Barling, who overwhelming passed a ballot initiative authorizing liquor sales in their city. The ballot initiative is being challenged in court, meaning Barling is still without alcohol sales.

Settle said the proposed annexation would be contiguous with the city of Fort Smith.

No action was taken on the proposed exploration at Tuesday's meeting.

• The Board approved an amendment to the Master Land Use Plan map, rezoning property located at 12901-13035 Highway 71 South from extraterritorial jurisdiction open-1 to extraterritorial jurisdiction commericial-3.

• The Board approved a resolution that would add an additional priority for the 2013 session of the Arkansas General Assembly to include adding a definition of the word "meeting" to the public meetings requirement of the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act.

• In the consent agenda, the following resolutions were approved: Accepting as complete and authorizing final payment to T-G Excavating Inc. for construction of the 2011 Sanitary Sewer Improvements, Phase 1 at a cost of $206,611.27; a resolution authorizing acquisition of an easement in connection with the Chaffee Crossing Water Supply Improvements – Geren Road and Massard Road Water Line Project at a cost of $20,790; and a resolution authorizing Change Order No. 1 with T-G Excavating for the Basic 11-1 Collection System Improvements at a cost of $59,385.