July bills reflect reduced Fort Smith trash rates

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 124 views 

Fort Smith households began receiving in July a 7.7% reduction in their trash collection costs, a decrease estimated to save all households roughly $460,000 on an annualized basis.

On Thursday, July 11, 2013, the first set of utility bills reflecting the reduction in sanitation rates were mailed to residential customers, according to a statement from the city.
Bill Hon, utility billing business manager, said the bills are generated and mailed five times per month. The first batch was processed July 10.

Fort Smith Department of Sanitation (DOS) Director Baridi Nkokheli has said the fee reduction passed by May 7 by the Fort Smith Board of Directors would amount to an average total bill reduction of about $1.10 per month for the city's 35,000 residential trash customers. At that rate, savings of about $38,500 across all residential customers will be realized, or more than $460,000 a year.

The rate reduction is a result of efficiencies from an automated trash collection system that began in 2006, according to the city.

However, automation of all city households received opposition.

The trash issue was a contentious during 2012, with votes to fully automate the system followed by reversals by the Board of Directors. In November, 79.6% of Fort Smith voters agreed to completely automate the city’s trash collection system. Out of 25,791 votes cast, only 5,261 were in opposition.

Nkokheli said in the statement issued Friday (July 12) that the reduced rate should be around for more than a year.

“Barring a drastic increase in fuel prices or other variable cost line items in the daily operation of the landfill and our collection services, we anticipate this rate will hold for a few years. We can be fairly confident in that prediction because we’re in the process of automating the collection of recyclables, further reducing our cost of doing business and increasing efficiencies and convenience to our customers,” Nkokheli said.

On April 29, 2013, the DOS implemented automated collection of residential recyclables with  plans of automating the collection of yard waste in an effort to “buffer the increasing future operational costs inherent to solid waste management,” noted the city statement.

The DOS has also paid of bonds associated with landfill expansion. The about $1 million in annual bond payments will be used to support future construction and maintenance to modernize the landfill and DOS operations.

The landfill, the largest in Arkansas, has 1,012 acres, with 555 of those permitted for landfill use. The 555 acres will be enough to provide landfill space to 2075, and if the remainder is permitted, the landfill could be used to 2150 – although changes in recycling technologies, consumer packaging and fuel sources could change the volume of items placed in landfills.