Fort Smith Schools rejects city sanitation bid, hopes to name provider by Oct. 1

by Aric Mitchell (aric.mitchell@gmail.com) 448 views 

The Fort Smith School District has rejected a $250,000 bid from the city of Fort Smith’s sanitation department for trash collection and recycling services.

Fort Smith Schools Superintendent Dr. Doug Brubaker told Talk Business & Politics on Monday (July 17) all bids had been rejected after concerns were raised the city had no viable recycling program when it was allowed to bid for the district’s business.

“What we decided to do was reject all the submitted bids and enter into a temporary contract with our current provider of sanitation, and we’re going to rebid,” Brubaker said. Altes Sanitation, the district’s current provider had raised the concern at the June 26 school board meeting. The company had submitted a bid $18,000 higher than the city’s.

“With our new temporary agreement, what we want to do is have our selected vendor in place by October 1,” Brubaker continued, adding that an extension of the previous contract is now in place “for up to 90 days.”

“We just thought there were some concerns expressed about the bids and when that happens, you have an opportunity to call timeout and do the process again. So just to make sure the public is comfortable with the process that we were using and to make sure everything is really clearly on the up-and-up, it just seems like the action to take,” Brubaker said, adding the matter did not come back to the School Board because “administratively you can make the decision to reject the bid and put out new bids,” so it was unnecessary to do so at this time.

At the June 26 meeting, Board members voted unanimously to seek “more information” and further research over concerns brought to them by Fort Smith attorney Joey McCutchen and Bobby Altes, owner of Altes Sanitation.

Altes has provided the district with sanitation services for the last six years. Altes and McCutchen argued the city was allowed to bid in spite of not having a recycling program in place when the sealed bidding process closed on May 15.

The city revealed it had not been recycling since November 2016 in a May 1 press release. The six-month timeframe turned out to be false after its former recycling center — Clarksville, Ark.-based Green Source — told Talk Business & Politics it had stopped accepting recyclables from the city in late June, extending the recycling lapse the city had admitted to by five months. Further inquiries revealed the city’s recycling center contract had lapsed Sept. 30, 2014, and Green Source — from October 2014 until the late June 2016 dissolution — had only accepted less than 9% of the city’s recycling materials, resulting in over 91% of recyclables being disposed of at Fort Smith Landfill.

Fort Smith residents were not made aware of the three-year lapse until late May 2016. At a June 20 meeting of the city’s Board of Directors, city directors approved a new contract with Third Rock Recycling, and partner company Pen Sales.

McCutchen and the Fort Smith School Board have had high-profile conflicts over lawsuits McCutchen filed against the Board related to the retirement of the Rebels mascot at Southside High School from 2015, and Board members were hesitant to back Altes Sanitation at the June 26 meeting.

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