Fort Smith trash issue takes another turn

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 112 views 

The Fort Smith Board of Directors will once again address the trash collection issue Tuesday (June 19) when they vote on whether to solicit proposals for a private carrier to non-automated areas.

City Administrator Ray Gosack confirmed the resolution had been added to the meeting agenda while addressing Ward 3 residents at the Fort Smith Senior Activity Center Thursday (June 14).

City Clerk Sherri Gard noted that the item was added at the request of City Director Steve Tyler with City Directors George Catsavis, Pam Weber, and Philip Merry, agreeing to the addition.

According to Gard, the agenda “has already been finalized” with “item numbers distributed to the various departments.” As a result, the item will take place after the consent agenda near the end of Tuesday night’s meeting.

As Fort Smith citizen Joel Culberson, present Thursday, works to finalize a ballot initiative for citywide automated collection, acceptance of a bid proposal may be premature as, Gosack noted, “it is conceivable a private provider could be approved by August,” three months before the November election.

Nevertheless, City Director Pam Weber is hopeful.

“A private hauler came to all of us and said they will continue and take over the Park Hill service for the same price the city does, maybe less, and lock in the price for three to five years,” Weber said.

The hauler, Altes Sanitation, made a verbal commitment at the June 5 citizens forum. While Altes is the only one to express interest at this time, Gosack said the board will have to bid the project out for consideration to multiple vendors.

Gosack also noted, to some negative audience reaction, that his offices “received complaints on a weekly basis (about Altes)” prior to expiration of the company’s contract with the city in 2010.

“I have received very few complaints since the city took over,” Gosack added.

While Altes and non-automated collection had its supporters, a number of audience members wanted answers to the growing question of rate increases.

If manual continues, will it raise rates? Why couldn’t the automated areas have the cost savings? Why not charge more for non-automated services?

Gosack confirmed that “through preliminary estimates,” rates would increase.

Through those same preliminary estimates, Fort Smith Sanitation Director T. Baridi Nkokheli presented options that did include simultaneous monthly rate changes of a $1.06 decrease for automated customers and a $10.18 increase for non-automated.

Merry justified his June 5 vote to end 2012 automated conversions, stating “the move to automated collection six years ago was never voted on by this board,” adding that “these neighborhoods are far-reaching and have distinct characteristics. It’s not a cookie-cutter thing.”

Merry continued: “When there is an issue in any neighborhood, I would hope the board would be sensitive to that. Fort Smith is a summation of its neighborhoods. Right, wrong, or indifferent, I look at the city as the United States, and the neighborhoods as states, and you’re trying as a board member here to find a balance.”

Tyler added: “Sanitation presented this idea (automated collection) to the neighborhoods six years ago, and the question was raised at that time: ‘Will we have to go to that?’ And the answer from directors was, ‘No, you will not.’”

Culberson admits a vote for automated did not occur in 2006, but points out Resolution No. 250-09, “A Resolution Directing that the City of Fort Smith Department of Sanitation Provide Residential Solid Waste Services to the Entire City.”

The resolution, signed and approved by the board on Nov. 3, 2009, with an effective date of July 11, 2010, stipulates: “Whereas, the Board of Directors is desirous of the entire city receiving an identical, consistent level of residential solid waste collection services … hereby determines that the best method for providing … is for the City of Fort Smith Department of Sanitation to serve the entire city.”

The resolution was drafted in response to an Oct. 29, 2009, memorandum, wherein Gosack, then deputy city administrator, specifies that automated collection would be the city’s means of provision should the resolution pass.