Trash, severance taxes on Fort Smith agenda

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 102 views 

The City of Fort Smith Board of Directors revisited the 2011 automated refuse collections program in the Park Hill East neighborhood at Tuesday’s (Feb. 28) study session.

In attendance were a number of Park Hill East residents, who had signed a petition endorsing a move back to manual collection, but even though the event was nearly standing room only, the board seemed divided on the measure.

Directors Steve Tyler and Pam Weber supported a resolution for the March 6 board meeting to move the area back to manual collection at no extra charge to residents, while director Andre Good pointed to the group’s lack of majority and asked if it “would not be appropriate to make a resolution to leave the service as it is and “extend automated collection city-wide,” noting that automated collection would improve “curb appeal.”

Director Weber noted that, driving through the Park Hill area, she saw that “curb appeal” was still deficient, noting the presence of empty trash cans littering the area.

Good responded: “If people don’t want to get off their butts and take their cans inside, the whole city cannot be held responsible. That is on the individual. This is not the Fifties and Sixties. There are things about the past I miss, like the full-service gas station, or the pool at Martin Luther King (Park).”

However, Good pointed to “numerous emails”supporting the automated collection program.

Vice-Mayor Kevin Settle agreed: “We’ve got to look at the city as a whole. There are a lot of people, who didn’t want this at first, but now they enjoy it. The alleys look absolutely horrible (under manual pickup), and this (automated collection) is the best decision to help the beautification of the city.”

While Weber contended that “when this was introduced” it gave neighborhoods the right to decide on which program they chose, Good dismissed petitioners in favor of two city surveys that were conducted, which failed to attain majority support for manual trash pickup.

The Park Hill East petition netted 156 total signatures representing 87 households out of a total 278 households in the area. Park Hill North netted 167 signatures representing 104 households out of 323 households in the area. Park Hill South netted 107 signatures representing 68 households out of 174 households in the area.

Percentage-wise, petitioners fared best in Park Hill South, but still only managed 39.1%.

A Department of Sanitation survey, conducted from December 2011 to Jan. 7, 2012, found mostly positive responses to the automated collection plan. Out of 111 responses returned, 46% (51) were positive, while 16.2% were neutral (18), and 37.8% (42) were negative.

A broader survey was conducted from November 2011 to Dec. 7, 2011, over the entire conversion area (approximately 3,000 households). That survey produced 596 favorable, 98 neutral, and 80 negative, responses.

Also at the study session, the board moved closer to defining its position on a circulating petition favoring a statewide severance tax increase. The board will determine its position at its March 6 meeting.

The proposal comes from former Arkansas Louisiana Gas Company CEO and two-time gubernatorial candidate Sheffield Nelson. Fort Smith City Administrator Ray Gosack noted that Nelson’s proposal would “raise the state severance tax on minerals or natural resources from 5% to around 7%.”

Gosack told The City Wire that the board has not previously had a position on the severance tax, but that they have “been approached by people in the oil and gas industry wanting us to take a position against it with the hope citizens will not sign the petition as a result of the board’s action.”

Gosack said concerns from the professionals in the oil and gas industry are that the severance tax “would hinder the production of oil and gas in the state, which would cause economic loss” and that “landowners would get less royalties, which would result in fewer jobs.”

Also set for the March 6 meeting, the board of directors will consider proposed amendments from the city planning commission concerning business signage in the extraterritorial jurisdiction and within the Phoenix Avenue Overlay District Design Guidelines.