Fort Smith Directors still struggle with trash

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 73 views 

 The City of Fort Smith Board of Directors continues to wrestle with whether to bring the remaining 3,394 households that are part of the Automated Refuse Collection Program (ARCP) expansion into the fold.

Thus far, 24,578 of the 28,673 households within Fort Smith (approximately 85.7%) have made the switch, but the remainder continues to be a source of debate after the board waffled on its decision to change over the Park Hill East neighborhood last month.

Fort Smith Department of Sanitation (DOS) Director T. Baridi Nkokheli presented a number of DOS photographs to the board at Tuesday’s (April 24) study session depicting litter, multiple open containers, and illegally dumped objects in the Park Hill East area since dropping automated collection and moving back to manual.

“These pictures were taken last week,” Nkokheli claimed.

At the March 6 meeting, the board voted 4-3 to return Park Hill East to manual collection.

City Director Pam Weber, who supported the switchback, would not say whether Nkokheli’s report has changed her mind, nor whether Park Hill East could be moved back to automated along with the remaining homes that are part of the 2012 expansion.

“We’ll just wait to see how the surveys come back,” Weber told The City Wire following the study session.

At an informational meeting Monday night, City Director Andre Good, a supporter of automated collection, was not so reserved.

When asked about the board’s decision on the switchback in spite of majority support for automated collection, Good said he felt the “democratic process was totally ignored.”

Good continued: “For us to spend taxpayers’ money on surveys to get the information that the majority wants, we totally ignored it at the cost of a minority of citizens in a particular area that do not want the service, and are unwilling to try the program as we have it outlined.”

On Monday, one audience member asked Nkokheli the overall cost of the Park Hill East debate. The DOS Director said “it has cost this department $41,000 in additional expenses.”

At the study session, Nkokheli corrected himself saying the number was an “estimate,” and that the more accurate cost was “about $38,000.”

Responding to whether the DOS could purchase an Alley-Gator or related brand of smaller side loader capable of bringing automated collection to the alleyways, Nkokheli highlighted the challenges his department would face.

Among those challenges are “low hanging power lines, structural protrusions, and narrow, uneven streets.” Areas that are currently automating collection of alleyways “pave their alleys like a street and elevate lines so not to interfere with operation of the vehicle," Nkokheli said.

Bringing the alleyways up to such codes would incur additional infrastructure costs, “which cannot be paid for out of sales tax funds,” according to City Administrator Ray Gosack.

City Director George Catsavis asked about the possibility of outsourcing Park Hill East collection to a third party, and what that would mean to Nkokheli’s department.

“It would be detrimental to us,” Nkokheli answered, noting that “we set the rates (currently $14.38 per month per household), and that supports all of our services, not just trash pickup. For a third party company to be able to come in and charge the same rates, while only doing disposal work, it would produce a negative impact on the rest of what we do.”

Nkokheli notes that the DOS is also responsible for recycling, yard waste, and other city cleanup efforts, in addition to its refuse collection service.

The DOS rate has remained the same for five years in spite of manual collection trucks eating “large diesel costs and getting less than 1 mile per gallon,” Nkokheli said, crediting automated collection savings for “supporting an inefficient model.”

To close the discussion, Vice-Mayor Kevin Settle proposed that for the May 1 regular meeting, the board consider a proposal to amend Municipal Code Section 25-268(b), asking that the sentence “The provisions of this subparagraph (b) do not apply to alley rights-of-way,” be removed.

The language change would mean residential customers possessing alley rights-of-way on their property would not be allowed to set out refuse for collection before noon on the day before collection.

Empty refuse or recycle containers and uncollected material “exceeding collection standards” would have to be removed no later than midnight on the day of collection.

Also Tuesday, a review of regulations for sexually oriented businesses was tabled until the May 8 study session, and it was announced that Gosack has been voted president of the Arkansas City Management Association for the 2012-2013 term.

While discussion for the issue of sexually oriented business regulations was tabled, a memorandum to Gosack from Director of Development Services Wally Bailey states the following:

“After reviewing the restrictions based on Fort Smith’s current ordinance it was determined that 2% of the city’s land area is available for sexually oriented businesses. When compared to decisions made by the courts it appears the current percentage of land available is not adequate.”

The statement continues: “To comply with the Board’s request to change the zoning districts to Commercial-4 and Commercial-5 only and provide the 1,000 foot buffer from residential districts, will further reduce the percentage of land available to 1.7%. With this analysis, it is apparent we need to address the issue of adequate available land so that the courts would favorably view our ordinance.”