New Fort Smith boss to begin May 9, Board approves extension on sports complex

by Aric Mitchell ([email protected]) 321 views 

The Fort Smith Board of Directors voted unanimously Tuesday night (April 19) to approve newly hired City Administrator Carl Geffken for a May 9 start date, and capped his moving expense reimbursement at $15,000.

The Board also approved amendments to the city’s Pretreatment Regulation and Permits Ordinance, though not without frustration, and to grant a 90-day extension to the twice-delayed $1.6 million River Valley Sports Complex (RVSC).

Geffken’s start date request was unanimously added to the agenda at the beginning of the meeting for discussion in executive session. After the break, Mayor Sandy Sanders announced the vote and added that City Directors had agreed the city would pay moving expenses “not to exceed $15,000” for Geffken’s journey from Reading, Pa., to his new home.

According to Acting City Administrator Jeff Dingman, the City Administrator position is the only one on the city’s payroll that isn’t held to a grading system. In other words, the ceiling is what the Board determines it to be, and for Geffken, that figure will start at $137,500, a $450 monthly car allowance and the city’s standard retirement and healthcare benefits. The salary of previous City Administrator Ray Gosack was $153,000, and for the brief period Dingman filled the role following Gosack’s abrupt July 2015 departure, he worked under an elevated salary of $128,000. Once Geffken takes over, Dingman will return to his previous duties as deputy city administrator and salary of $106,000.

Geffken was not present at the Fort Smith Public Schools Service Center for Tuesday’s meeting. Talk Business & Politics asked about contact information, but was told by Dingman that that would be dispersed in a media release later this week.

As part of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits issued for the P Street and Massard wastewater treatment plants, Fort Smith is required to have an approved pretreatment program. The program’s main components include:
• Industrial User Pretreatment Ordinance (Ordinance); Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs);
• Enforcement Response Plans (ERP);
• Industrial User Permits (Permits); and
• Funding and resources to operate the required pretreatment program.

In 2005, the EPA published the Pretreatment Streamlining Rule which required cities to update their Ordinance, SOPs, ERP, Permits, and to look again at their adequacy of funding and resources to operate the overall program. The city’s Ordinance 80-11 was developed in coordination with the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) to meet the requirements of the Streamlining Rule, and upon their approval, was adopted in 2012.

However, in September 2015, ADEQ’s pretreatment program audit determined the ordinance did not comply with requirements of the Streamlining Rule. City staff drafted a new version for ADEQ’s review and approval and ran it back through ADEQ’s State Pretreatment Coordinator.

On Feb. 3, Utilities Director Steve Parke forwarded a copy of the proposed revisions to the Board. Following additional reviews by City Attorney Jerry Canfield and ADEQ, the ordinance with amendments was judged ready for approval, and the Board did so on Tuesday night by a 6-0 vote, with Director Mike Lorenz absent. Before it got to that, however, a frustrated Director Kevin Settle weighed in, questioning Deputy Director of Operations Lance McAvoy since Parke retired on April 1.

“Why now and why today?” Settle asked. “If we updated in 2011, and they published in 2005, then we did not do it correctly in 2011. Explain to us why we didn’t update something correctly five years ago.”

To that, McAvoy could only say it was a “good question” and that the ADEQ personnel who helped with the initial agreement had since retired.

Director Tracy Pennartz wanted to know if the city knew how the changes would impact citizens and businesses.

“If anything, it should increase their bottom line,” McAvoy explained. “If a company uses approved organic chemicals, for instance, then instead of annual or biannual testing at $1,000 a pop, this would allow them to use best management practices, so there would be a certain amount of testing they would no longer have to do.”

McAvoy said the city’s goal was to make it “more industry friendly,” but added that there would be no additional economic advantage compared to other Arkansas cities with compliant pretreatment programs.

The ordinance as amended along with annotated changes are available on pages 25 and 26 of the meeting’s board packet.

Finally, the Board voted 4-1, with one abstention (Pennartz) to approve a 90-day extension on the River Valley Sports Complex, which is past due. Dissenting was Director George Catsavis, who was uncomfortable with the delays that have occurred since the city entered into an agreement with project managers Lee Webb and Sen. Jake Files, R-Fort Smith, on March 4, 2014.

The initial completion date was set for June 10, 2015, with the RVSC being ready for public use by July 1 of that same year. The agreement was modified in May 2015 and assigned a new completion date of March 18, 2016, with March 31 being the day the Complex would be ready for public use. The new substantial completion date is July 22, 2016, with July 31 set as opening day.

The RVSC project has moved somewhat slow because of weather delays and the fact that each part of the project requires review and approval before a new “draw” can be made financially, according to Webb. The city agreed to pay a maximum of $1.6 million. Thus far, the project has drawn $620,000 in city funds with no overages expected.